Energy Makes "What" Happen?

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Students will be able to identify the source of stored energy and name the action that takes place once that energy is released.

Big Idea

Energy is a difficult concept for students to describe and the conversion of energy is the center of understanding how to apply it to do work. This activity gives students a chance to explore and develop a visual of changing energy.


5 minutes

In order to review the fact that energy makes things happen and that it can be converted into other forms of energy, today's question will be, "What can energy do?"


Mini Lesson

15 minutes

To begin our lesson, I ask the students to consider the research they did yesterday and talk about how they would define energy.  As a class, we begin a concept chart.  

As we talk, I will write on the chart, "Energy makes things happen", which is what the children learned during our investigation.  My students also reminded me that energy can be changed (converted), so I added this to the chart as well.

I will next guide the students through today's investigation. I will put the energy conversion note-taking document on the board and turn the lights off. I will then tell the students I have a flash light in my hand.  I will ask them to watch as I turn it on and off on the wall behind them. 

I know the students know that "light" shines from a flashlight, but I am sure they have not figured out that electrical energy is converted into light energy.  This will be the focus of our lesson today-conversion.

As the light shines on and off, I will ask them, "What is happening?"  "Why is it happening?". 

While my students share their thoughts, I will dismantle the flashlight.  With every piece, I will ask them, "Did this make the light happen?". The parts I show them are the lightbulb, the handle, the spring, and finally the batteries.

Then, I remind them that energy is stored, waiting to be converted, or changed into another form of energy. 

Active Engagement

40 minutes

For the exploration, I have set out 4 stations.  Each station has an activity that will help students understand stored energy and what actions it can cause.  The stations I have used are with materials from the FOSS kit that my district uses.  However, you can set out candles, flashlights, a solar powered light from a garden center, and a speaker from the music room that is connected to a radio.

As each student worked to identify the stored energy source, the action, and the type of energy, I circulate the room and press them to describe what is happening.  

Energy, let alone conversion of energy, are deep topics for many students.  This session is specifically to designed to create common language, visualize changes, and build background knowledge about sources of energy.

In this video, you will see my students working with a claim about where the energy comes from, how it moves from one place to another, and what it ends up achieving. Although there are some small misconceptions here (energy coming from wires), this student is making sense of the conversion of energy while pulling from her background knowledge. As we continue to study energy and electricity, I am confident her understanding will be more clear. 

As I work with this team to communicate more clearly what is happening, I ask probing questions. One of the group members brought up the idea of stored energy, which is excellent.  I am then able to work with them to use various vocabulary terms to describe the outcome of their experiment. 

I loved approaching this group because they were having a respectful and productive conversation about what was happening and why they were getting the results from the tone generator. All I had to do was insert small, but probing questions, and as a group, they were wondering and making claims together. 

As this group was working, they were only focused on the heat that was produced from the candle. I only needed to help them understand the flame, or light, was also produced from the stored energy in the wax. 


5 minutes

To close, I ask students to share what happened at each of the stations.  As one of the groups shares, I ask students to use the talking moves in to respond to what was shared. In doing this, I am able to decipher if each group experienced that same outcomes and discuss any misconceptions.