Energy Transformation Project - Day 1

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From the center of the sun to you and me, students research the types of energy and energy transformations that occur.

Big Idea

Energy is not created or destroyed but changes from one form to another.


This is a four day project whose purpose is to have students develop an understanding of where and how we get the energy that we use every day. Students use content from several other lessons in this unit including: Energy Skate Park which covers conservation of energy, kinetic and potential energy, The Sankey Diagram which covers several different energy transformations and Energy is NOT Always Conserved which covers E=mc^2.

Day 1: Energy transformation primer. In groups, students review several different types of energy and create an example of their own energy transformation. Then, they choose one area of study from the chart. They determine the types of energy transformations for their area and pass in their work into me for review.

Day 2: In Google docs or MS-Word, the groups create a one page document that explains their area. I meet with student groups to ensure they have accurate information.

Day 3: Student teams present their area to the rest of the class, the first group starts at the center of the sun and we work our way through the entire path that energy takes to reach us. All students take notes on their peers presentations.

Day 4: Individual students trace the path energy takes from the Sun all the way to a thrown baseball.

The NGSS Performance Standards applied in this project are HS-PS3-2: Develop and use models to illustrate that energy at the macroscopic scale can be accounted for as a combination of energy associated with the motions of particles (objects) and energy associated with the relative positions of particles (objects) and HS-ETS1-2: Design a solution to a complex real-world problem by breaking it down into smaller, more manageable problems that can be solved through engineering.

The following NGSS Science Practices are also used: Science Practice 1: Asking questions (for science),  Science Practice 2: Developing and using models, Science Practice 6: Constructing explanations for science and Science Practice 8: Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information.  CCSS Math Practice 3: Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others is also an important part of this as students have a lot of information to sift through and they have to choose what is relevant to their area and communicate it to the rest of the class.

Energy Transformation Primer

25 minutes

Before having students start the energy transformation project, it is important to activate their thinking on how energy changes forms and all of the different types of energies that energy can take. I break students into groups of two and hand out the Energy Types Primer. This sheet details the types of energy that they can use for the project which include 

  • Kinetic Energy
  • Potential Energy
  • Thermal, or heat energy
  • Chemical Energy
  • Electrical Energy
  • Electrochemical Energy
  • Electromagnetic Energy (light)
  • Nuclear Energy

On the primer sheet is a flow chart for the energy transformations that happen in well known kitchen item, a microwave oven. Students read through the different types of energies on the primer sheet and then select an object that changes energies from one type to another. 

I give students about 10 minutes to read through the sheet and supply an item that does at least three energy transformations. I then call on random pairs to come up and share their flow chart on my document camera. Examples that student groups came up with include a light bulb, a computer, a car and a windmill.

Energy Transformation Project Introduced

25 minutes

Once a few groups are done presenting, I introduce the energy transformation project with a Powerpoint. Students explore how energy goes form the center of the sun, through space, into our atmosphere and through several different transformation so that we can use it in our everyday lives. I display the energy chart for the places where students have to detail the energy types and transformations.

I hand out the Energy Transformations Project to each group of two and explain that today the groups have to choose one of the areas on the chart. Each group has a different area and writes their names on the Energy Transformations Signup.

By the end of the period, each group must have their forms of energy mapped out like they did on the energy transformation primer earlier in the class. Student groups pass in their energy transformation map. Overnight, I review this student work and make comments on them. I check to make sure their energy transformations are appropriate for their chosen area and that they are not missing important information.

Tomorrow, students create a one page document that explains their piece of the process. They can use Google docs or MS-Word.  During that time, I meet with individual groups to review their energy path. On day 3, student groups present their area to the rest of the class.