Let's Conserve!

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Students will demonstrate an understanding of the conservation of energy by creating an infographic.

Big Idea

Energy is conserved in a closed system.


The goal of this lesson is for students to demonstrate their understanding of the conservation of energy by creating an infographic that uses a roller coaster model. This lesson addresses the HS-PS2-3 standard because it asks students to analyze scenarios using the idea that the total energy is conserved when there is no net force. This lesson addresses the WHST.11-12.9 standards because it asks students to draw evidence from an informational text and interactive activity to make a claim about the conservation of energy. It aligns with the NGSS Practices of Asking Questions (SP1), Constructing Explanations (SP6), and Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information (SP8) because students will create an infographic that demonstrates an understanding of the conservation of energy.

Within this lesson, students use our digital textbook and an interactive activity to craft an understanding of the conservation of energy. Students work in pairs to create infographics on the conservation of energy. Finally, students write headlines that highlight their assessment of the most important and challenging parts of the lesson. Within this lesson, I ask students to focus on communicating their current understanding of the conservation of energy. I assess student understanding throughout the lesson using informal check-ins and assess each student's work at the end of the school day on a scale of 1 (Advanced Beginner) to 5 (Highly Proficient).


5 minutes

This portion of the lesson follows a routine to communicate the ideas that students need to be proficient in by the end of the semester and it also highlights the goals of the lesson to students. I project a slide with the date, the objective and an additional prompt on the interactive whiteboard with a red label that says "COPY THIS" in the top left-hand corner. Sometimes the additional prompt is a BIG IDEA for the lesson or the Quote of the Day or a Quick Fact from current events that is related to the lesson. The red label helps my students easily interact with the information as soon as they enter the room and avoids losing transition time as students enter the classroom. I summarize the key ideas through the bell-ringer activity and take attendance while students write the bell-ringer in their notebooks.

Today's additional piece of information is a BIG IDEA which states that energy is conserved in a closed system. Later on within this lesson I ask students to use information they gather from an interactive activity and our digital textbook to create an infographic on the conservation of energy. In this lesson, I want students to use their experiences successfully working in teams to gather evidence to demonstrate an understanding of the conservation of energy.

Conservation of Energy: Interactive Activity

30 minutes

During this section, I distribute Chromebooks, and this handout to teams of students. Each student team consists of four students. Each student in the team must use the interactive to construct an understanding of energy transformations and conservation using a roller coaster as a model. At this point in the semester, students are comfortable working in collaborative teams, using simulations, generating data and answering analysis questions using data as evidence to support claims.

This activity asks students to spend thirty minutes investigating the energy of a roller coaster cart at different points on a track, making predictions about the velocity of the cart given the height of the roller coaster track and identifying trends in the kinetic and potential energy of a roller coaster at different points on the track. I choose this activity because want students to understand how potential energy transforms into kinetic energy and back again while the total energy remains constant within a system.

While students spend twenty minutes constructing explanations that connect the motion of a roller coaster cart and the transformation of potential energy to kinetic energy and discuss the interactive activity with their table mates, I circulate and address any questions students may have. During the thirty-minute period, students spend working with the interactive activity, students first click the activity link I post on our Edmodo wall, then choose a track, then start the interactive. Students click on different parts of the track to modify the preset track in the handouts.

After twenty minutes pass, I ask students to spend the next five minutes creating a summary using 1 to 3 sentences that shows the connection between the height of a roller coaster and the maximum speed its carts reaches during a ride. Students write these quick summaries in their laboratory notebooks. I call this strategy a quick summary because students spend a short period of time, typically 1 to 5 minutes, writing a short summary on a single topic. At the end of this section, I ask for volunteers from each lab table to share noticings and wonderings with the class about the interactive activity. Some student responses include, "The cart never gets higher as it's initial height" and "The kinetic energy and potential energy bars fluctuate, but the total mechanical energy bar remains constant". During the next section, students work in teams of 2-4 to create an infographic on the conservation of energy.

Conservation of Energy: Infographic

30 minutes

Once students complete the interactive activity on the conservation of energy, I ask them to work in teams of 2-4 to create an infographic that illustrates the physics of the conservation of energy using roller coasters as a model.

An infographic is a visualization tool that combines non-linguistic models of information in an eye-catching format that both informs and illustrates a conceptual understanding of a complex topic. I tell students that each infographic must:

  • Include a title that demonstrates the purpose of the visual. 
  • Have a clear and consistent organization that is both engaging and easy to read.
  • Present graphical representation of the physics concepts related to the conservation of energy.
  • Include sources that are credible using the MLA format.

I use this type of activity so that students can synthesize the information they gather from the interactive activity and communicate accurately and concisely. I choose to conduct this portion of the lesson as a pair driven activity to keep students accountable for completing the lesson at the end of the 30-minute time frame. In my classroom, students share authority over their learning process and often have a set of choices on how they are assessed. So when a few students ask if they may create their infographics by hand, I agree.

Students use Chromebooks to research additional information on their topics using our openStax digital textbook, and find graphics resources from websites like Pixabay and flickr to help communicate their ideas. Most students complete this activity within the given time frame. However, I give students who are not able to complete this assignment during class to turn it in at the end of the school day. Click here to see an example infographic. I assess this assignment using the Common Physics Rubric on the reasoning and logic and representation domains.


10 minutes

The closure activity this section asks students to write in their notebooks ideas about the conservation of energy as a headline. Student responses include: "The total energy remains unchanged although its form flows from kinetic to potential" and "The total energy is constant the kinetic and potential energy vary".

This type of closure activity asks students to communicate their ideas on the conservation of energy using information they gather using interactive activities within this lesson. To wrap up this section of the lesson, I ask students to look at this tutorial that I post on the class Edmodo wall for homework.