What Is Energy Part 2

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SWBAT conduct experiments to enhance their understanding of energy

Big Idea

Energy can be found in many forms and students can identify these forms in a variety of simple experiments.

Teacher Background

  1. This lesson on energy does not directly address a single second grade standard, but it addresses the overall concept for 2 LS 2 which is ecosystems: Interactions Energy and Dynamics. Students have heard the term energy in a lesson on the food web, and in a lesson on engineering design with a roller coaster, but I never stopped to make sure that they really understood the term energy. 

    This lesson is designed to help students gain a basic understanding of what energy is and how it is produced and used. 

    Students will be conducting several experiments to test how different things react with different amounts of energy. This will support their understanding of engineering design as they compare the results of several experiments. 

    In today's lesson the students will conduct several experiments on energy. After the experiments are completed, the students will come together to draw conclusions about what energy is. 

I Can and Introduction

5 minutes

This lesson is the second part of a 2 part lesson in identifying forms of energy. Students conducted 3 experiments on the first day. Today they will conduct 3 more and then draw some conclusions about what energy is.

I ask students to read the I Can Statement out loud. It says, "I Can conduct experiments and think about the forms of energy involved."

I say, "do you remember yesterday when we did 3 experiments and you observed what happened and wrote about it? What are some of the things you found out?" (I want students to connect to their previous experiences with heat, sound and potential energy.)

"Today you will have a chance to try 3 more experiments with energy. You will work in the same groups as you did yesterday. You will record your observations in the same packet. I will start today by explaining the 3 experiments."

The Experiments

30 minutes

I begin by saying, "Today you will have the chance to rotate through 3 centers and to work on an energy boat. I am going to explain the centers to you and then there will be directions at each one. When you finish at a center, you may move to the boat center and begin your creation. We will share these as a group at the end.

Center 1: Potential Energy: materials dictionaries. Procedure: 1. pick up 1 dictionary. 2. Raise it to the height of your chin holding it parallel to the floor. 3. Drop the dictionary. 4. Record your observations.

Center 2: Energy Transfer: Materials: 10 coins, table knife  Procedure: 1 build a tower of 10 coins. 2. Lay the knife on the table beside the tower 3. Take the knife and sweep quickly through the tower trying to knock only the bottom coin out of the tower. 4. Repeat the process 2 more times. 5. Record your observations. Energy Transfer

Center 3: Kinetic Energy: Materials: Large box, 5 or 6 bouncy balls, Procedure: 1. Look at the balls in the box and decide if they are moving or not. 2. Pick up the box and gently rock it from side to side. 3. Record your observations of the balls Bouncing Balls Student Journal Entry

Balloon Boats: Materials 2 straws, 1 piece of stiff cardboard about 4"X 4", masking tape. Procedure: 1. Take 1 sheet of cardboard and tape 2 straws to the gray side of the cardboard. 2. Add sails, or other boat parts to the white side of the cardboard to help your boat move in the wind.  3. Write your name on the boat and set it on the table.

"You have heard the directions for each center. You will visit each center and record your observations. When you finish you may work on your boat. We will test our boats together when everyone is done." I ask for questions and clarifications. Next I divide the class into 3 groups of 6 by counting off 1, 2,3. I send each group to 1 center to begin. I allow about 8 minutes at each center. I give a reminder after about 6 minutes that students should record in their journals. 

Potential Energy in Our Boats

15 minutes

While students were working at their centers, I checked in with them to ask questions and help clarify their thinking about what is energy. I also tied 2 pieces of string about 3 inches apart to the back of a chair. The strings are about 8 feet long and not tied on the other end. (The length along the strings when they are stretched out is clear so we can thread the straws of the boats onto the strings and then use a fan to push the boats along.

I invite students to bring their boats and sit along the 2 sides of the string area. I say, "Now we will take turns threading your boats onto the strings. You will hold your boat until I say to let go, as you hold your boat from moving and the fan is turned on we will see potential energy which means your boat has the power to move if you let it. When you let go we will see if it uses that energy to move."

The threading of the boats takes time, but if you set up 2 sets of strings, you can have a parent present to string on one boat while you help test the other boat. 

I ask students to talk about what they have seen in this experiment. I am hoping they will talk about how the boat needed energy to move and the fan provided a wind energy, but that the boat could not move while we held it and couldn't use that energy until we let go.

Our Conclusions About What Energy Is

15 minutes

I begin this part of the lesson by referring students back to the definition of energy that we started with in part 1. I say, "do you remember yesterday when I told you that energy was the ability to be active. It is also defined as usable power. (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/energy). Can you think of ways that our experiments helped us to see usable power or an ability to be active?"

I let students share their thoughts on how our experiments showed ways to be active or have useable power. They may refer to dropping the book was a way to make it active. The hot water had useable power to make something warm. The fan made the boats active, etc. I encourage these answers and assure students that they have been seeing energy in many different forms.

I say to students, "you have explored a little bit more about energy in the past 2 days. I want you now to work at your tables and brainstorm a list of things that can be active and things that have useable power. I will give you a large sheet of paper. Please divide it down the middle. Write ACTIVE at the top of one column, and USEABLE POWER at the top of the second column. You will have about 5 minutes to write as many things as you can under each column. At the end of 5 minutes we will switch papers and you will read what the group before you wrote, and add any things you might have thought of to their paper if they are not already there." After checking for understanding and making a model paper at the front of the room, I let students begin the brainstorming process. After 5 minutes I have students stop writing. I switch the papers and ask them to read the new paper and add anything else they can think of that isn't there. If time allows, I do a second switch after 5 minutes.

The switching allows students to see the many different types of energy that they and their classmates are aware of collectively. It builds their understanding that energy can take many forms which is what I hope students will leave this lesson with.

When we have finished I ask students to share any closing thoughts. We also look at our I Can Statements from the 2 days of experimenting and do a thumbs up check of our own success.