Reflection: Staircase of Complexity What is Energy? - Section 3: Independent Practice: What kinds of energy conversions occur when you make a phone call?


The short activity in this lesson is a more interactive way of covering the same conceptual ground as a question in the homework assignment that asks students,

"What kinds of energy are involved in a car moving down the road?"

I like to include a question like this that will have students practice the same skills that they will use in the in-class activity.  In this example of student work, it's clear that they've done a good preliminary job of breaking down the energy transfers involved in the car traveling down the road in that they understand that the energy begins as chemical energy in the gasoline.  They get confused, however, by the idea that gravity "pulling the car down" is the potential energy that gets converted into the kinetic energy of the car moving. 

By the time of the phone call activity, students will have been given more direct instruction in both the different forms of energy involved and the laws of thermodynamics that can help us understand what is happening as a car moves down the road.  Hopefully by the time of the discussion, they will have a more complete understanding of the energy transfers and can explain that the chemical energy of the gas is converted into thermal energy which is then converted to mechanical energy. 

This homework question also leads directly into the warm up for the next lesson on energy resources, so if it's not discussed during the discussion for this lesson it could be brought up then as well.  

  This looks familiar: Using homework as a prelude to an in class activity
  Staircase of Complexity: This looks familiar: Using homework as a prelude to an in class activity
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What is Energy?

Unit 7: Energy Resources
Lesson 1 of 6

Objective: Students will be able to (1) apply the 1st and 2nd Laws of Thermodynamics to potential and kinetic energy conversions and (2) describe the implications of energy conversions in determining the energy needs of organisms, ecosystems, and societies.

Big Idea: Energy is the ability to do work. It can not be created or destroyed, just converted from one form to another. Systems, both human made and natural, require energy input and conversions to function.

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