With an introduction to the ideas of energy, students discuss specific types of energy and the practical sources of energy. Hands-on activities help them identify types of energy in their surroundings and enhance their understanding of energy.
Each TeachEngineering lesson or activity is correlated to one or more K-12 science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) educational standards.
All 100,000+ K-12 STEM standards covered in TeachEngineering are collected, maintained and packaged by the Achievement Standard Network (ASN), a project of JES & Co. (www.jesandco.org).
In the ASN, standards are hierarchically structured: first by source; e.g., by state; within source by type; e.g., science or mathematics; within type by subtype, then by grade, etc.
Click on the standard groupings to explore this hierarchy as it applies to this document.
- Colorado: Science
- International Technology and Engineering Educators Association: Technology
- Next Generation Science Standards: Science
- Make observations to provide evidence that energy can be transferred from place to place by sound, light, heat, and electric currents. (Grade 4)  ...show
- Obtain and combine information to describe that energy and fuels are derived from natural resources and their uses affect the environment. (Grade 4)  ...show
- Define energy and identify the different types that exist.
- Define potential and kinetic energy.
- Relate specific types of energy to different engineering projects.
- Understand the role of engineering in finding and testing various sources of energy for the production of electricity.
- The ability to do work or cause change.
- Work is the application of a force through a distance. (Ask the students for examples, such as moving a box across the room, sweeping, etc.)
- To do work, energy is needed.
- Natural energy sources: food, water, plants, trees, gravity, sun, fossil fuels, uranium, plutonium
- Ways that humans have harnessed or converted natural energy sources: hydroelectric dams, coal/oil power plants, nuclear power plants, wind turbines, solar panels, etc.
- Kinetic energy: electrical, light, thermal, solar, sound, wind, hydro
- Potential energy: chemical, mechanical, nuclear, gravitational
- To break down and digest food (in our bodies)
- To heat houses and other buildings
- To illuminate lights
- To power televisions, radios, games, cars
- To run computers and appliances
Lesson Background and Concepts for Teachers
|An energy resource derived from organic matter. Many people use biomass energy to heat their homes; they burn wood. Many agricultural crops are also biomass. For instance, corn can be fermented to produce ethanol that is burned as a liquid fuel. Wood is a renewable energy source as long as cut trees are replaced immediately.|
|The energy stored on the chemical bonds of molecules that it released during a chemical reaction. Chemical energy holds molecules together and keeps them from moving apart. For example, a car engine uses chemical energy stored in gasoline, and moving people use chemical energy from food.|
|Electrical energy exists when charged particles attract or repel each other. Television sets, computers and refrigerators use electrical energy.|
|The ability to do work.|
|The energy of motion. For example, a spinning top, a falling object and a rolling ball all have kinetic energy. The motion, if resisted by a force, does work. Wind and water both have kinetic energy.|
|Visible light energy, such as from a light bulb or fireflies or stars, is just one form of electromagnetic energy. Others forms include infrared and ultraviolet light.|
|Mechanical energy is energy that can be used to do work. It is the sum of an object's kinetic and potential energy.|
|Energy from sources that are used faster than they can be created. Sources include oil (petroleum), natural gas, coal and uranium (nuclear).|
|Nuclear energy is the energy found inside the nucleus of atoms and can only be released when atoms are split. Some power companies that supply homes, schools and buildings with electricity use nuclear energy to generate electricity.|
|Potential energy is the energy stored by an object as a result of its position. A roller coaster at the top of a hill has potential energy.|
|Energy that is made from sources that can be regenerated. Sources include solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, ocean and hydro (water).|
|Audible energy that is released when you talk, play musical instruments or slam a door.|
|Heat energy produced when the molecules of a substance vibrate. The more heat a substance has, the more rapid the vibration of its molecules. Heat energy flows from places of higher temperature to places of lower temperature.|
- What is Energy? Short Demos - In three short demonstrations, students learn about some of the forms of energy commonly found around us.
- Energy Detectives at Work - Students become engineering detectives and find examples of energy all around the classroom or school.
- Energy Vocabulary Quiz (doc)
- Energy Vocabulary Quiz (pdf)
- Energy Vocabulary Quiz Answers (doc)
- Energy Vocabulary Quiz Answers (pdf)
- Extension Activity: Energy Vocabulary Worksheet (doc)
- Extension Activity: Energy Vocabulary Worksheet (pdf)
- Extension Activity: Energy Vocabulary Worksheet Answers (doc)
- Extension Activity: Energy Vocabulary Worksheet Answers (pdf)
- What is energy? (Possible answers: The ability to do work or cause change and the capacity for vigorous activity. Work is the application of a force through a distance [ask for examples]. Force can put matter into motion or stop it if it is already moving. Motion is a change in position of an object with time. To do work, energy is needed.)
- Where does energy come from? (Answers: Power plants, people, food, light, windmills, turbines, fires, etc.)
- What are different types of energy? (Answers: Chemical, thermal, mechanical, potential, kinetic, solar, sound, nuclear, etc. [see the Vocabulary / Definitions section].)
- How do we use energy? (Possible answers: Our bodies use energy to break down and digest food. We use energy to heat houses and buildings, to turn on lights, to power televisions, radios, cars, computers, appliances, etc. Sound energy is used in communication and to find fish in the ocean!)
Lesson Summary Assessment
- Fan (Answer: Uses electrical energy; produces kinetic energy.)
- Battery (Answer: Stores chemical energy.)
- Banana (Answer: A source of chemical energy.)
- Flashlight (Answer: Uses chemical energy; produces light energy.)
- Radio (Answer: Uses electrical energy; produces sound energy.)
- Guitar (Answer: Uses chemical energy from a person [energy from the food they eat]; produces sound energy.)
- Candle (Answer: Uses chemical energy; produces light and thermal energy.)
- Waterfall (Answer: The water has potential energy at the top of the falls and kinetic energy at the bottom of the falls.)
Lesson Extension Activities
Consumer Energy Center, California Energy Commission. Accessed September 14, 2005. (information on energy efficiency, alternative fuel vehicles, renewable energy) http://www.consumerenergycenter.org/index.html
Energy Kid's Page. Energy Information Administration, U.S. Department of Energy. Accessed September 14, 2005. ( energy facts, fun & games, energy history, classroom activities) http://www.eia.doe.gov/kids/
Energy Quest: Kid's Page. Updated 2004. California Energy Commission. Accessed September 14, 2005. (Fun, interactive website for kids and teachers) http://www.energyquest.ca.gov/index.html
Graham, I., Taylor, B, Farndon, J. and Oxlade, C. Science Encyclopedia, 1999, pp. 78-90.
Science Projects. Updated March 14, 2005. Energy Quest: Kid's Page, California Energy Commission. Accessed September 14, 2005. (science projects and energy activities for K-12 students) http://www.energyquest.ca.gov/projects/index.html
Sharon D. Perez-Suarez, Natalie Mach, Malinda Schaefer Zarske, Denise Carlson
© 2005 by Regents of the University of Colorado.
Integrated Teaching and Learning Program, College of Engineering, University of Colorado Boulder
Last modified: November 26, 2015