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Compiled By: shazam

Here is a collection of activities for teaching energy.

heat energy
Posted by: kat

I did a unit in the fall on energy and we did an experiment outside. Ahead of time I painted 2 two liter bottles--one white and one black. We placed a balloon over the neck of each one. I asked them to hypothosize which balloon would fill with more air. We recorded these results on a graph. We observed whether there was any difference with the amount of air in the balloon while it was inside. Then we put them both outside and recorded the appearance and the time. We checked them two hours later and again recorded the results. We waited another couple of hours and followed the same procedure. Then I gave them a sheet asking different questions about heat energy. (ex: would you rather have a dark or light colored car in the summer?) We also recorded any problems we encountered to make the experiment work better. The only one they came up with was to choose a non- windy day because the bottles kept blowing over. Someone suggested putting sand in the bottom and someone else said it may alter the results a bit. I hope this helps you a bit. Oh another teacher did something with a light over different plastic buckets to see which would be warmer underneath. Good luck!

energy activity
Posted by: Julianne

One fun activity for kids learning about sources of energy is to have them trace the energy from the point of use back to its original source. An example would be gasoline being traced back through crude oil to ancient fossilized materials to the energy from the sun that made that stuff grow. They can draw each step and explain it. It's a nice reminder that the vast majority of our energy here on earth comes from the sun in one way or another.

Energy Lesson
Posted by: phantomteach

This lesson is to teach "energy" You need a ruler, magnet,paperclip, rubber band, small rubber ball, a "popper"(rubber disk that you turn inside out, then it pops) and a "hotwheel" car.
You put these items in a baggie, and "energy bag"
Students work in small groups to find ways to make the car "go", in essence, to come up with different ways to produce energy. This lesson is from the Oklahoma Energy Resources Board, go to, it is from their Fossils to Fuel program.

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this is an introduction activity that we do and the kids love it!
Posted by: Kim

We teach the forms of energy by teaching SCREAM. Take the time to introduce each form of energy by giving examples of each form.


Then I have a student play a "clucking chicken". It's a styrofoam cup with a tiny hole in the bottom. Put thread through the hole. Tie a paper clip to the thread so that it sits outside the cup. Use a wet paper towel to slide down the thread on the inside of the cup. It should squeak or cluck. If it doesn't make sense email me and I can send you a picture of it

Have the students try to tell you in order the energy used to play the clucking chicken. First thing that they notice is the sound. Then the sound was made by using mechanical energy (moving her arm). She was able to move her arm because of chemical energy (the breakfast burning up in her stomach). She had chemical energy because of light energy from the sun (plants needed the light to grow). Then the last one is atomic energy (in order for the sun to give off light, there were atomic explosions on the sun).

I have the students that gave the answers for each form of energy stand at the front of the room. Have them form a train by putting their hands on the person in front of them.

chicken clucker (sound) - mechanical - chemical - radiant - atomic

Time the students to see how quickly they can tell the class the kinds of energy in order needed to play the chicken clucker. Each person says their form of energy:

Atomic energy changes to...
Radiant energy changes to...
Chemical energy changes to...
Mechanical energy changes to...
Chicken clucker plays.

I also have them make energy chains (paper chains with different forms of energy represented by different colors of construction paper) showing how energy changes or making lists of energy used by certain appliances.

Hope some of this helps

Posted by: Lisa in FL

Hi Jennie,

I'm doing a unit on Light and Sound for 4th grade next month. We aren't getting into heat much. Here are some of the things that I'm doing for light:

*using prisms and a white sheet of paper to discover how white light breaks up into colors.(outside, & you need a sunny day) I'm trying to get one prism for each group of 4.

*shining light from a flashlight through different filters (colored cellophane in layers workds) onto colored construction paper to find out what colors it makes

*using rope to demonstrate a light wave's motion (energy waves are in our 4th grade state expectations, it's probably a little advanced for 3rd)

*learning translucent, transparent, and opaque using wax paper, plastic wrap, and aluminum foil

*experimenting with curved mirrors-- I have a little bendable one that came with a science kit to see how light reflects in different directions

*finding out uses for lenses -- I'm taking in a pair of glasses, a microscope, a picture of a telescope, a magnifying glass, a camera, and other things that use lenses for the kids to look at, look through, etc. We're not going into convex or concave, I'm leaving that for their middle school science teacher.

If you have a local teacher store, go ask the person there. I have a TON of books w/ really good stuff. I could spend months on this!

Check the directory on this site, and also, for lesson plans.

Hope this helps! E-mail me if you'd like the titles of the books I have (I don't have them with me right now)


light and sound
Posted by: S.

I use a student text book with some good ideas. Some things we do in fourth grade are:

light - flashlight and mirror experiments to see how light reflects, testing materials to determine whether they let light through (opaque, etc.), kaleidoscopes from film canisters and microscope slides

sound - make a simple tuned musical instrument with rubber bands (or could be more complex), getting everyone to hold a ruler over the desk edge a different length and then "playing" them in order to make a song (cool!!), using a tuning fork to show vibrations

When I taught eighth grade optics, we did other things that I can't recall TOO well, but I remember designing a floor plan for a funhouse with a cashier in the middle and say 10 arcade machines and you had to put mirrors in so that the cashier could see every exit and arcade machine. They made periscopes. Also we tested the speed of sound on a soccer field.

This is a neat unit! There are some good websites out there for optical illusions. Plus the students find colour blindness and vision problems (near/far sightedness) interesting.

Good luck!

Posted by: Julianne

One I've done with various age groups shows how light can be scattered as it hits particles such as pollution. Fill a large glass jar with water. Shine a bright flashlight through the water from one side. The light will appear white. Now add milk a few drops at a time and watch what happens to the light. You can look at it from the sides of the jar or straight on. The particles of milk separate the shorter blue and green light rays from the longer orange and red ones.

Science from Literature
Posted by: Lori 2


That's a toughie, but I'll see if I can help. I'm not exactly sure what you are looking for and I can't think of all three grade levels off the top of my head for one topic, but maybe a bit of brainstorming will get some more ideas flowing for you. I also, am unsure of the meanings of your terms primary (k-3 -- ?), Middle (3-5?), Intermediate (6-8 ?). IF you could clarify those grade levels, it might help.


Maybe -- Yang the Youngest and His Terrible Ear by Lensey Namioka -- would work??

Following the music theme for sound -- Lentil by Robert McCloskey talks about learning to play the harmonica and how it sounds better at times -- you could experiment with covering the holes, too and show how it doesn't make a sound -- or use a whistle

If you can use the Magic School Bus Books there is one about sound.


The Glorious Flight by Alice Provenson or maybe Floating Home by David Getz (might also be used for forces since it talks about G-force)

Flight by Robert Burleigh might also be one for aerodynamics

If you can use the Magic School Bus Books there is one about flight.


Hot Air Henry is a great one. Also, The Big Ballon Race by Eleanor Coerr is an easy reader.

Maybe -- Around the World in Eighty Days?? for the older kids

Amber on the Mountain by Tony Johnston talks about the air on the mountain being so clear it made you giddy -- perhaps you could use to teach air getting thinner at high altitudes


Could you use a book with cooking in it to teach about heat and how it changes things? See some of my notes under chemistry?


Maybe Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Burton for Steam Power?

You could follow up with Steamboat! The Story of Captain Blanche Leathers by Judith Gilland for the slightly older students

Across America on an Emigrant Train by Jim Murphy talks about steam powered trains and lots more good stuff.

A book with a windmill in it could be used to teach about wind power -- For older children -- The Wheel on the School takes place in the Netherlands and is a great story. For younger children The Boy Who Held Back the Sea by Thomas Locker is beautiful and could also be used to talk about the force of water against a dike. (Water Pressure)


Bartholomew and the OObleck by Dr. Seuss and make the cornstarch and water recipe or the flubber polymer with the borax

If you can use the Magic School Bus books there is one with a video on the chemistry of baking a cake

Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco talks about gathering all the ingredients for a cake and baking it -- again the chemistry of baking -- ite even includes the recipe for the thunder cake

You could also use this with baking bread -- like a pizza crust and use Pizza Pat, an easy reader or for older kids -- The Pizza Mystery by Gertrude Warner (A Boxcar Children Book)


In Frog and Toad All Year, the ice cream story could be used to talk about the changing states of matter from ice cream to melted gloop ;-)

Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Martin could be used to explore the different states of water and the difference between ice and snow

In Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary -- In one chapter, Ramona mistakenly breaks a raw egg on her head thinking it was hard-boiled -- states of matter, result of heat energy, chemical changes -- could be used for lots of your topics.


Mr. Gumpy's Moter Car by John Burningham could be used to talk about friction and traction

Throwing Smoke by Bruce Brooks -- a baseball novel -- the forces involved in pitching the different baseball pitches (older students)

The Great Gray Bridge and the Little Red Lighthouse -- talk about the forces involved in building a bridge -- try building bridges from a variety of materials

The Boy Who Held Back the Sea by Thomas Locker – force of water – water pressure

I am not sure if any of the science in Kokopelli's Flute by Will Hobbs would fit in any of your categories, but it is one of my favorite science reads. It also has a bit of magic in it so you have practice in separating fact from fiction, but you learn more about a pack rat's life and habitat than you ever cared to know!

Another book that might work for 2nd or 3rd grade and would give you several topics to explore is The Case of teh Stinky Science Project -- A Jigsaw Jones Mystery by James Preller.

There is also a series of books called the Kinetic City Super Crew series which are novels that explore scientific priciples. Some titles are The Case of the Meteorite Meance, Forest Slump and the Case of the Pilfered Pine Needles, and Bowled Over: The Case of the Gravity Goof-up. Which has made me think of Henny Penny for primary Gravity -- Remember the Sky is Falling???

Maybe that's a start and someone will think of some more. I will keep thinking, too. Good luck, I am working on my master's also and while I have enjoyed most of the work, some of it is a bit tedious. Anyway, hope this helps.


we once...
Posted by: monicaw

We got long tubes from Home Depot. They were the styrofoam tubes like you use to cover your pipes so they don't freeze. We cut them down one side so they were open. Then we used them to make roller coasters. The kids would use marbles and make them go up and down the hills. This showed potential (when they were stopped at the top of a hill) and kinetic (when they were moving) energy.

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Simple circuit
Posted by: Julianne

I am guessing about some of this. I have never seen this done with a potato! But I have seen a simple circuit made with a break in the wire that can then be filled with different materials to see if they will conduct electricity. I think the idea of the potato is that it is moist, therefore it should conduct the electricity. Here's how I'd go about this:

1. Get bell wire, a 6 volt lantern battery, the kind with both posts on the top of the battery. These batteries are easier to mess with while still being pretty safe. Be sure you use a flashlight bulb, not a nightlight or other household bulb.

2. Run one piece of bell wire from one terminal of the battery to your bulb's SIDE. Tape or twist it in place.

3. Attach another piece of bell wire from the BOTTOM of the bulb. You can then attach the other end of this wire to the other terminal of the battery to make sure you have a working circuit. If the bulb lights up you know it's working.

4. Now remove the wire from one terminal of the battery and attach another wire there. Take the two unattached ends - one from the battery, one from the bulb - and stick their ends into a small, very juicy potato. If all goes well you should get the thing to light up. If not, then perhaps you could try other materials between these two posts.

Things to try:
aluminum foil
craft stick
wet paper strip
dry paper strip
gold ring
brass ring
your finger (yours, not a child's)
ice cube
Christmas tree light

I hope this works for you. Let me know!

bulletin board
Posted by: Julianne

Ok, I think I've got a good one for you. Have each student draw a picture of his or her house and cut it out. Cut out a power station and put half the houses on one side of the board. Then use bell wire (telephone wire or other thin wire will do fine) to connect each house to the next showing a simple circuit. Now cut out another power plant and use the remaining houses in two rows to show a parallel circuit. Do this by having each house link to and from a pair of parallel wires that come down from the power plant. You can see a simple diagram of this in any elementary electricity book. Students can predict what would happen if someone cut a wire in each of the models. If you are handy you can build each of these models using a 6 volt lantern battery for the power source and lights cut from a set of christmas lights for the "houses". Cut each light away from the string leaving two 6" lengths of wire attached. Bare about 1/2 inch of wire at the end of each. Make the simple circuit by joining the lights together in a "holding hands" pattern with the battery at one position in the circle. If any one of the lights is removed the entire string goes dark. To make the parallel circuit you'll need a 1 foot piece of 2X4, 4 nails and about 4 feet of bare copper wire. Drive two nails about 2 inches apart at each end of the board. Cut the wire in half and run each piece between the nails on one side of the board making miniature telephone wires. Leave enough wire at one end to connect to the terminals of your 6 volt battery. Now carefully string your lights by hooking the bare part of one leg over one phone line and the other bare part over the other one. You should have a sort of ladder effect with the lights shining between the two parallel wires. You can show that you can remove any one light and the rest will stay lit.

Boy, I nearly didn't post's so long. But I've used this experiment with kids over and over. It's a real crowd pleaser and they get a real feel for how electricity works.

Energy unit
Posted by: Tracey

Nicole, I am just rapping up my grade 5 energy unit and I must say it was a challenge. I started with a few lessons on some of the main forms of energy such as light, wind, water, mechanical, electric, etc. Once that was done we talked about renewable and non-reneweable energy and how energy is transformed from one type to another. When all was said and done I had them use all their info they (supposedly) learned to make up their own Pokemon or Digimon character. They had to draw their character and discuss what energy form it used for power and how it could transform its energy to continually meet its energy needs. I am sure you can imagine the stuff they came up with! Good luck.