Academic journal article Science and Children

Energy Makes Things Happen

Academic journal article Science and Children

Energy Makes Things Happen

Article excerpt

Energy is one of the most challenging topics to teach in the elementary classroom because of the complex and sometimes mysterious nature of the concepts involved. This month's lessons attempt to shed light (pun intended) on the topic of energy. The K-2 lesson features an engaging picture book that gives readers concrete examples of what energy can do, while the 4-6 lesson gives students a real-world context for the concept of energy transformations through the remarkable true story of a boy who builds a windmill for his village.

This Month's Trade Books

Energy Makes Things Happen By Kimberly Brubaker Brown Illustrated by Paul Meisel HarperCollins. 2002. ISBN 9780064452137 Grades K-3


This Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science book uses simple language and humorous illustrations to introduce young children to different forms of energy.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind By William Kamkawamba and Bryan Mealer Illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon Dial Books for Young Readers. 2012. ISBN 9780803735118 Grades 4-6


This picture book adaptation of the adult biography of the same title tells the true story of a boy who turned junkyard scraps into a working windmill to bring electricity and water to his famine-stricken African village. End matter contains an explanation of the science behind windmills.

Curricular Connections

The National Science Education Standards explain that students in grades K-4 may not be able to understand a complex concept like energy, but they do have intuitive notions like the ideas that energy is needed to get things done and humans get energy from food (NRC 1996). A Framework for K-12 Science Education identifies the following Core and Component Idea in the Physical Sciences: "Sunlight warms Earth's surface" (Grade Band Endpoint for Grade 2) (NRC 2011, p. 125). In the K-3 lesson, students experiment with energy from the Sun in some concrete ways--to make a solar toy move and to cook food. After reading the book, Energy Makes Things Happen, they realize that almost all energy on Earth can be traced back to the same source they used to make the toys move and cook the food theSun.

The Standards suggest that in the upper grades, students build on these early experiences with energy by expanding their focus to include energy transformations (NRC 1996). In A Framework for K-12 Science Education, the grade band endpoint for grade 5 states students should understand that "energy can be transferred from place to place by electric currents, which can then be used locally to produce motion, sound, heat, or light. The currents may have been produced to begin with by transforming the energy of motion into electrical energy" (N RC 2011, p. 125). This month's lesson for grades 4-6 concentrates on energy transformations, specifically the transformation of mechanical energy from the wind into electricity and finally into light energy. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind provides an engaging real-world context for this abstract concept of energy transformation.

Grades K-2: The Sun Our Source of Energy

Purpose: Students will experiment with the Sun's energy to make a solar toy move and to cook s'mores. They will also be introduced to the idea that the energy that makes things happen on Earth can almost always be traced back to the Sun.


Show students the cover of the book Energy Makes Things Happen and ask them what they think of when they hear the word energy. Then read pages 4 and 5 aloud and ask students to point out the different kinds of energy they see in the picture. Read page 6 that explains that energy makes things happen and that the Sun is a source of heat and light energy. Tell students that you will read the rest of the book later after they have had a chance to explore some forms of energy.


Give each group of 3--4 stu dents a simple solar toy to experiment with, such as a dancing flower or solar pet. …

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