Teaching the Relationship Between Speed and Energy

Speed and energy share a special relationship. A variety of hands-on activities let kids explore and conceptualize how increasing speed increases energy – and vice versa.

Ms. Sneed Teaches About Speed and Energy

Our favorite fourth grade teacher, Ms. Sneed, sat at the side table with her teaching partner. “So much for physical science activities,” she said. Quickly, she leafed through the science textbook. “Reading, reading, and more reading,” she said to her teaching partner. “What about hands-on learning?”

As usual, Mr. Frank pulled out his laptop and began clicking around. “Look at this set of speed and energy activities,” he said, turning his screen so Ms. Sneed could see.

“Hmm. These hands-on activities could be completed as stand-alone labs or stations. In either case, they’ll work in their science lab groups.”

Learning About Forms of Energy

“First, kids review forms of energy. A worksheet asks them to differentiate between potential and kinetic. In addition, they write a short definition and list an example. I like the way it builds background information,” Mr. Frank said.

At the first speed and kinetic energy station, kids read about forms of energy.

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Exploring Speed and Thermal Energy

“Second,” Mr. Frank continued, “kids rub their hands together to feel heat energy. They also rub a pencil and a metal hanger – gently and then faster. Simple but profound.”

At the second speed and energy station, students explore how increasing speed increases heat.

 

Playing Around with Tension and Speed

“Third, they build a balloon launcher. The simple design uses only a toilet paper tube and a balloon. Now they experiment with tension – applying more and less.”

At the third speed and energy station, kids explore how tension transfers to motion.

“The next activity also deals with tension,” Ms. Sneed added. “I had forgotten about spool racers. My students built them years ago. An oldie but a goodie!”

“How does it work?” asked Mr. Frank.

“First, you thread a rubber band down the middle of a spool. Second, you anchor it with a broken toothpick on one end.” She pointed to the picture. “Finally, you add a thread a washer through the rubber band on the other end and push a whole toothpick through its end. For the racing, kids wind up the longer toothpick.”

“I see. Then they count how many times they’ve twisted it and compare speeds.”

Ms. Sneed nodded and smiled. “So engaging!”

At the fourth speed and motion station, kids build a spool racers.
Observing How Gravitational Energy Affects Speed

The pair of teachers moved to the next activity. “Hot Wheels!” Mr. Frank exclaimed. “And it looks like we can purchase the science materials at the dollar store!”

“Yep,” said Ms. Sneed. “Kids explore the relationship between speed and energy as the angle of the track is increased.”

At the fifth speed and energy station, kids explore gravity with Hot Wheels track and cars.
Correlating Speed and Energy of Motion

“In the final activity,” Mr. Frank said, “kids assess the speed of a paper football when they add more energy.”

Ms. Sneed laughed. “Really? We’re giving them permission to flick footballs during class? They won’t believe it!”

At the sixth speed and energy station, kids use paper footballs to explore motion.
Review and Assessment

“So,” Ms Sneed asked her teaching partner, “what do you think of this set of speed and energy activities?”

“Are you kidding? They’re great! Without a doubt, they will engage our students. Furthermore, they’ll really understand the relationship between speed and energy.

“Look here,” he added. “After our students have completed the activities, they can study with flashcards and take a test. A complete unit!”

Kids use task cards to study and take a test.

Ms. Sneed leaned back in her chair and sighed. Then that famous teacher smile spread across her face. Engaging students in hands-on science brought joy to her heart.

Enjoy Teaching

I enjoyed teaching for more than thirty years. Now I tell my tales through this fictional educator, Ms. Sneed. Like you, she struggles with everyday classroom challenges. And like you, she meets them head-on. Hopefully, each of her stories will inspire you.

Feel free to explore this site for six steps to enjoy teaching. To survive, a teacher must organize, plan, and simplify. Then, to thrive, she must learn more, engage her students (and herself), and dive in!

 

 

 

 

Brenda Kovich

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