Energy Fundamentals

Before we can dive into problem-solving and advocacy work, students need to understand what it is that they are working with. My students this year are tasked with creating a functional outdoor classroom. The main criteria is that it must all run on clean energy.

Well, what is energy?

This summer I attended a Clean Energy Teacher Fellowship with the San Mateo County Environmental and Sustainable Literacy Initiative through the San Mateo County of Education. It was discussed that students need to have fundamental knowledge of energy before they can begin diving deep into the problem. The below experiment and lesson was gained from the fellowship workshop (as teachers we conducted this experiment synchronously).

With my class today, through Zoom, we started with me asking students to write a response in the chat box to the question of what is energy? Slowly their responses filled in. For those students who were nervous to share with the group, they sent their response to me privately (I read those out loud without sharing their names).

Students were then asked to pull out their Science Journals and build a model. Below is the link to the keynote I used (a few of the slides are borrowed with permission from SMELC):

For this experiment, I modeled the candle and the spiral paper myself. If we were in class I would have done this in small groups with students running the experiment. Since students are mostly physically unsupervised I didn’t want to take the risk with fire.

Students made predictions and drew a model in their Science Journal. Then we tested our predictions when I ran the experiment, spotlighting my screen. From there, students went into Break Out Rooms to discuss what they observed happened to the paper when hovering above the flame (slide 1-7), and added modifications to their models.

Next, we went into LIVE small groups, where we discussed what was actually happening and why the paper moved (slides 8-14). We finished with a short assessment where students were directed to answer a quick question on (I created a question beforehand, then put the link in the chat for the students to access). We reflected on our answers as a group when everyone was finished.

Their ON-DEMAND assignment is to read through the different types of energy: then pick one to summarize using Flip Grid to record their response.

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