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Introduction to Energy

By Kathy Foust

How do you describe energy so that your students can understand what it means as it applies to Physical Science lesson plans? Use this energy lesson plan to introduce your students to the concept of energy in a way that is easy for them to understand.

What is Energy?

Energy can be a difficult concept to explain to students, mostly because it is just that, a concept. Since energy is a concept, students may have problems understanding that there are formulas by which to measure energy. Use the activity below to explain this concept to your students.

  • Ask two students to stand facing each other with their arms out in front of them.
  • Ask the students to place each others palms against the other as if they were pushing each other.
  • Ask students if they feel energy being used. Students should reply "no" or that they are using the energy to stand and face each other.
  • Ask students to push each others palms as if they are pushing the other person away from them.
  • Ask students if they feel energy being used now. Students should reply "yes".

Explain to students that the energy was always present, but we do not notice energy until we are using it or seeing it being used. Further explain that energy comes in many forms, which will be introduced in a lesson plan later on in this series.

Energy in General

Teachers, Please read the following information to your students to introduce them to various terms for measuring energy.

What is the biggest source of energy on our planet? The Sun is. That being the case, it is truly amazing to know that the Earth receives a relatively small part of the energy that is put into the solar system by the Sun. What other sources of natural energy are there available to us. (Ask students to offer examples of natural energy.) Some sources of natural energy are listed below.

  • wind
  • water flow
  • natural gas

Energy can be measured and formulated. The energy unit is called the Joule, pronounced "jool" and written as "J" in scientific formulas. There are generally two classifications of energy, though there are many forms. The classifications of energy are kinetic energy and potential energy and will be discussed in the following lesson plans. For now, understand that every object has energy and its classification depends on its location, position and whether or not it is in motion.

For more information on these types of energy, see the lesson plans included in this series of energy lesson plans.