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published by the WGBH Educational Foundation
In this 3-5 day multimedia module, students explore concepts of kinetic, potential, and total energy within different types of systems. Watch a video of engineers who recreate a medieval trebuchet (using only 14th century technology) and an animation of energy transformation in a roller coaster. Play with a digital mass-and-spring model and a projectile simulator. Finally, students will use computational reasoning in a hands-on golf ball activity. This lesson was designed to engage multiple sensory paths and styles of learning through video, interactive simulation, animations, lab activities, and informative text.

Please note that this resource requires Flash.
Editor's Note: Great mini-unit for integrating physical science and math. This resource has the flexibility to be adapted for a variety of ability levels. Middle school teachers may wish to skip or modify the golf ball bounce activity.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Classical Mechanics
- Gravity
= Universal Gravitation
- Motion in Two Dimensions
= Projectile Motion
- Work and Energy
= Mechanical Power
= Simple Machines
Education Practices
- Active Learning
= Modeling
- Technology
= Multimedia
Other Sciences
- Engineering
- Middle School
- High School
- Informal Education
- Instructional Material
= Activity
= Instructor Guide/Manual
= Interactive Simulation
= Laboratory
= Lesson/Lesson Plan
= Problem/Problem Set
- Audio/Visual
= Movie/Animation
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Physical Science
- Physics First
- Conceptual Physics
- Activity
- New teachers
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Safety Warnings
Minimal Danger   No Safety Equipment Necessary  

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General Public
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Law of Conservation of Energy, blended learning, conservation of energy, energy transfer, engineering design, free science videos, lever arm, roller coaster, science multimedia, science videos, trebuchet video, video clips
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created June 6, 2013 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
September 10, 2013 by Lyle Barbato

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

3. The Nature of Technology

3B. Design and Systems
  • 6-8: 3B/M4b. The most common ways to prevent failure are pretesting of parts and procedures, overdesign, and redundancy.
  • 9-12: 3B/H6. To reduce the chance of system failure, performance testing is often conducted using small-scale models, computer simulations, analogous systems, or just the parts of the system thought to be least reliable.

4. The Physical Setting

4E. Energy Transformations
  • 6-8: 4E/M4. Energy appears in different forms and can be transformed within a system. Motion energy is associated with the speed of an object. Thermal energy is associated with the temperature of an object. Gravitational energy is associated with the height of an object above a reference point. Elastic energy is associated with the stretching or compressing of an elastic object. Chemical energy is associated with the composition of a substance. Electrical energy is associated with an electric current in a circuit. Light energy is associated with the frequency of electromagnetic waves.
  • 9-12: 4E/H1. Although the various forms of energy appear very different, each can be measured in a way that makes it possible to keep track of how much of one form is converted into another. Whenever the amount of energy in one place diminishes, the amount in other places or forms increases by the same amount.
  • 9-12: 4E/H9. Many forms of energy can be considered to be either kinetic energy, which is the energy of motion, or potential energy, which depends on the separation between mutually attracting or repelling objects.
4F. Motion
  • 6-8: 4F/M3a. An unbalanced force acting on an object changes its speed or direction of motion, or both.

8. The Designed World

8B. Materials and Manufacturing
  • 6-8: 8B/M2. Manufacturing usually involves a series of steps, such as designing a product, obtaining and preparing raw materials, processing the materials mechanically or chemically, and assembling the product. All steps may occur at a single location or may occur at different locations.

9. The Mathematical World

9B. Symbolic Relationships
  • 6-8: 9B/M2. Rates of change can be computed from differences in magnitudes and vice versa.

11. Common Themes

11A. Systems
  • 6-8: 11A/M2. Thinking about things as systems means looking for how every part relates to others. The output from one part of a system (which can include material, energy, or information) can become the input to other parts. Such feedback can serve to control what goes on in the system as a whole.
11B. Models
  • 6-8: 11B/M4. Simulations are often useful in modeling events and processes.
  • 6-8: 11B/M6. A model can sometimes be used to get ideas about how the thing being modeled actually works, but there is no guarantee that these ideas are correct if they are based on the model alone.
  • 9-12: 11B/H5. The behavior of a physical model cannot ever be expected to represent the full-scale phenomenon with complete accuracy, not even in the limited set of characteristics being studied. The inappropriateness of a model may be related to differences between the model and what is being modeled.

Common Core State Standards for Mathematics Alignments

Standards for Mathematical Practice (K-12)

MP.1 Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.
MP.2 Reason abstractly and quantitatively.

Ratios and Proportional Relationships (6-7)

Analyze proportional relationships and use them to solve real-world and mathematical problems. (7)
  • 7.RP.3 Use proportional relationships to solve multistep ratio and percent problems.

Expressions and Equations (6-8)

Apply and extend previous understandings of arithmetic to algebraic expressions. (6)
  • 6.EE.2.c Evaluate expressions at specific values of their variables. Include expressions that arise from formulas used in real-world problems. Perform arithmetic operations, including those involving whole-number exponents, in the conventional order when there are no parentheses to specify a particular order (Order of Operations).
Reason about and solve one-variable equations and inequalities. (6)
  • 6.EE.7 Solve real-world and mathematical problems by writing and solving equations of the form x + p = q and px = q for cases in which p, q and x are all nonnegative rational numbers.
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Record Link
AIP Format
(WGBH Educational Foundation, Boston), WWW Document, (http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/hew06.sci.phys.maf.lpenergy/investigating-kinetic-and-potential-energy/).
PBS Learning Media: Investigating Kinetic and Potential Energy, (WGBH Educational Foundation, Boston), <http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/hew06.sci.phys.maf.lpenergy/investigating-kinetic-and-potential-energy/>.
APA Format
PBS Learning Media: Investigating Kinetic and Potential Energy. (n.d.). Retrieved May 6, 2016, from WGBH Educational Foundation: http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/hew06.sci.phys.maf.lpenergy/investigating-kinetic-and-potential-energy/
Chicago Format
WGBH Educational Foundation. PBS Learning Media: Investigating Kinetic and Potential Energy. Boston: WGBH Educational Foundation. http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/hew06.sci.phys.maf.lpenergy/investigating-kinetic-and-potential-energy/ (accessed 6 May 2016).
MLA Format
PBS Learning Media: Investigating Kinetic and Potential Energy. Boston: WGBH Educational Foundation. 6 May 2016 <http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/hew06.sci.phys.maf.lpenergy/investigating-kinetic-and-potential-energy/>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Title = {PBS Learning Media: Investigating Kinetic and Potential Energy}, Publisher = {WGBH Educational Foundation}, Volume = {2016}, Number = {6 May 2016}, Year = {} }
Refer Export Format

%T PBS Learning Media: Investigating Kinetic and Potential Energy
%I WGBH Educational Foundation
%C Boston
%U http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/hew06.sci.phys.maf.lpenergy/investigating-kinetic-and-potential-energy/
%O text/html

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source
%T PBS Learning Media: Investigating Kinetic and Potential Energy
%I WGBH Educational Foundation
%V 2016
%N 6 May 2016
%9 text/html
%U http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/hew06.sci.phys.maf.lpenergy/investigating-kinetic-and-potential-energy/

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Citation Source Information

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