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published by the National Energy Education Development Project
Available Languages: English, Spanish
This is a curriculum unit for middle school designed to introduce energy as a physics concept in five class sessions. It meets multiple NextGen Science standards through hands-on lab stations. Students investigate energy transfer, storage of energy, the difference between "energy forms" and "energy sources", and trace energy flow through systems. Creative activities include "Happy Sphere, Sad Sphere" for exploring kinetic vs. potential energy; solar panels and glow toys to learn about transformation of radiant energy; "Memory Metal" (nitinol wire) to explore how thermal energy is transformed into motion; and light sticks to investigate chemical energy transformation.

Each activity includes Teachers Guide, background information, detailed lesson plans, glossary, and example assessments. A full set of materials can be purchased from NEED or easily obtained through science supply retailers. The NEED Project is a national initiative to bring innovative curriculum materials in energy education to teachers and learners from the primary grades through college.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Classical Mechanics
- Work and Energy
= Conservation of Energy
= Mechanical Power
Education Foundations
- Cognition
= Cognition Development
Education Practices
- Active Learning
= Inquiry Learning
Electricity & Magnetism
- Capacitance
= Energy Storage
- Electromagnetic Radiation
Thermo & Stat Mech
- First Law
= Heat Transfer
- Thermal Properties of Matter
= Temperature
= Thermal Expansion
- Middle School
- Instructional Material
= Curriculum
= Instructor Guide/Manual
= Laboratory
= Problem/Problem Set
= Student Guide
= Unit of Instruction
- Assessment Material
- Audio/Visual
= Image/Image Set
Intended Users Formats Ratings
- Educators
- Learners
- application/pdf
- text/html
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Safety Warnings
Safety Gloves Must be worn   Hot Liquids  

Access Rights:
Free access
Lesson plans and Teachers Guide are available for free download and may be reproduced for educational purposes. Lab kits may be purchased from the NEED Project or obtained from science supply retailers.
© 2012 National Energy Education Development Project
chemical energy, chemical reaction, electrical energy, endothermic reaction, energy conversion, energy flow, energy forms, energy lessons, energy sources, energy transformation, exothermic reaction, light energy, nonrenewable energy, radiant energy, renewable energy, solar energy, thermal energy
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created May 9, 2013 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
August 24, 2016 by Lyle Barbato
Other Collections:

Next Generation Science Standards

Energy (MS-PS3)

Students who demonstrate understanding can: (6-8)
  • Plan an investigation to determine the relationships among the energy transferred, the type of matter, the mass, and the change in the average kinetic energy of the particles as measured by the temperature of the sample. (MS-PS3-4)

Disciplinary Core Ideas (K-12)

Chemical Reactions (PS1.B)
  • Some chemical reactions release energy, others store energy. (6-8)
Definitions of Energy (PS3.A)
  • The term "heat" as used in everyday language refers both to thermal energy (the motion of atoms or molecules within a substance) and the transfer of that thermal energy from one object to another. In science, heat is used only for this second meaning; it refers to the energy transferred due to the temperature difference between two objects. (6-8)
  • The temperature of a system is proportional to the average internal kinetic energy and potential energy per atom or molecule (whichever is the appropriate building block for the system's material). The details of that relationship depend on the type of atom or molecule and the interactions among the atoms in the material. Temperature is not a direct measure of a system's total thermal energy. The total thermal energy (sometimes called the total internal energy) of a system depends jointly on the temperature, the total number of atoms in the system, and the state of the material. (6-8)
  • Temperature is a measure of the average kinetic energy of particles of matter. The relationship between the temperature and the total energy of a system depends on the types, states, and amounts of matter present. (6-8)
Conservation of Energy and Energy Transfer (PS3.B)
  • The amount of energy transfer needed to change the temperature of a matter sample by a given amount depends on the nature of the matter, the size of the sample, and the environment. (6-8)
  • Energy is spontaneously transferred out of hotter regions or objects and into colder ones. (6-8)
Developing Possible Solutions (ETS1.B)
  • A solution needs to be tested, and then modified on the basis of the test results, in order to improve it. (6-8)

Crosscutting Concepts (K-12)

Patterns (K-12)
  • Patterns can be used to identify cause and effect relationships. (6-8)
Energy and Matter (2-12)
  • Matter is conserved because atoms are conserved in physical and chemical processes. (6-8)
  • The transfer of energy can be tracked as energy flows through a designed or natural system. (6-8)
  • Energy may take different forms (e.g. energy in fields, thermal energy, energy of motion). (6-8)
  • Within a natural system, the transfer of energy drives the motion and/or cycling of matter. (6-8)
Interdependence of Science, Engineering, and Technology (K-12)
  • Engineering advances have led to important discoveries in virtually every field of science, and scientific discoveries have led to the development of entire industries and engineered systems. (6-8)

NGSS Science and Engineering Practices (K-12)

Analyzing and Interpreting Data (K-12)
  • Analyzing data in 6–8 builds on K–5 and progresses to extending quantitative analysis to investigations, distinguishing between correlation and causation, and basic statistical techniques of data and error analysis. (6-8)
    • Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for phenomena. (6-8)
Asking Questions and Defining Problems (K-12)
  • Asking questions and defining problems in grades 6–8 builds from grades K–5 experiences and progresses to specifying relationships between variables, and clarifying arguments and models. (6-8)
    • Ask questions that can be investigated within the scope of the classroom, outdoor environment, and museums and other public facilities with available resources and, when appropriate, frame a hypothesis based on observations and scientific principles. (6-8)
Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions (K-12)
  • Constructing explanations and designing solutions in 6–8 builds on K–5 experiences and progresses to include constructing explanations and designing solutions supported by multiple sources of evidence consistent with scientific ideas, principles, and theories. (6-8)
    • Construct an explanation that includes qualitative or quantitative relationships between variables that describe phenomena. (6-8)
Engaging in Argument from Evidence (2-12)
  • Engaging in argument from evidence in 6–8 builds on K–5 experiences and progresses to constructing a convincing argument that supports or refutes claims for either explanations or solutions about the natural and designed world(s). (6-8)
    • Construct, use, and present oral and written arguments supported by empirical evidence and scientific reasoning to support or refute an explanation or a model for a phenomenon. (6-8)
Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information (K-12)
  • Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information in 6–8 builds on K–5 and progresses to evaluating the merit and validity of ideas and methods. (6-8)
    • Gather, read, and synthesize information from multiple appropriate sources and assess the credibility, accuracy, and possible bias of each publication and methods used, and describe how they are supported or not supported by evidence. (6-8)

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

4. The Physical Setting

4E. Energy Transformations
  • 6-8: 4E/M1. Whenever energy appears in one place, it must have disappeared from another. Whenever energy is lost from somewhere, it must have gone somewhere else. Sometimes when energy appears to be lost, it actually has been transferred to a system that is so large that the effect of the transferred energy is imperceptible.
  • 6-8: 4E/M2. Energy can be transferred from one system to another (or from a system to its environment) in different ways: 1) thermally, when a warmer object is in contact with a cooler one; 2) mechanically, when two objects push or pull on each other over a distance; 3) electrically, when an electrical source such as a battery or generator is connected in a complete circuit to an electrical device; or 4) by electromagnetic waves.
  • 6-8: 4E/M3. Thermal energy is transferred through a material by the collisions of atoms within the material. Over time, the thermal energy tends to spread out through a material and from one material to another if they are in contact. Thermal energy can also be transferred by means of currents in air, water, or other fluids. In addition, some thermal energy in all materials is transformed into light energy and radiated into the environment by electromagnetic waves; that light energy can be transformed back into thermal energy when the electromagnetic waves strike another material. As a result, a material tends to cool down unless some other form of energy is converted to thermal energy in the material.
  • 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.

8. The Designed World

8C. Energy Sources and Use
  • 6-8: 8C/M1. Transformations and transfers of energy within a system usually result in some energy escaping into its surrounding environment. Some systems transfer less energy to their environment than others during these transformations and transfers.
  • 6-8: 8C/M2. Different ways of obtaining, transforming, and distributing energy have different environmental consequences.
  • 6-8: 8C/M4. Electrical energy can be generated from a variety of energy resources and can be transformed into almost any other form of energy. Electric circuits are used to distribute energy quickly and conveniently to distant locations.
  • 6-8: 8C/M5. Energy from the sun (and the wind and water energy derived from it) is available indefinitely. Because the transfer of energy from these resources is weak and variable, systems are needed to collect and concentrate the energy.
  • 6-8: 8C/M8. People have invented ingenious ways of deliberately bringing about energy transformations that are useful to them.
  • 6-8: 8C/M10. Some resources are not renewable or renew very slowly. Fuels already accumulated in the earth, for instance, will become more difficult to obtain as the most readily available resources run out. How long the resources will last, however, is difficult to predict. The ultimate limit may be the prohibitive cost of obtaining them.

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.

12. Habits of Mind

12C. Manipulation and Observation
  • 6-8: 12C/M3. Make accurate measurements of length, volume, weight, elapsed time, rates, and temperature by using appropriate devices.
  • 6-8: 12C/M5. Analyze simple mechanical devices and describe what the various parts are for; estimate what the effect of making a change in one part of a device would have on the device as a whole.
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