Stretching the limits of science
Ever wonder why a rubber ball bounces or what makes a wind-up toy go? It’s all about the storage of energy! In this unit, students will play, measure, predict, and build their way through a variety of activities that demonstrate how potential energy can be stored and converted into kinetic energy.
- Generally describe the characteristics of an elastic material.
- Explain that energy is not created or destroyed, but rather converted from one form to another.
- Give examples that demonstrate when potential energy is converted to kinetic energy.
- Evaluate the elasticity of different materials based on bounce-back height.
- Create a simple toy that uses stored elastic energy in order to move.
Energy is a property of all matter, but what is it? Physicists define it as “the ability to do work” (work = force x distance), but energy can be defined for children as the “ability to cause change” or the “invisible stuff needed to make things happen.”
Energy gives us the ability to do things, such as climb a mountain, play soccer and even think. Every time you see something move energy is being used. You know that energy exists because you can see or feel what it does in one of its many forms. To find energy, look for motion, heat, light, sound, chemical reactions or electricity.
While exploring elastics and the amazing things they can do, your students will be learning about kinetic and potential energy. Kinetic energy is the energy of motion, that is, the energy that all moving objects possess. Kinetic energy is easy to see in the motions of the objects all around us. It’s difficult, though, to see potential energy, which is the energy that something has just because of its position. For example, if we lift an object up against the pull of gravity, it has potential energy because it can fall and “make things happen”.
Energy cannot be created or destroyed, but it can(ital) be stored or changed from one form to another. For example, when you turn on a flashlight, chemical energy is turned into light and heat. (Note: When energy is converted from one form to another, some energy is always(ital) lost as heat!) In the case of an elastic or spring, you physically pull or push to store energy. The more force you apply to it, the more potential energy is stored, and the more kinetic energy it will have when you let it go!
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