Energy excitement!

Today’s lesson was on different forms of energy (such as light, thermal or kinetic) and converting between different types of active and stored energies. In addition to witnessing energy conversions with a “comeback can”, students were also able to investigate other kinds of energy conversions at workstations set up around the classroom. This very hands-on lab allowed them to experiment with several of the different ways that the forms of energy can be converted from one to the other: gravitational potential energy into kinetic energy, kinetic energy into elastic energy, chemical energy into either light or thermal energy, and pressure/sound into electrical potential (and vice versa; the piezoelectric effect).

Students bounced balls in a tube and measured their return bounce level.  This activity allowed them to quantify and understand the energy conversions that happen when a ball is bounced. The ball starts with gravitational energy that is converted to kinetic energy as it falls and then becomes elastic energy when it reaches the bottom of the tube. When the ball bounces back up, the elastic energy becomes kinetic again.

In the Chemical Corner station, students created chemical reactions in which the resulting released energy could be seen as a glow, bubbles, or a color change. They enjoyed wearing the goggles and using test tubes to evoke the reactions!

Students climbed under a dark blanket and were able to observe a piezoelectric effect in which the force of crunching on a mint elicited a visible blue glow (wintergreen oil can absorb the released energy and convert it into a visible blue spark). If your student came home asking for wint-o-green LifeSavers candies, science class is the reason why!  Have fun making those blue sparks!



Phillip has a BS and MS in Biology from Western Washington University, and is currently earning a PhD in Environmental Studies at Antioch University New England. His research interests are in tropical rainforest ecology and animal-plant interactions. He will be doing his doctoral dissertation research on tropical seed dispersal ecology in the montane rainforests of Rwanda. Phillip has taught though various adjunct positions at several colleges in New England, teaching biology, ecology, earth science, environmental science, and general science at Babson College, North Shore Community College, Wheelock College, Merrimack College, and Mount Ida College.

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