Initial Ideas about Energy

This year in inquiry, we started with light as usual, but now we are moving on to energy. We’ll be conducting our own energy inquiries as we also analyze and discuss Sharon’s 3rd-grader’s inquiry into energy at the Responsive Teaching in Science Website, reading the book she co-authored called, “Becoming Scientists“, and talking over skype with Sharon about teaching science.

Below are excerpts from students’ first assignment that are still coming in. We have actually not discussed energy at all in class. Students were asked to write about an object or activity in their house that they think involves energy. Here is just a peek into what students are writing:

I think that fans are powered by electricity/energy and this allows them to move in a circular motion to create air flow.  This makes sense because in order for something to move it would need energy.  To me, it has always made sense that anything moving has some sort of energy asserted on it.  Usually when things move other objects, then the object gives energy and the object receiving the energy is using it.  I think that energy is needed in order to make fans work because without energy it just wouldn’t move at all.  The fan wouldn’t have anything to power the engine.

I know that light uses electricity which I think is powered by energy.  I know the term “electrical energy”, so this leads me to believe that electricity is either a type of energy itself, or is powered by energyEnergy has to be present for the light to turn on.  I believe that energy sends electrons to the light and the electrons make electric energy which causes the light to turn on.

I do know that there are different types and different ways energy is transferred and/or released. I know that the energy starts somewhere and is transferred through wires through an outlet in my home. Then, the energy is transferred again through a lamp, air freshener, or TV. My question now is where does energy begin during this process? I understand that energy can move from source to source but where does it begin in this scenario? For example, a child pushes a ball. When the child pushed the ball, energy was given off and transferred onto the ball. What is the “child” if you will through using an electric outlet?

Energy results in an action. A lamp being turned on is evidence of a change or an action. Energy had to be used to create that change. Energy was transferred from the outlet to the source in this case, a lamp.  Energy is needed to make this action happen because a lamp is not going to turn on itself. A TV needs another source to “wake up.” The way I look at it is this way: everything is at rest, there must be an action that “wakes up” an object to get reaction desired. In this example, energy is being used through electrical outlets. Energy transferred through wires to the electrical outlets, this process causes many different objects to “wake up.”

When I think of energy, I think of any type of movement: Even if an object only moves or works because of another source of energy—the stationary object is still using energy.
In the case of playing the piano, I am using energy in all sorts of different ways.  In a sense, I am “giving” or “transferring” my energy to the piano to make soundI think of energy almost like a chain reaction or domino effect—the energy used or transferred happens so quickly that it’s almost unbelievable!

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