Cape Light Compact partnered with the National Energy Education Development Project (NEED) to bring you fun, energy-focused activities for your study-at-home learners.

Our lesson plans laid out below offer one lesson a week focused on the topic of energy and are broken out by grade range. The lesson plans are aligned with the Massachusetts Department of Education Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards. Each will include a short reading activity, a worksheet, and additional learning resources.

Lessons will cover the following topics:

  • Energy Sources
  • Electricity and Electricity Generation
  • Energy Conservation at Home
  • Measuring Your Electric Consumption
  • Lighting
  • Appliances
  • Heating and Cooling
  • Solar
  • Wind
  • Geothermal
  • Transportation
  • Climate Science

For each suggested grade band, you’ll see some quick text for reading as well as a worksheet or link to interactive worksheets. For all four grade bands, there will be one challenge/hands-on activity to complete that supports the theme of the content.  These hands-on pieces can absolutely be completed as a family or with multiple students of various grades.  We also have listed links to additional content. If your student is advanced, or needs more support, feel free to scale up or down within the levels or encourage them to complete multiple activities from the different levels.

Looking for more home energy activities? We’re pleased to partner with The National Energy Education Development Project (NEED), to deliver these fun activities. Be sure to check out their library of resources, and their specialized collection of energy-themed distance/at-home learning activities. All activities are totally free for use at home or school and accessible by visiting their website, www.NEED.org.

Additional support links:

Lessons will be added every Monday in April starting on April 6th. In the event that schools are closed beyond May, additional lessons will be added so be sure to check back!

Grades K-2Grades 3-5Grades 6-8Grades 9-12

Grades K-2

Week 1, Lesson 1: Energy Basics and Energy Sources

This lesson aims to introduce energy, helps to identify how we use energy, and begins to look closer at what renewable and nonrenewable sources of energy we use in the United. States.

*Primary reading is structured with the student reader page first, and the teacher/adult page second. Younger or less advanced readers can read along with the student pages, and the teacher pages may be read aloud to them. Advanced readers may be able to read most on their own.

Get Hands-on!

  • Candy Collector  will help students develop a more thorough understanding of the meaning of the terms “renewable” and “nonrenewable” and how they apply to energy sources. This fun activity can get a little silly!  Be sure to be mindful of spacing and complete the activity individually if germ control is a top priority in your learning environment!

Week 2, Lesson 2: Electricity and Electricity Generation

This lesson aims to introduce students to the basics of electricity – what it is, how we use it, and how we can generate it. Electricity is most often generated using a generator. Generators use motion energy and electromagnetism to generate the electricity that powers much of our homes. Students will begin to explore how electricity and magnetism are related to begin to think about how generators work!

*Primary reading is structured with the student reader page first, and the teacher/adult page second. Younger or less advanced readers can read along with the student pages, and the teacher pages may be read aloud to them. Advanced readers may be able to read most on their own.

Get Hands-on!

  • Electromagnets  is a fun way to show students how electricity from a battery can make a metallic item into a magnet – demonstrating that electricity and magnetism are related! For this activity, you’ll be using a battery, some coated wire or an alligator clip to make an electric circuit, and a nail with a compass to demonstrate magnetism. Use caution: the battery may become warm to the touch while the wire is connected.

Alternative

Don’t have a compass? Want an extra challenge? Grab a few paperclips and place them near the nail as an alternative method to demonstrate that you have a magnet. If the nail is magnetized it will pick up the paperclips! How many can you lift?

Background Information for adults:

This activity takes a non-magnetic object, a nail, and makes it magnetic. Ordinarily, iron is not in and of itself a magnet, but it will respond to a magnetic field. Only three metals are noticeably magnetic: iron, nickel, and cobalt. This is related to the movement of electrons within the atoms.

Electrons don’t just move around the nucleus of an atom; they also spin. Michael Faraday was the first to demonstrate that a moving electrical field creates a magnetic field, and because electrons have an electrical charge, their movement creates tiny magnetic fields. Ordinarily electrons exist in pairs. Each electron in the pair spins in an opposing direction from the other. The magnetic field generated by one electron is canceled by the magnetic field generated by the other electron in the pair. However, in nickel, cobalt, and iron, there are unpaired electrons with magnetic fields that are not canceled. This creates tiny sections in the metal where magnetic fields align, called magnetic domains.

When the wire was wrapped around the nail, and electric current moved through it, a magnetic field was created that moved through the center of the coil of wire, out from one end of the nail, and around, back to the other end of the nail. The way electric and magnetic fields are related is demonstrated with the “right-hand rule.” If you outstretch your right hand, and your thumb indicates the direction of one field, the fingers of your right hand will curl around in the direction of the other field. If the electric current was straight, the magnetic field would curl around the wire. If the electric current was moving in a coil, however, the magnetic field would be straight.

When the wire was connected to the battery and electric current moved through it, the magnetic field induced by the moving electric field in the wire caused the magnetic domains in the nail to align, and the nail became a magnet itself. Even after the wire was disconnected from the battery, the nail may have remained magnetic until dropped on the floor or tapped on the table, which would have caused the magnetic domains to move back into their original configuration.

Electromagnetism allows us to transform electrical energy into kinetic energy and make things move. The chemicals in the battery interact to generate electric current, and like the apple electrolytic cell in Station Five, transform chemical energy into electrical energy.

Week 3, Lesson 3: Energy Conservation at Home

This lesson aims to introduce students to energy saving behaviors and why it is important to save or conserve energy. Energy conservation is the decision and practice of using less energy. Energy conservation can be easy to start, because it’s based on our decisions and behaviors. Students will first become acquainted with all the ways in which they use energy each day at home, at school, and on the road. Students will then take a survey of their energy behaviors and decisions and look for ways they can try to practice energy conservation as a household.

*Primary reading is structured with the student reader page first, and the teacher/adult page second. Younger or less advanced readers can read along with the student pages, and the teacher pages may be read aloud to them. Advanced readers may be able to read most on their own.

Get Hands-on!

  • Energy Conservation Contract has students working with the members of their household to survey and rate their energy-using behaviors. The activity encourages the family or household to gather qualitative and some quantitative data from their surveys and ratings to then develop a contract of energy-saving behaviors they will act upon. Then, conduct the ratings survey again. Can the students and their household identify some savings?

Week 4, Lesson 4: Measuring Your Electric Consumption

This week’s lesson will help your students and your family begin to understand your electricity consumption in order to better interpret your utility bills. Electricity can account for up to 70% of a home’s utility expenses. While much of the expense is often attributed to larger items like refrigerators, washers and dryers, and air conditioning, when everyone in your household is home and everything is plugged in, electricity consumption and its associated costs can climb quickly.  Students will revisit text about electricity, how it is transported to us, and how it is used in our homes. Student activities will extend the learning to showcase how to save electricity at home, and students will complete the unit by doing an accounting of their electricity consumption at home. Break out the calculators for this activity, and remind students how to safely unplug and plug in appliances! Don’t forget to look back at the efficiency and conservation text from last week for more tips and tricks on saving energy at home!

*Primary reading is structured with the student reader page first, and the teacher/adult page second. Younger or less advanced readers can read along with the student pages, and the teacher pages may be read aloud to them. Advanced readers may be able to read most on their own.

Get Hands-on!

  • Morning Money Crunch has students amplifying their home survey to include quantitative analysis. In this activity, students will work together to gather data on the number of pluggable devices they have, how much power they might draw, and how frequently they are used to determine an estimated cost for their use. The activity is framed to consider only the items used when getting ready in the morning, however, the activity could be shifted to meet any time of day, or several times throughout the day. Encourage younger students to work with older students, where applicable to “crunch their numbers.”

Extensions

  • Compile the data into a spreadsheet and estimate the cost of powering all of your household devices. How does it compare to your electricity bill? What are some reasons your calculations might be over or under?

Week 5, Lesson 5: Lighting

Saving energy at home can be as easy as flipping a switch! Lighting is a system in our home that can use a good amount of energy but is pretty easy to control. According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration, lighting accounts for roughly 8 percent of a home’s energy expenses. This lesson aims to introduce students and their families to lighting and energy savings in the home. Students will read text on lighting and complete a reinforcement activity or hands-on investigation. Students or families can then work together to survey their home’s lighting and calculate the cost-benefit of more efficient lighting choices. 

Get Hands-on!

  • These lessons will wrap up with an exploration of lighting in your home and some quick lighting math in This is Your Light. Look at your lighting technologies as a household. Is there an opportunity to switch to a more efficient bulb type? What costs would be incurred, and how quickly would those costs be recouped? A lot of times, we’re taught the adage “if it ain’t broke; don’t fix it.” However, in completing this quick math activity, students and families might see quickly that a switch could save money in a very short turnaround.

Week 6, Lesson 6: Appliances

This week’s lesson focuses on one of the biggest energy users in our home – appliances! The appliances we use at home help make life easier. Appliances can be large like refrigerators and washing machines, or small like curling irons and toasters. Appliances (including water heating and refrigerators) can account for nearly 50 percent of our utility costs at home! Students will read text on appliances and their energy costs and complete the reinforcement activities that relate to appliances and energy consumption. Then students and families can work together on rating their home again, revisiting their Energy Conservation Contract ratings in a slightly different format. Are you efforts working?

Get Hands-on!

  • Lesson 3 had students and households start a discussion and conduct a survey of their behaviors to determine a few conservation efforts they might make in the home. This week’s culminating activity, Re-Rate My Energy Use  is similar to the survey and rating system used in lesson 3,  and aims to have families continue thinking about their behaviors to spot changes, make improvements, and work together to consider conservation as a family effort. Households should discuss their ratings this week and think back to the previous rating, if completed. As a household, consider what tactics you might try or continue to try at home, and how they might help your energy bills and comfort while making small alterations or sacrifices in your daily activities.

Week 7, Lesson 7: Heating and Cooling

This week’s lesson focuses on the biggest energy cost in homes – heating and cooling. Heating and cooling systems use more energy than any other systems in residential and commercial buildings. Natural gas and electricity are usually used to heat, and electricity is used to cool. In this lesson, students will learn about these systems with activities that explore measuring temperature, the movement of thermal energy, and how insulation helps to make sure the desired temperature is maintained and your heating or cooling system isn’t overworked.

Get Hands-on!

  • In this activity, students will apply what they’ve learned about thermal energy and how it is constantly on the move. Has anyone ever told scolded you for leaving the door open and letting the “bought air” out?  Because thermal energy is always on the move, air will find the smallest leaks or cracks to come into or escape out of your home. In Seal of Approval , students will use a simple tool to evaluate their home and look for places where warm or cool air might try to leak into or out of the home. Students can also conduct a survey of their home to look closely at the insulation visibly present, and compare to suggested amounts based on their climate zone.

Week 8, Lesson 8: Solar

This lesson aims to introduce students to solar energy. Energy from the sun plays a part in the use of nearly every other source of energy, from wind to biomass, to yes – fossil fuels!  Solar energy can be used to heat homes, heat water, dry crops, and generate electricity.  Students will begin to explore all of these uses for solar energy, and take their learning outdoors as they build a solar-powered oven!

*Primary reading is structured with the student reader page first, and the teacher/adult page second. Younger or less advanced readers can read along with the student pages, and the teacher pages may be read aloud to them. Advanced readers may be able to read most on their own.

Get Hands-on!

  • Explore how energy from the sun can transform into useful thermal energy to cook our food!  Students can assemble their own solar cookers from pizza boxes you may have at home from your last delivery dinner. Don’t’ have a pizza box? This activity can easily be done with any recycled cardboard, food containers, etc., and may also be conducted as a challenge with minimal instructions. No matter which version of this activity you conduct, you’ll need a sunny day. Design and construction can take place inside during any conditions. If cooking food, you may also need to reposition your cooker periodically. If you don’t wish to cook food, set it up with a thermometer inside and record the temperature change over time! Solar cookers are great for melting chocolate for s’mores, making melty cheese nachos, and under the right conditions, baking cookies or heating hot dogs! Make sure adults inspect your food before eating, to ensure food safety!

Week 9, Lesson 9: Wind

Wind is moving air. If air is moving, work can be done! This lesson will help students to begin to understand how wind is created on Earth and how we can use it to do important work like grinding grain, moving ships, pumping water, and perhaps most importantly, generating electricity!  

*Primary reading is structured with the student reader page first, and the teacher/adult page second. Younger or less advanced readers can read along with the student pages, and the teacher pages may be read aloud to them. Advanced readers may be able to read most on their own.

Get Hands-on!

  • Wind Can Do Work is a fun, hands-on challenge to showcase how windmills have done work for centuries. This activity explores wind doing work to lift weight, much like a windmill on a farm might be used to pump water from a well. Complete the activity as written using the instructions and the printable 4-blade windmill template.

Extensions & Important Information!

  • Don’t have all the prescribed materials? Did you complete the activity as-is and think your kids are up for an added engineering & design challenge? Create a Wind Weightlifter design challenge using only the prompt and removing the step-by-step instructions! Sample “teacher’s cheats” and suggestions of alternative materials are provided!
  • Check out NEED Educator Rob’s Wind Can Do Work Challenge EdPuzzle video on YouTube. His video gives a brief intro to wind, and a video step-by-step of the project. For older and more math-capable learners, stick around to the end of the video to learn how to calculate how much power (in watts) your paper-based turbine is capable of providing! Students can determine the actual power rating of their model, much like power ratings of the giant, wind turbine generators they see outside!

Grades 3-5

Week 1, Lesson 1: Energy Basics and Energy Sources

This lesson aims to introduce energy, helps to identify how we use energy, and begins to look closer at what renewable and nonrenewable sources of energy we use in the United. States.

Get Hands-on!

  • Candy Collector will help students develop a more thorough understanding of the meaning of the terms “renewable” and “nonrenewable” and how they apply to energy sources. This fun activity can get a little silly!  Be sure to be mindful of spacing and complete the activity individually if germ control is a top priority in your learning environment!

Week 2, Lesson 2: Electricity and Electricity Generation

This lesson aims to introduce students to the basics of electricity – what it is, how we use it, and how we can generate it. Electricity is most often generated using a generator. Generators use motion energy and electromagnetism to generate the electricity that powers much of our homes. Students will begin to explore how electricity and magnetism are related to begin to think about how generators work!

Get Hands-on!

  • Electromagnets is a fun way to show students how electricity from a battery can make a metallic item into a magnet – demonstrating that electricity and magnetism are related! For this activity, you’ll be using a battery, some coated wire or an alligator clip to make an electric circuit, and a nail with a compass to demonstrate magnetism. Use caution: the battery may become warm to the touch while the wire is connected.

Alternative

Don’t have a compass? Want an extra challenge? Grab a few paperclips and place them near the nail as an alternative method to demonstrate that you have a magnet. If the nail is magnetized it will pick up the paperclips! How many can you lift?

Background Information for adults:

This activity takes a non-magnetic object, a nail, and makes it magnetic. Ordinarily, iron is not in and of itself a magnet, but it will respond to a magnetic field. Only three metals are noticeably magnetic: iron, nickel, and cobalt. This is related to the movement of electrons within the atoms.

Electrons don’t just move around the nucleus of an atom; they also spin. Michael Faraday was the first to demonstrate that a moving electrical field creates a magnetic field, and because electrons have an electrical charge, their movement creates tiny magnetic fields. Ordinarily, electrons exist in pairs. Each electron in the pair spins in an opposing direction from the other. The magnetic field generated by one electron is canceled by the magnetic field generated by the other electron in the pair. However, in nickel, cobalt, and iron, there are unpaired electrons with magnetic fields that are not canceled. This creates tiny sections in the metal where magnetic fields align, called magnetic domains.

When the wire was wrapped around the nail, and electric current moved through it, a magnetic field was created that moved through the center of the coil of wire, out from one end of the nail, and around, back to the other end of the nail. The way electric and magnetic fields are related is demonstrated with the “right-hand rule.” If you outstretch your right hand, and your thumb indicates the direction of one field, the fingers of your right hand will curl around in the direction of the other field. If the electric current was straight, the magnetic field would curl around the wire. If the electric current was moving in a coil, however, the magnetic field would be straight.

When the wire was connected to the battery and electric current moved through it, the magnetic field induced by the moving electric field in the wire caused the magnetic domains in the nail to align, and the nail became a magnet itself. Even after the wire was disconnected from the battery, the nail may have remained magnetic until dropped on the floor or tapped on the table, which would have caused the magnetic domains to move back into their original configuration.

Electromagnetism allows us to transform electrical energy into kinetic energy and make things move. The chemicals in the battery interact to generate electric current, and like the apple electrolytic cell in Station Five, transform chemical energy into electrical energy.

Week 3, Lesson 3: Energy Conservation at Home

This lesson aims to introduce students to energy saving behaviors and why it is important to save or conserve energy. Energy conservation is the decision and practice of using less energy. Energy conservation can be easy to start, because it’s based on our decisions and behaviors. Students will first become acquainted with all the ways in which they use energy each day at home, at school, and on the road. Students will then take a survey of their energy behaviors and decisions and look for ways they can try to practice energy conservation as a household.

*no social media account required

Get Hands-on!

  • Energy Conservation Contract has students working with the members of their household to survey and rate their energy-using behaviors. The activity encourages the family or household to gather qualitative and some quantitative data from their surveys and ratings to then develop a contract of energy-saving behaviors they will act upon. Then, conduct the ratings survey again. Can the students and their household identify some savings?

Week 4, Lesson 4: Measuring Your Electric Consumption

This week’s lesson will help your students and your family begin to understand your electricity consumption in order to better interpret your utility bills. Electricity can account for up to 70% of a home’s utility expenses. While much of the expense is often attributed to larger items like refrigerators, washers and dryers, and air conditioning, when everyone in your household is home and everything is plugged in, electricity consumption and its associated costs can climb quickly.  Students will revisit text about electricity, how it is transported to us, and how it is used in our homes. Student activities will extend the learning to showcase how to save electricity at home, and students will complete the unit by doing an accounting of their electricity consumption at home. Break out the calculators for this activity, and remind students how to safely unplug and plug in appliances! Don’t forget to look back at the efficiency and conservation text from last week for more tips and tricks on saving energy at home!

Printable Worksheet: Life Without ElectricityGet Hands-on!

  • Morning Money Crunch has students amplifying their home survey to include quantitative analysis. In this activity, students will work together to gather data on the number of pluggable devices they have, how much power they might draw, and how frequently they are used to determine an estimated cost for their use. The activity is framed to consider only the items used when getting ready in the morning, however, the activity could be shifted to meet any time of day or several times throughout the day. Encourage younger students to work with older students, where applicable to “crunch their numbers.”

Extensions

  • Compile the data into a spreadsheet and estimate the cost of powering all of your household devices. How does it compare to your electricity bill? What are some reasons your calculations might be over or under?

Week 5, Lesson 5: Lighting

Saving energy at home can be as easy as flipping a switch! Lighting is a system in our home that can use a good amount of energy but is pretty easy to control. According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration, lighting accounts for roughly 8 percent of a home’s energy expenses. This lesson aims to introduce students and their families to lighting and energy savings in the home. Students will read text on lighting and complete a reinforcement activity or hands-on investigation. Students or families can then work together to survey their home’s lighting and calculate the cost-benefit of more efficient lighting choices. 

Get Hands-on!

  • These lessons will wrap up with an exploration of lighting in your home and some quick lighting math in This is Your Light. Look at your lighting technologies as a household. Is there an opportunity to switch to a more efficient bulb type? What costs would be incurred, and how quickly would those costs be recouped? A lot of times, we’re taught the adage “if it ain’t broke; don’t fix it.” However, in completing this quick math activity, students and families might see quickly that a switch could save money in a very short turnaround.

Week 6, Lesson 6: Appliances

This week’s lesson focuses on one of the biggest energy users in our home – appliances! The appliances we use at home help make life easier. Appliances can be large like refrigerators and washing machines, or small like curling irons and toasters. Appliances (including water heating and refrigerators) can account for nearly 50 percent of our utility costs at home! Students will read text on appliances and their energy costs and complete the reinforcement activities that relate to appliances and energy consumption. Then students and families can work together on rating their home again, revisiting their Energy Conservation Contract ratings in a slightly different format. Are your efforts working?

Get Hands-on!

  • Lesson 3 had students and households start a discussion and conduct a survey of their behaviors to determine a few conservation efforts they might make in the home. This week’s culminating activity, Re-Rate My Energy Use is similar to the survey and rating system used in lesson 3,  and aims to have families continue thinking about their behaviors to spot changes, make improvements, and work together to consider conservation as a family effort. Households should discuss their ratings this week and think back to the previous rating if completed. As a household, consider what tactics you might try or continue to try at home, and how they might help your energy bills and comfort while making small alterations or sacrifices in your daily activities.

Week 7, Lesson 7: Heating and Cooling

This week’s lesson focuses on the biggest energy cost in homes – heating and cooling. Heating and cooling systems use more energy than any other systems in residential and commercial buildings. Natural gas and electricity are usually used to heat, and electricity is used to cool. In this lesson, students will learn about these systems with activities that explore measuring temperature, the movement of thermal energy, and how insulation helps to make sure the desired temperature is maintained and your heating or cooling system isn’t overworked.

Get Hands-on!

  • In this activity, students will apply what they’ve learned about thermal energy and how it is constantly on the move. Has anyone ever told scolded you for leaving the door open and letting the “bought air” out?  Because thermal energy is always on the move, air will find the smallest leaks or cracks to come into or escape out of your home. In Seal of Approval , students will use a simple tool to evaluate their home and look for places where warm or cool air might try to leak into or out of the home. Students can also conduct a survey of their home to look closely at the insulation visibly present, and compare to suggested amounts based on their climate zone.

Week 8, Lesson 8: Solar

This lesson aims to introduce students to solar energy. Energy from the sun plays a part in the use of nearly every other source of energy, from wind to biomass, to yes – fossil fuels!  Solar energy can be used to heat homes, heat water, dry crops, and generate electricity.  Students will begin to explore all of these uses for solar energy, and take their learning outdoors as they build a solar-powered oven!

Get Hands-on!

  • Explore how energy from the sun can transform into useful thermal energy to cook our food!  Students can assemble their own solar cookers from pizza boxes you may have at home from your last delivery dinner. Don’t’ have a pizza box? This activity can easily be done with any recycled cardboard, food containers, etc., and may also be conducted as a challenge with minimal instructions. No matter which version of this activity you conduct, you’ll need a sunny day. Design and construction can take place inside during any conditions. If cooking food, you may also need to reposition your cooker periodically. If you don’t wish to cook food, set it up with a thermometer inside and record the temperature change over time! Solar cookers are great for melting chocolate for s’mores, making melty cheese nachos, and under the right conditions, baking cookies or heating hot dogs! Make sure adults inspect your food before eating, to ensure food safety!

Week 9, Lesson 9: Wind

Wind is moving air. If air is moving, work can be done! This lesson will help students to begin to understand how wind is created on Earth and how we can use it to do important work like grinding grain, moving ships, pumping water, and perhaps most importantly, generating electricity!  

Get Hands-on!

  • Wind Can Do Work is a fun, hands-on challenge to showcase how windmills have done work for centuries. This activity explores wind doing work to lift weight, much like a windmill on a farm might be used to pump water from a well. Complete the activity as written using the instructions and the printable 4-blade windmill template.

Extensions & Important Information!

  • Don’t have all the prescribed materials? Did you complete the activity as-is and think your kids are up for an added engineering & design challenge? Create a Wind Weightlifter design challenge using only the prompt and removing the step-by-step instructions! Sample “teacher’s cheats” and suggestions of alternative materials are provided!
  • Check out NEED Educator Rob’s Wind Can Do Work Challenge EdPuzzle video on YouTube. His video gives a brief intro to wind, and a video step-by-step of the project. For older and more math-capable learners, stick around to the end of the video to learn how to calculate how much power (in watts) your paper-based turbine is capable of providing! Students can determine the actual power rating of their model, much like power ratings of the giant, wind turbine generators they see outside!

Grades 6-8

Week 1, Lesson 1: Energy Basics and Energy Sources

This lesson aims to introduce energy, helps to identify how we use energy, and begins to look closer at what renewable and nonrenewable sources of energy we use in the United. States.

Get Hands-on!

  • Candy Collector will help students develop a more thorough understanding of the meaning of the terms “renewable” and “nonrenewable” and how they apply to energy sources. This fun activity can get a little silly!  Be sure to be mindful of spacing and complete the activity individually if germ control is a top priority in your learning environment!

Week 2, Lesson 2: Electricity and Electricity Generation

This lesson aims to introduce students to the basics of electricity – what it is, how we use it, and how we can generate it. Electricity is most often generated using a generator. Generators use motion energy and electromagnetism to generate the electricity that powers much of our homes. Students will begin to explore how electricity and magnetism are related to begin to think about how generators work!

Get Hands-on!

  • Electromagnets is a fun way to show students how electricity from a battery can make a metallic item into a magnet – demonstrating that electricity and magnetism are related! For this activity, you’ll be using a battery, some coated wire or an alligator clip to make an electric circuit, and a nail with a compass to demonstrate magnetism. Use caution: the battery may become warm to the touch while the wire is connected.

Alternative

Don’t have a compass? Want an extra challenge? Grab a few paperclips and place them near the nail as an alternative method to demonstrate that you have a magnet. If the nail is magnetized it will pick up the paperclips! How many can you lift?

Background Information for adults:

This activity takes a non-magnetic object, a nail, and makes it magnetic. Ordinarily, iron is not in and of itself a magnet, but it will respond to a magnetic field. Only three metals are noticeably magnetic: iron, nickel, and cobalt. This is related to the movement of electrons within the atoms.

Electrons don’t just move around the nucleus of an atom; they also spin. Michael Faraday was the first to demonstrate that a moving electrical field creates a magnetic field, and because electrons have an electrical charge, their movement creates tiny magnetic fields. Ordinarily, electrons exist in pairs. Each electron in the pair spins in an opposing direction from the other. The magnetic field generated by one electron is canceled by the magnetic field generated by the other electron in the pair. However, in nickel, cobalt, and iron, there are unpaired electrons with magnetic fields that are not canceled. This creates tiny sections in the metal where magnetic fields align, called magnetic domains.

When the wire was wrapped around the nail, and electric current moved through it, a magnetic field was created that moved through the center of the coil of wire, out from one end of the nail, and around, back to the other end of the nail. The way electric and magnetic fields are related is demonstrated with the “right-hand rule.” If you outstretch your right hand, and your thumb indicates the direction of one field, the fingers of your right hand will curl around in the direction of the other field. If the electric current was straight, the magnetic field would curl around the wire. If the electric current was moving in a coil, however, the magnetic field would be straight.

When the wire was connected to the battery and electric current moved through it, the magnetic field induced by the moving electric field in the wire caused the magnetic domains in the nail to align, and the nail became a magnet itself. Even after the wire was disconnected from the battery, the nail may have remained magnetic until dropped on the floor or tapped on the table, which would have caused the magnetic domains to move back into their original configuration.

Electromagnetism allows us to transform electrical energy into kinetic energy and make things move. The chemicals in the battery interact to generate electric current, and like the apple electrolytic cell in Station Five, transform chemical energy into electrical energy.

Week 3, Lesson 3: Energy Conservation at Home

This lesson aims to introduce students to energy-saving behaviors and why it is important to save or conserve energy. Energy conservation is the decision and practice of using less energy. Energy conservation can be easy to start because it’s based on our decisions and behaviors. Students will first become acquainted with all the ways in which they use energy each day at home, at school, and on the road. Students will then take a survey of their energy behaviors and decisions and look for ways they can try to practice energy conservation as a household.

Get Hands-on!

  • Energy Conservation Contract has students working with the members of their household to survey and rate their energy-using behaviors. The activity encourages the family or household to gather qualitative and some quantitative data from their surveys and ratings to then develop a contract of energy-saving behaviors they will act upon. Then, conduct the rating survey again. Can the students and their household identify some savings?

Week 4, Lesson 4: Measuring Your Electric Consumption

This week’s lesson will help your students and your family begin to understand your electricity consumption in order to better interpret your utility bills. Electricity can account for up to 70% of a home’s utility expenses. While much of the expense is often attributed to larger items like refrigerators, washers and dryers, and air conditioning, when everyone in your household is home and everything is plugged in, electricity consumption and its associated costs can climb quickly.  Students will revisit text about electricity, how it is transported to us, and how it is used in our homes. Student activities will extend the learning to showcase how to save electricity at home, and students will complete the unit by doing an accounting of their electricity consumption at home. Break out the calculators for this activity, and remind students how to safely unplug and plug-in appliances! Don’t forget to look back at the efficiency and conservation text from last week for more tips and tricks on saving energy at home!

Get Hands-on!

Morning Money Crunch has students amplifying their home survey to include quantitative analysis. In this activity, students will work together to gather data on the number of pluggable devices they have, how much power they might draw, and how frequently they are used to determine an estimated cost for their use. The activity is framed to consider only the items used when getting ready in the morning, however, the activity could be shifted to meet any time of day or several times throughout the day. Encourage younger students to work with older students, where applicable to “crunch their numbers.”

Extensions

Compile the data into a spreadsheet and estimate the cost of powering all of your household devices. How does it compare to your electricity bill? What are some reasons your calculations might be over or under?

Week 5, Lesson 5: Lighting

Saving energy at home can be as easy as flipping a switch! Lighting is a system in our home that can use a good amount of energy but is pretty easy to control. According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration, lighting accounts for roughly 8 percent of a home’s energy expenses. This lesson aims to introduce students and their families to lighting and energy savings in the home. Students will read text on lighting and complete a reinforcement activity or hands-on investigation. Students or families can then work together to survey their home’s lighting and calculate the cost-benefit of more efficient lighting choices. 

Get Hands-on!

  • These lessons will wrap up with an exploration of lighting in your home and some quick lighting math in This is Your Light. Look at your lighting technologies as a household. Is there an opportunity to switch to a more efficient bulb type? What costs would be incurred, and how quickly would those costs be recouped? A lot of times, we’re taught the adage “if it ain’t broke; don’t fix it.” However, in completing this quick math activity, students and families might see quickly that a switch could save money in a very short turnaround.

Week 6, Lesson 6: Appliances

This week’s lesson focuses on one of the biggest energy users in our home – appliances! The appliances we use at home help make life easier. Appliances can be large like refrigerators and washing machines, or small like curling irons and toasters. Appliances (including water heating and refrigerators) can account for nearly 50 percent of our utility costs at home! Students will read text on appliances and their energy costs and complete the reinforcement activities that relate to appliances and energy consumption. Then students and families can work together on rating their home again, revisiting their Energy Conservation Contract ratings in a slightly different format. Are your efforts working?

Get Hands-on!

    • Lesson 3 had students and households start a discussion and conduct a survey of their behaviors to determine a few conservation efforts they might make in the home. This week’s culminating activity, Re-Rate My Energy Use is similar to the survey and rating system used in lesson 3,  and aims to have families continue thinking about their behaviors to spot changes, make improvements, and work together to consider conservation as a family effort. Households should discuss their ratings this week and think back to the previous rating if completed. As a household, consider what tactics you might try or continue to try at home, and how they might help your energy bills and comfort while making small alterations or sacrifices in your daily activities.

Week 7, Lesson 7: Heating and Cooling

This week’s lesson focuses on the biggest energy cost in homes – heating and cooling. Heating and cooling systems use more energy than any other systems in residential and commercial buildings. Natural gas and electricity are usually used to heat, and electricity is used to cool. In this lesson, students will learn about these systems with activities that explore measuring temperature, the movement of thermal energy, and how insulation helps to make sure the desired temperature is maintained and your heating or cooling system isn’t overworked.

Get Hands-on!

  • In this activity, students will apply what they’ve learned about thermal energy and how it is constantly on the move. Has anyone ever told scolded you for leaving the door open and letting the “bought air” out?  Because thermal energy is always on the move, air will find the smallest leaks or cracks to come into or escape out of your home. In Seal of Approval, students will use a simple tool to evaluate their home and look for places where warm or cool air might try to leak into or out of the home. Students can also conduct a survey of their home to look closely at the insulation visibly present, and compare to suggested amounts based on their climate zone.

Week 8, Lesson 8: Solar

This lesson aims to introduce students to solar energy. Energy from the sun plays a part in the use of nearly every other source of energy, from wind to biomass, to yes – fossil fuels!  Solar energy can be used to heat homes, heat water, dry crops, and generate electricity.  Students will begin to explore all of these uses for solar energy, and take their learning outdoors as they build a solar-powered oven!

Get Hands-on!

  • Explore how energy from the sun can transform into useful thermal energy to cook our food!  Students can assemble their own solar cookers from pizza boxes you may have at home from your last delivery dinner. Don’t’ have a pizza box? This activity can easily be done with any recycled cardboard, food containers, etc., and may also be conducted as a challenge with minimal instructions. No matter which version of this activity you conduct, you’ll need a sunny day. Design and construction can take place inside during any conditions. If cooking food, you may also need to reposition your cooker periodically. If you don’t wish to cook food, set it up with a thermometer inside and record the temperature change over time! Solar cookers are great for melting chocolate for s’mores, making melty cheese nachos, and under the right conditions, baking cookies or heating hot dogs! Make sure adults inspect your food before eating, to ensure food safety!

Week 9, Lesson 9: Wind

Wind is moving air. If air is moving, work can be done! This lesson will help students to begin to understand how wind is created on Earth and how we can use it to do important work like grinding grain, moving ships, pumping water, and perhaps most importantly, generating electricity!  

Get Hands-on!

  • Wind Can Do Work is a fun, hands-on challenge to showcase how windmills have done work for centuries. This activity explores wind doing work to lift weight, much like a windmill on a farm might be used to pump water from a well. Complete the activity as written using the instructions and the printable 4-blade windmill template.

Extensions & Important Information!

  • Don’t have all the prescribed materials? Did you complete the activity as-is and think your kids are up for an added engineering & design challenge? Create a Wind Weightlifter design challenge using only the prompt and removing the step-by-step instructions! Sample “teacher’s cheats” and suggestions of alternative materials are provided!
  • Check out NEED Educator Rob’s Wind Can Do Work Challenge EdPuzzle video on YouTube. His video gives a brief intro to wind, and a video step-by-step of the project. For older and more math-capable learners, stick around to the end of the video to learn how to calculate how much power (in watts) your paper-based turbine is capable of providing! Students can determine the actual power rating of their model, much like power ratings of the giant, wind turbine generators they see outside!

Grades 9-12

Week 1, Lesson 1: Energy Basics and Energy Sources

This lesson aims to introduce energy, helps to identify how we use energy, and begins to look closer at what renewable and nonrenewable sources of energy we use in the United. States.

Get Hands-on!

  • Candy Collector will help students develop a more thorough understanding of the meaning of the terms “renewable” and “nonrenewable” and how they apply to energy sources. This fun activity can get a little silly!  Be sure to be mindful of spacing and complete the activity individually if germ control is a top priority in your learning environment!

Week 2, Lesson 2: Electricity and Electricity Generation

This lesson aims to introduce students to the basics of electricity – what it is, how we use it, and how we can generate it. Electricity is most often generated using a generator. Generators use motion energy and electromagnetism to generate the electricity that powers much of our homes. Students will begin to explore how electricity and magnetism are related to begin to think about how generators work!

Get Hands-on!

  • Electromagnets is a fun way to show students how electricity from a battery can make a metallic item into a magnet – demonstrating that electricity and magnetism are related! For this activity, you’ll be using a battery, some coated wire or an alligator clip to make an electric circuit, and a nail with a compass to demonstrate magnetism. Use caution: the battery may become warm to the touch while the wire is connected.

Alternative

Don’t have a compass? Want an extra challenge? Grab a few paperclips and place them near the nail as an alternative method to demonstrate that you have a magnet. If the nail is magnetized it will pick up the paperclips! How many can you lift?

Background Information for adults:

This activity takes a non-magnetic object, a nail, and makes it magnetic. Ordinarily, iron is not in and of itself a magnet, but it will respond to a magnetic field. Only three metals are noticeably magnetic: iron, nickel, and cobalt. This is related to the movement of electrons within the atoms.

Electrons don’t just move around the nucleus of an atom; they also spin. Michael Faraday was the first to demonstrate that a moving electrical field creates a magnetic field, and because electrons have an electrical charge, their movement creates tiny magnetic fields. Ordinarily, electrons exist in pairs. Each electron in the pair spins in an opposing direction from the other. The magnetic field generated by one electron is canceled by the magnetic field generated by the other electron in the pair. However, in nickel, cobalt, and iron, there are unpaired electrons with magnetic fields that are not canceled. This creates tiny sections in the metal where magnetic fields align, called magnetic domains.

When the wire was wrapped around the nail, and electric current moved through it, a magnetic field was created that moved through the center of the coil of wire, out from one end of the nail, and around, back to the other end of the nail. The way electric and magnetic fields are related is demonstrated with the “right-hand rule.” If you outstretch your right hand, and your thumb indicates the direction of one field, the fingers of your right hand will curl around in the direction of the other field. If the electric current was straight, the magnetic field would curl around the wire. If the electric current was moving in a coil, however, the magnetic field would be straight.

When the wire was connected to the battery and electric current moved through it, the magnetic field induced by the moving electric field in the wire caused the magnetic domains in the nail to align, and the nail became a magnet itself. Even after the wire was disconnected from the battery, the nail may have remained magnetic until dropped on the floor or tapped on the table, which would have caused the magnetic domains to move back into their original configuration.

Electromagnetism allows us to transform electrical energy into kinetic energy and make things move. The chemicals in the battery interact to generate electric current, and like the apple electrolytic cell in Station Five, transform chemical energy into electrical energy.

Week 3, Lesson 3: Energy Conservation at Home

*Instagram post/account optional

Get Hands-on!

  • Energy Conservation Contract has students working with the members of their household to survey and rate their energy-using behaviors. The activity encourages the family or household to gather qualitative and some quantitative data from their surveys and ratings to then develop a contract of energy-saving behaviors they will act upon. Then, conduct the ratings survey again. Can the students and their household identify some savings?

Week 4, Lesson 4: Measuring Your Electric Consumption

This week’s lesson will help your students and your family begin to understand your electricity consumption in order to better interpret your utility bills. Electricity can account for up to 70% of a home’s utility expenses. While much of the expense is often attributed to larger items like refrigerators, washers and dryers, and air conditioning, when everyone in your household is home and everything is plugged in, electricity consumption and its associated costs can climb quickly.  Students will revisit text about electricity, how it is transported to us, and how it is used in our homes. Student activities will extend the learning to showcase how to save electricity at home, and students will complete the unit by doing an accounting of their electricity consumption at home. Break out the calculators for this activity, and remind students how to safely unplug and plug-in appliances! Don’t forget to look back at the efficiency and conservation text from last week for more tips and tricks on saving energy at home!

Get Hands-on!

Morning Money Crunch has students amplifying their home survey to include quantitative analysis. In this activity, students will work together to gather data on the number of pluggable devices they have, how much power they might draw, and how frequently they are used to determine an estimated cost for their use. The activity is framed to consider only the items used when getting ready in the morning, however, the activity could be shifted to meet any time of day or several times throughout the day. Encourage younger students to work with older students, where applicable to “crunch their numbers.”

Extensions

Compile the data into a spreadsheet and estimate the cost of powering all of your household devices. How does it compare to your electricity bill? What are some reasons your calculations might be over or under?

Week 5, Lesson 5: Lighting

Saving energy at home can be as easy as flipping a switch! Lighting is a system in our home that can use a good amount of energy but is pretty easy to control. According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration, lighting accounts for roughly 8 percent of a home’s energy expenses. This lesson aims to introduce students and their families to lighting and energy savings in the home. Students will read text on lighting and complete a reinforcement activity or hands-on investigation. Students or families can then work together to survey their home’s lighting and calculate the cost-benefit of more efficient lighting choices. 

Get Hands-on!

  • These lessons will wrap up with an exploration of lighting in your home and some quick lighting math in This is Your Light. Look at your lighting technologies as a household. Is there an opportunity to switch to a more efficient bulb type? What costs would be incurred, and how quickly would those costs be recouped? A lot of times, we’re taught the adage “if it ain’t broke; don’t fix it.” However, in completing this quick math activity, students and families might see quickly that a switch could save money in a very short turnaround.

Week 6, Lesson 6: Appliances

This week’s lesson focuses on one of the biggest energy users in our home – appliances! The appliances we use at home help make life easier. Appliances can be large like refrigerators and washing machines, or small like curling irons and toasters. Appliances (including water heating and refrigerators) can account for nearly 50 percent of our utility costs at home! Students will read text on appliances and their energy costs and complete the reinforcement activities that relate to appliances and energy consumption. Then students and families can work together on rating their home again, revisiting their Energy Conservation Contract ratings in a slightly different format. Are your efforts working?

Get Hands-on!

    • Lesson 3 had students and households start a discussion and conduct a survey of their behaviors to determine a few conservation efforts they might make in the home. This week’s culminating activity, Re-Rate My Energy Use is similar to the survey and rating system used in lesson 3 and aims to have families continue thinking about their behaviors to spot changes, make improvements, and work together to consider conservation as a family effort. Households should discuss their ratings this week and think back to the previous rating if completed. As a household, consider what tactics you might try or continue to try at home, and how they might help your energy bills and comfort while making small alterations or sacrifices in your daily activities.

Week 7, Lesson 7: Heating and Cooling

This week’s lesson focuses on the biggest energy cost in homes – heating and cooling. Heating and cooling systems use more energy than any other systems in residential and commercial buildings. Natural gas and electricity are usually used to heat, and electricity is used to cool. In this lesson, students will learn about these systems with activities that explore measuring temperature, the movement of thermal energy, and how insulation helps to make sure the desired temperature is maintained and your heating or cooling system isn’t overworked.

Get Hands-on!

  • In this activity, students will apply what they’ve learned about thermal energy and how it is constantly on the move. Has anyone ever told scolded you for leaving the door open and letting the “bought air” out?  Because thermal energy is always on the move, air will find the smallest leaks or cracks to come into or escape out of your home. In Seal of Approval, students will use a simple tool to evaluate their home and look for places where warm or cool air might try to leak into or out of the home. Students can also conduct a survey of their home to look closely at the insulation visibly present, and compare to suggested amounts based on their climate zone.

Week 8, Lesson 8: Solar

This lesson aims to introduce students to solar energy. Energy from the sun plays a part in the use of nearly every other source of energy, from wind to biomass, to yes – fossil fuels!  Solar energy can be used to heat homes, heat water, dry crops, and generate electricity.  Students will begin to explore all of these uses for solar energy, and take their learning outdoors as they build a solar-powered oven!

Get Hands-on!

  • Explore how energy from the sun can transform into useful thermal energy to cook our food!  Students can assemble their own solar cookers from pizza boxes you may have at home from your last delivery dinner. Don’t’ have a pizza box? This activity can easily be done with any recycled cardboard, food containers, etc., and may also be conducted as a challenge with minimal instructions. No matter which version of this activity you conduct, you’ll need a sunny day. Design and construction can take place inside during any conditions. If cooking food, you may also need to reposition your cooker periodically. If you don’t wish to cook food, set it up with a thermometer inside and record the temperature change over time! Solar cookers are great for melting chocolate for s’mores, making melty cheese nachos, and under the right conditions, baking cookies or heating hot dogs! Make sure adults inspect your food before eating, to ensure food safety!

Week 9, Lesson 9: Wind

Wind is moving air. If air is moving, work can be done! This lesson will help students to begin to understand how wind is created on Earth and how we can use it to do important work like grinding grain, moving ships, pumping water, and perhaps most importantly, generating electricity!  

Get Hands-on!

  • Wind Can Do Work is a fun, hands-on challenge to showcase how windmills have done work for centuries. This activity explores wind doing work to lift weight, much like a windmill on a farm might be used to pump water from a well. Complete the activity as written using the instructions and the printable 4-blade windmill template.

Extensions & Important Information!

  • Don’t have all the prescribed materials? Did you complete the activity as-is and think your kids are up for an added engineering & design challenge? Create a Wind Weightlifter design challenge using only the prompt and removing the step-by-step instructions! Sample “teacher’s cheats” and suggestions of alternative materials are provided!
  • Check out NEED Educator Rob’s Wind Can Do Work Challenge EdPuzzle video on YouTube. His video gives a brief intro to wind, and a video step-by-step of the project. For older and more math-capable learners, stick around to the end of the video to learn how to calculate how much power (in watts) your paper-based turbine is capable of providing! Students can determine the actual power rating of their model, much like power ratings of the giant, wind turbine generators they see outside!

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