Investigating the types of energy in different objects (lesson one of eight)

Author(s): Ben Engel, Arthur Millius, Lisa Monti and Helen Wong-Lew

Lesson Overview

Grade level(s):

Elementary School (K-5), Grade 3, Grade 4


Physical Science



Big ideas(s):

Energy comes in multiple forms.

Vocabulary words:

sound, light, mechanical, chemical, heat, electrical, magnetic, atomic

What you need:

Any household items with energy. Ex: batteries, musical instruments, fruit, light bulb, compass, magnet, a picture of a sun, etc.





Time needed:

1 hour

Author Name(s): 
Ben Engel, Arthur Millius, Lisa Monti and Helen Wong-Lew

Class discussion on what energy is and different examples of energy. Instructors write words associated with each type of energy. Students pick an object and classify what energy it has. Students now take turns describing their object and defining what sort of energy it has.

Prerequisites for students: 


Learning goals/objectives for students: 

1) Learn that energy comes in different forms. 2) Learn that different objects have multiple forms of energy. For example, the sun has light, heat, and atomic energy. 3) Become familiar with investigating things by using their five senses.

Getting ready: 

We took pictures of each item for the word wall.

Lesson Implementation / Outline


3’ Instructors tell the following story: There’s been a terrible earthquake in San Francisco. The Exploratorium is in complete ruins and needs YOUR help as a young scientist in the energy section. None of the scientists remembered which objects were examples of which types of energy. They must put everything back in order before the first group of students arrive. 15’ Ask the class if they know what energy is or if they have seen examples of energy. With more probing, elicit different types of energy for word walls. For example, ask the class what types of energy come from the sun. Do they feel warm when sunlight hits them? Do they see in the daylight or at night, etc? Write down items that become part of the word walls. Specifically, write words associated with each type of energy. Ideally, have blank paper posted in class ahead of time with the 8 different types of energy to be discussed that day. 5’  introduce the concept of a scientist as an investigator, and explain that in science, it is often useful to categorize things, and to display data in the form of a table.  Today’s investigation will be investigating different types of enery in a variety of objects.


3’ Pick up an object and go through two sections of the worksheet. One, where the object has that type of energy and the next where the object does not have that type of energy. 10’ Materials are passed out and students work in pairs classifying their objects as having one type of energy or another. Fill out the worksheet.  Instructor circulates to help students.

Checking for student understanding: 

10’ Students now take turns describing their object and defining what sort of energy it has. The explanations are organized on a big table for the class to see. The left-hand column lists the objects from each pair. The top row lists the different types of energies. Instructors place a big X in a cell for the energy that each object contains.

Wrap-up / Closure: 

3’ Conclude by restating the learning objectives and alluding to the next lesson. Energy can be converted from one form to another. Then demonstrate this with a big explosion – lighting flash paper (turning chemical energy into light and heat).

Extensions and Reflections


This lesson and the word-walls therein set the framework for the entire energy unit.

Different types of energy student wksht.doc1.22 MB
NGSS Topics
Kindergarten through Grade 5: 
NGSS Disciplinary Core Ideas
Grade 4: 
NGSS Performance Expectations
NGSS Performance Expectations: 
NGSS Science and Engineering Practices
NGSS Crosscutting Concepts
NGSS Crosscutting Concepts: 

Standards - Grade 3

Physical Sciences: 
1. Energy and matter have multiple forms and can be changed from one form to another. As a basis for understanding this concept:
a. Students know energy comes from the Sun to Earth in the form of light.
b. Students know sources of stored energy take many forms, such as food, fuel, and batteries.