Kinetic energy is energy of objects in motion. It is also known as mechanical energy. Elementary-aged students should be familiar with the concept of kinetic energy, examples of kinetic energy, and basic principles of motion, and should build on these ideas throughout their middle school years. Teachers can reinforce the basic energy concepts of kinetic energy with a variety of fun activities and projects.
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Kinetic Energy Collage
Break students into partner groups, and provide each pair with several magazines, poster board, glue, and scissors. After introducing the concept of kinetic energy, invite the students to search for images that demonstrate this kind of motion. Give a few examples of pictures that are appropriate: a person skiing, a dog running, or a car on a road, for instance. Have the students cut the pictures out create a collage on the poster board.
Marbles & Milk Cartons
For this experiment, you will need a milk carton with the top removed, a meter stick, a ramp, and marbles of three different sizes. Set the carton at the bottom of the ramp with the open end facing the top of the ramp. Put the meter stick beside the carton. Start by dropping the medium marble down the ramp, and ask the students to hypothesise how far the carton will move. Repeat with each marble. Wrap up the lesson by explaining that at the top, each marble had potential energy, while rolling it had kinetic energy, and when it hit the carton the energy was transferred. Students should also learn through this demonstration that the amount of energy in an object is related to its mass.
Kinetic Energy of Cars
Set up a car ramp to demonstrate kinetic energy in a way that kids will easily understand. You will need a measuring tape, a toy car, and three ramps of varying altitudes. Place the measuring tape at the bottom of the shortest ramp, and ask students to predict how far the car will travel before you release it. Move to the middle ramp, then the tallest ramp, and compare the results. Ask students to explain the results: which ramp had the greatest effect on the car's kinetic energy? Why?
Allow students to choose their own groups of four members for a fun project on toy movement. Each group must use knowledge of kinetic energy and energy transfer to create a toy to propel a small ball at least five inches. Provide each group with tinker toys and a ping pong ball. Place materials for the challenge on a table accessible to the entire class: rubber bands, paper cups, craft sticks, pipe cleaners, balloons, tape, string, and straws are some ideas. Allow the groups fifteen minutes for designing and thirty minutes to complete their inventions. Invite each group to present their finished product to the class.
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