Explore some of our favorite energy-related sites for kids
This site is jam-packed with free resources for teaching wind energy science to K-12 students. KidWind has lesson plans, videos, PowerPoint presentations, kits, hands-on wind, solar and fuel cell activities, and guides for building model wind turbines. At science fair time, steer your students to the section on science fair projects. Kits and supplies are available for purchase, too.
This section of the KidWind site offers both teacher training and an advanced, interdisciplinary grade 6-12 curriculum consisting of 18 comprehensive lessons, each framed around a key question about wind. The approach is inquiry- and standards-based, and goes well beyond the basics; students tackle subjects such as wind shear and turbulence, the cost of energy inefficiency, comparing the merits of different blade designs, analyzing the economics of wind energy and more. You can buy ready-made lab and activity kits here, and sign up for continuing education workshops held around the country.
A mesmerizing black and white map with animated lines visualizing the current wind patterns over the continental U.S. The map uses live weather data to map wind patterns as they are happening. It records both top and average speeds for the country. This live map is especially fascinating when big storms are moving across the country.
You can watch wind flow patterns for two historic weather events in the US: the 1988 heat wave and drought, and the 1993 rains that brought widespread flooding to the Midwest. This animation uses three colors to show wind patterns at three different heights: 30,000 feet (blue), 18,000 feet (white), and 50,000 feet (black). It is especially fascinating to notice how wind patterns can vary at different heights.
This is part of the NASA VISUALIZATION EXPLORER (or NASA VIZ) iPad app, a downloadable app that brings a number of cool space-related animations to your iOS device. See it at http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/nasaviz/index.html
An animation of jet stream flow as seen from space that will help students see how weather around the globe is all part of one system.
Video from Xcel Energy with animation showing how the energy grid is changing to incorporate more solar and wind energy. (Length: 1:44)
Get an up close look at Buzz and Neil, two polar bears who live at Como Zoo’s energy-efficient new Polar Bear Odyssey. Learn how you can help the polar bears by conserving energy.
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Would you like to peek into a nest? You can with our Bird Cams. The nests are quiet during most of the year. But February through June is a busy time. It’s nesting season. During that time, the cameras let you watch falcons, eagles, owls and other birds build their nests, hatch their eggs, and raise their babies. Just click Bird Cam during nesting season and see!
A great 2:33 video of osprey fishing and feeding babies in the nest. Nicely shot and edited with no gore.
This is the Department of Energy’s Energy Education and Workforce Development site, which has a tab for K-12 Lesson Plans and Activities. Contributed by authors from around the country, each lesson lists the time required, materials needed, and national standards addressed. Many also incorporate math skills. Content is impressively deep. You can refine your search by grade level, key word or phrase, and topic. As of 11/3/10, topics include Biomass, Buildings, Energy Basics, Energy Efficiency & Conservation, Geothermal, Hydrogen & Fuel Cells, Hydropower, Solar, Vehicles and Wind Energy. Scroll down the screen to see the results of your search.
We spent the better part of a snow day surfing around this site authored by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Although it has materials aimed at all ages (the interactive energy riddles would be a hit with younger students and Energy Ant SM is an appealing character), it’s especially rich in material for older (junior and senior high) students. The Career Corner in the For Teachers section is a treasure trove for older students seriously interested in exploring possible futures in many different energy industries.
Along with the suggestions for classroom activities and science fair projects, there is an exceptional Guide to Planning a Science Fair Project, produced by the National Energy Education Development (NEED) Project. We found a lot we had not seen elsewhere: energy history timelines in fourteen categories, a sophisticated discussion of four kinds of potential energy and five kinds of kinetic energy, energy converters that can take you from gallons to BTUs and kilowatts to megajoules. Check out the brief bios of nearly three dozen energy pioneers. Do your students know that Lewis Latimer was the only African American member of Thomas Edison’s team of inventors, whose work helped make possible the rapid adoption of electric lights?
This site is an educational project of National Geographic that provides content about energy sources, energy efficiency, and energy conservation for students in Grades 4-12. These are free, standards-based materials created for teachers and informal educators to use to engage students in science, social studies, and geography concepts related to energy. You can find a range of activities, maps, videos and photos, reference materials and games.
If you are a teacher looking for some background materials to help you feel more comfortable and confident teaching energy, you might be interested in this:
“ENERGY POTENTIAL, a Guide To Teaching Energy to Grades 3-8”, which can be found at http://www.connectenergyed.org/education/media/energy-potential/?ar_a=1. In addition to general information about energy, you’ll find teaching tips to help you connect the content to classroom practice.
This interactive part of the National Geographic “Connect” education site is a fun way for students to explore the mechanics of a wind turbine. Don’t miss the “Try it out” tab, which lets you adjust wind speed, blade radius and tower height to see how each affects the amount of electricity produced.
This simulation game, part of the National Geographic “Connect” education site, puts students in charge of energy policy decisions and lets them see the result. After choosing a type of geography, they design an energy mix for that community and learn what the economic, environmental, political and social consequences are.
What can we learn from space exploration about saving energy at home? Join Gene Kranz, the Lead Flight Director during the Apollo 13 Mission, and Pam Melroy, NASA Astronaut and Space Shuttle Mission Commander, as they explain how energy emergencies in space have led to important discoveries about how to conserve here on earth.
See actual NASA footage from the Apollo 13 mission, and learn how careful conservation of their energy resources is what brought the crew safely home. Travel to the Space Station to see how the conservation techniques used in space, are the same ideas that we can use on earth to increase our energy efficiency at home and work. Pam and Gene emphasize that energy is extremely important in all of our lives, and encourage us to help kids study science, math and technology. They will become our future engineers and scientists. Understanding energy, and conserving it, is exactly what brought Apollo 13 safely back to earth. Today that is even more important. Failure is not an option.