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Sun Powered Cars

Solar Powered Cars are a fun engineering design challenge that provide plenty of room for academic conversations. The reality of solar panels is they aren’t perfect by any means. They require a level of precision in their positioning to the sun that producing a successful device is a challenge! Therein lies the opportunity for exploration, inquiry and iteration as both students and teachers alike can grow academically with the creation of a solar-powered car.

This resource from Discovery Place Science shows you two prototypes designed to serve as an exploration of what the introduction of a 3D printer and some simple design software can produce as well as an how this project can be completed using more common classroom materials such as popsicle sticks and hot glue

Designing and Testing Turbines

Creating turbines can be a fun way to explore the relationship of naturally occurring energy sources like wind. Using everyday materials students can create a variety of turbines that can be tested with LED’s and voltmeters to determine their effectiveness and start meaningful conversations around design improvements, energy conservation and a sustainable energy plan for the United States.

This resource from Discovery Place Science shows you how to build and test turbines with materials for the classroom, including 3-D plans for gear systems for your turbines.

Argumentation Toolkit: How It Works

Argumentation Toolkit:    How do you get kids to think and discuss ideas critically on their own?  The Argumentation Toolkit, developed by the Lawrence Hall of Science provides easy yet powerful ways to help students verbalize their thinking.  This video steps you through a simple exercise where students are faced with pieces of evidence and whether they support a claim. These evidence statements are written on cards that students can move around, discuss and argue with one another in a more active, concrete way of supporting their ideas. When it comes to understanding energy and energy related issues, this is a great way to foster productive and meaningful discussion in the classroom.   Funding support for Argumentation Toolkit made possible by a grant from the National Science Foundation. 

  • Presented by Tim Blesse, Denver Museum of Nature & Science


  • Index cards or cardstock (these can be laminated)

PlayDecide Game: Energy and Sustainability

PlayDecide is a discussion game to talk in a simple and effective way about controversial issues. Setting up a session of PlayDecide is very easy. It’s a conversation game that requires a small group of people (4 to 8, although it works best with 5-6 people) around a table.

This PlayDecide game focuses on energy and sustainability.  Through discussion of issues and different perspectives, players must determine a way to reduce emissions via multiple strategies such as technology, changing behaviors, legislative laws and regulations, etc.

Energy: A Multidisciplinary Approach for Teachers (EMAT)

Energy: A Multidisciplinary Approach for Teachers (EMAT) is an online course for high school science teachers. We developed it for teachers, but it’s chock full of resources that teachers might use with high school students.

Energy ideas are fundamental to all areas of science. Our goal is to help teachers learn more about energy ideas and, in turn, help their students understand energy, too. When our kids understand key energy concepts, they will be better prepared to actively participate as citizens in making energy decisions as part of our rapidly changing economy.

BSCS developed the EMAT course in collaboration with Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB), the National Teachers Enhancement Network (NTEN) of Montana State University, the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL), and the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC).

Register with the Rise learning management system (it’s free) and then choose EMAT from the course catalog.

There are six units in the EMAT course:

  • Coal
  • Nuclear Energy
  • Wind
  • Geothermal Energy
  • Biofuels
  • Solar Energy

Each unit helps teachers learn key energy concepts and think about how to help students learn key energy concepts. As part of the course, there are a variety of materials to help both students and teachers:

  1. Animations—short animated videos that showcase important science and energy concepts
  2. Interactive Learning Experiences—interactive and fun opportunities to explore scientific ideas related to energy
  3. Classroom Videos—see how other teachers have engaged their students in teaching complex ideas related to energy

ASTC Dimensions: Looking Toward the Future of Energy

Dimensions, the bimonthly magazine of the Association of Science-Technology Centers, just won another award for this energy-focused issue. Communications Concepts, Inc. has given an APEX Award of Excellence (category: Magazines, Journals, and Tabloids—Green) to our March/April 2016 issue, Looking Toward the Future of Energy. The Green category honors publications covering topics including energy efficiency, conservation, the environment, and climate education. This issue features a mix of in-depth analysis and briefs of noteworthy events and resources for the informal education field. The insights to energy trends and practices featured here are beneficial for teachers, parents, and informal educators alike.

Teaching Channel

Teaching Channel is a thriving online community where teachers can watch, share, and learn diverse techniques to help every student grow.

“So great to see good instructions live with kids. There are lots of resources linked with each lesson on the site.”

In terms of content related to energy, see these highlighted resources:

  • Energy Across the Disciplines: Students design Rube Goldberg machines to study energy transfers and energy transformations. The teacher uses the machines to help students make connections between flow of energy in ecosystems of life science with that of physical energy to then discuss conservation of energy and how that is reflected across different disciplines of science.
  • Potential Energy: Problem Solving Skills: A lesson introducing middle school students to the idea of potential energy. Students work through text with background information on potential energy before working with simulations calculating the amount of potential energy in different scenarios in small groups to further their understanding.
  • Exploring Real World Energy Transformations: Lesson with stations and identifying energy transformations and transfers using real world examples students are familiar with
  • STEM Activity: Heat Loss: In this fun activity, students build a house and then measure the amount of heat loss within the structure.  After making adjustments in “insulation”, students measure the amount of heat loss again, prompting further discussion on home energy efficiency


60 Formative Assessment Classroom Techniques (FACT)

Here’s a nice list of formative assessment ideas we found online from Levy County School District in Florida. Teachers can use these approaches to check for student understanding and PD providers can use these with teachers to check for their understanding and also model how to implement these assessments.

For more on this, be sure to check out Page Keeley’s book, 75 Science Formative Assessments on her website, Uncovering Student Ideas. She has templates you can adapt for different types of assessments, plus a host of other resources.

Beetles Project: Science and Teaching for Field Instructors

BEETLES  stands for “Better Environmental Education, Teaching, Learning & Expertise Sharing” and is based at the Lawrence Hall of Science, University of California at Berkeley.  The site focuses on experiential learning approaches, primarily for field instructors and outdoor education, but also for classroom educators as well. You’ll find lessons and associated video segments that demonstrate the lessons that center. The lessons are centered around beetles as a science topic for discovery.  Also note the great questioning strategies the facilitators use to foster deeper discussion.