The Lesson Plan - Potential and Kinetic Energy


Science – SC.6.P.11.1 
Explore the Law of Conservation of Energy by differentiating between potential and kinetic energy. Identify situations where kinetic energy is transformed into potential energy and vice versa.

Mathematics – MAFS.6.SP.1.2
Understand that a set of data collected to answer a statistical question has a distribution which can be described by its center, spread, and overall shape.

English Language Arts – LAFS.68.RH.2.4
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary specific to domains related to history/social studies.

Big Idea(s)

Energy Transfer and Transformation

  • Waves involve a transfer of energy without transfer of matter.
  • Water and sound waves transfer energy through a material.
  • Light waves can travel through a vacuum and through matter.
  • The Law of Conservation of Energy:  Energy is conserved as it transfers from one object to another and from one form to another.

Essential Question

How does a change in temperature affect the energy transformations in bouncing spheres?


Potential Energy • Kinetic Energy • Elastic Potential Energy • Joule • Work • Energy • Total Energy • Energy Transformation • Mechanical • Chemical • Nuclear

Background Information

Energy takes many forms: some examples are radiant, sound, or electric energy. However, energy cannot be created or destroyed in an ordinary chemical or physical process. Different forms of energy can be changed from one form to another.

All energy is either potential or kinetic. When an object has potential energy; it has energy stored within, waiting to do some type of work. Potential energy can always be change into kinetic energy and back again into potential energy. Forms of potential energy include gravitational potential energy, elastic potential energy, nuclear energy and chemical energy.

Kinetic energy is active energy. Kinetic energy in an object is measured based on the object’s mass and velocity.  Kinetic energy is an object that is in motion. Hammering a nail, walking, and the earth revolving around the sun are all examples of kinetic energy. Forms of Kinetic energy include light, heat, motion, and sound.

Heat and Temperature are another form of kinetic energy. Scientists use a Kelvin scale to determine absolute temperature. Ever since, the Kelvin scale was invented and used in the 1850’s, scientists created 3 Laws of Thermodynamics

  • States that energy cannot be created or destroyed
  • States that heat will always flow from an area of higher temperature to an area of lower temperature
  • States that it is impossible to reach the state of absolute zero

Heat is measured in 2 ways: joules and calories (the amount of heat needed to raise temperature of one gram of water by one degree Celsius), or at times, more commonly known as British thermal units (BTU).

Guiding Questions

  • What is the difference between potential energy and kinetic energy and give examples of each?
  • What is a joule and how is it measured?

Math Mania

Nuclear power, a form of  potential energy, is one of the leading low carbon power generation methods of producing electricity. 1 in 5 households and business in the US are currently electrically powered by nuclear energy.

 Write this comparison as a fraction and a decimal. 

The correct response is 1/5 and 0.2

Instructional Sequence

Fun Facts

Did you know…

  • Objects such as trampolines, rubber bands, and bungee cords all have elastic potential energy?
  • When an object collides with another object, it transfers its kinetic energy to the other object?

More Facts

Inquiry Type

  • Structure Inquiry
  • Guided Inquiry
  • Class/Group Activity
  • Experiment

Teacher Resources

potential and kinetic energy
bill nye