By Elizabeth Barrett-Zahn
“Energy is liberated matter, matter is energy waiting to happen.”
— Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything
Energy is a complex topic for young learners—it’s an abstract notion. According to Cosmos Magazine, energy is one of the most fundamental physics concepts but also one of the hardest to define. How do we make these abstract concepts attainable and understandable for our students?
In this issue of Science and Children, we address energy by examining how it can be a starting point for deeper learning, help build student-generated testable questions, foster scientific explanations, and allow students to trace energy through ecosystems. As we make learning accessible and meaningful, we help build the foundation for a deeper dive into these concepts in middle and high school.
Energy is heavily represented in the disciplinary core ideas in physical science (PS3), life science (LS1.C and LS2.B), Earth and space Science (ESS3.A), as well as being one of the crosscutting concepts, energy and matter. Students begin understanding how energy can move in, out, and within systems. For example, young learners (K–2) can experience how sunlight warms Earth’s surface; they can observe pushes, pulls, and collisions and investigate heat produced through friction. Older students (3–5) begin to define energy, identify energy transfers, and start to see how energy converts from stored (potential) to released (kinetic) energy in living and nonliving systems.
Recognizing that our everyday language often builds and sometimes strengthens misconceptions about energy, we must find ways to allow students to have direct experiences as they develop their understanding through age-appropriate sensemaking activities. For example, think of how often you may hear someone say, “You are full of energy this morning.” Our authors use energy concepts in this issue to help students develop investigable questions, construct scientific explanations, and track energy transfers. In addition, we explore how storytelling and visualization can help increase interest, engagement, and application of these concepts.
Be sure to check out our newest column, Leadership Matters. We have joined forces with the National Science Education Leadership Association (NSELA) to enhance teaching and learning in preschool and elementary science classrooms. The inaugural column is from our resident columnist of Formative Assessment Probes and current NSELA president, Page Keeley. If you are interested in sharing your educational leadership experiences, please visit the Call for Papers at www.nsta.org/call-papers-science-and-children. We hope to fill the column with best-practice ideas, tools, strategies, and resources to build confidence and capacity in all preK and elementary science classrooms.
As always, we look forward to hearing from you as you implement some of the ideas shared in this issue. And please consider sharing your ideas and expertise with our Science and Children readers. The journal is a fantastic resource for finding implementable classroom ideas, but we need your input and innovative ideas. Consider adding your voice to the conversation!
Editor, Science and Children
Web SeminarScience Update: Every Rock Has A Story: Life's Evolving Relationship with the Earth, December 7, 2023
Join us on Thursday, December 7, 2023, from 7:00 PM ET to 8:00 PM ET, for an edition of NSTA’s Science Update....