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TEKS Objective

The student is expected to differentiate among forms of energy, including mechanical, sound, electrical, light, and heat/thermal.

Essential Understanding

The student knows that energy exists in many forms and can be observed in cycles, patterns, and systems.

Science Background

Energy Tutorial: National Fuel Cell Research Center (website) - Detailed descriptions of different energy sources employed for electricity generation, transportation, heating, etc.

Energy Tutorial
National Fuel Cell Research Center,

Introduction to Energy: The NEED Project (PDF) - Explains different energy sources and the usage levels for various energy sources in the United States.

Introduction to Energy
The NEED Project,

Heat and Temperature: Zona Land Education (website) - Article that clarifies the difference between heat and temperature, with links to further background content.

Heat and Temperature
Zona Land Education,

Signature Lesson

Using Heat from the Sun: BioEd Online (website) – Students investigate the power of sunlight to heat water.

Using Heat from the Sun
BioEd Online,

Supporting Lessons

Thermal Insulators and Conductors: The Low Carbon Partnership (website) - Test the ability of various materials to conduct thermal energy from the sun, or insulate against it.

Thermal Insulators and Conductors
The Low Carbon Partnership,

Insulation: The NEED Project (PDF) - Test the thermal insulation capacity of various materials.

The NEED Project,

Elaboration Lessons and Extensions

Testing Materials for Thermal Conductivity: Texas State Energy Conservation Office (PDF) – Students investigate the thermal conductivity of various materials. (The student sheet is designed for 6th grade but the activity itself is appropriate for a grade 3.)

Testing Materials for Thermal Conductivity
Texas State Energy Conservation Office,

Assessment Ideas

Have students answer some or all of the following questions in their notebooks.

  • What would life on Earth be like if there were no sun?
  • In what ways does the sun help plants and animals to survive?
  • Why do people usually swim in the summer and not the winter?
  • Why do people need air conditioners? What is life like for those who do not have or use them?

Literature Connections

How We Know What We Know about Our Changing Climate: Scientists and Kids Explore Global Warming, Cherry, L., Braasch, G., Sobel, D. (ISBN: 978-1584691303)

Mr. Slaptail’s Curious Contraption, Tharp, B., Dresden, J., Moreno, N. (ISBN: 9781888997347)

The Sun. Ring, Susan (ISBN-13: 978-0736820226)

Arrow to the Sun. McDermott, Gerald (ISBN-13: 978-0140502114)

Related Science TEKS

(4.4A) Tools for Collecting and Analyzing Information
The student is expected to collect, record, and analyze information using tools, including calculators, microscopes, cameras, computers, hand lenses, metric rulers, Celsius thermometers, mirrors, spring scales, pan balances, triple beam balances, graduated cylinders, beakers, hot plates, meter sticks, compasses, magnets, collecting nets, and notebooks; timing devices, including clocks and stopwatches; and materials to support observation of habitats of organisms such as terrariums and aquariums.

(4.5B) Changes in Matter
The student is expected to predict the changes caused by heating and cooling such as ice becoming liquid water and condensation forming on the outside of a glass of ice water.

(4.8B) Water Cycle
The student is expected to  describe and illustrate the continuous movement of water above and on the surface of Earth through the water cycle and explain the role of the Sun as a major source of energy in this process.

Related Math TEKS

4.12A  The student is expected to use a thermometer to measure temperature and changes in temperature.

4.14D  The student is expected to use tools such as real objects, manipulatives, and technology to solve problems.

4.16B   The student is expected to justify why an answer is reasonable and explain the solution process.

Additional Resources

Heat: Brain Pop Jr. (website) - Background information and free series of activities focusing on the concept of heat.

Brain Pop,

The Greenhouse Effect: University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (website) - Useful overview of Earth’s atmospheric “greenhouse effect.” Includes links to related classroom activities (bottom of page).

The Greenhouse Effect
University Corporation for Atmospheric Research,

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