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    Home / Science lessons / Learn About Energy & Electricity
    • Learn About Energy & Electricity

      What Is Energy?

      Energyis what we need in order to do things. It is the ability to do work. Everything we do, from jumping to drawing a picture, uses energy! Our bodies use energy that we get from the food we eat. Food contains energy, and when we eat it, our bodies convert the energy from the food into the energy that we need to do work or to play. Food is sort of like the fuel that we need to get things done, just like a car needs fuel to get from one place to another.

      Energy cannot be created or destroyed, but it can change from one form to another. This is tricky, because sometimes energy is being stored and you can't tell it's there. Stored energy is called potential energy. Fuel is a good example of stored or potential energy. It provides energy, but it can't do any work on its own. When energy is being used, it is called moving energy or kinetic energy. When a car runs, it changes the stored energy in fuel into moving energy, which makes the car go! Here is a more simple example: If you hold a ball up in the air, it has potential energy. When you let go, it has kinetic energy as it falls to the ground. Can you think of other examples of potential and kinetic energy? There are lots of types of energy besides the kind that your body uses.

      Types of Energy

      Electricity - One very important type of energy that we use every day is electricity. Electricity is what makes the lights in your house turn on and what keeps the refrigerator running. Electrical energy (the energy that comes from electricity) is used to do important jobs that help us cook dinner, wash clothes, or drive to the store. The car, TV, computer, air conditioner, and kitchen stove all use electricity. Can you think of more examples of electricity?

      Static Electricity - When you run across carpet, then touch a doorknob, your hand might get a little shock. That was static electricity, which can also make your hair stand on end, or a balloon stick to the wall. To understand how this happens, you first need to know about matter, the stuff everything is made of. Tiny bits of matter, called atoms, that are too small for you to see, form together to make all that you see around you. Atoms are made out of even smaller pieces (or particles) called electrons and protons. These particles, even though they are so tiny, have a lot of force (they are really strong). This force is called an electrical charge.

      When you rubbed the balloon with the wool in the first experiment, some of the electrons in the wool moved to the balloon, giving it a different electrical charge. This made the balloon stick to the wall. Static electricity happens only in dry weather. Water or moisture in the air makes it harder for the electrons and protons to move. In the summer, there is more moisture (or humidity) in the air, which is why you usually feel static electrical shocks in the winter, or on a dry day.

      Lightning - Did you know lightning is a form of static electricity? That bright flash of light that you see during a storm, although it lasts less than a second, has a lot of electrical charge! Usually lightning appears when electricity moves from the dry air in the sky to the ground. Lightning makes a crooked path, moving away from things that block its way through the sky, like wind or rain.

      Solar Energy - Solar energy comes from the sun. The sun shines in the day, giving us light. It also makes the earth warmer, giving us heat. The sun has a lot of energy, which comes to the earth through light. Rays of light have energy. This energy can be changed into electricity with a solar cell. A solar cell collects sunlight, and then the sunlight breaks up into electrons and protons which flow through wire and bring electrical energy to a light bulb or other object that is connected to it. Solar energy can be used for a lot of things, such as powering vehicles, traffic lights, lights in a home or outdoors, heating water or pools, cooking food (learn how to Build a Solar Oven), and more.

      Batteries - A battery stores electrical energy. This means that a battery has a lot of potential energy, which turns into kinetic energy if you put the battery in a toy or flashlight. In a flashlight, wires connect the battery to a light bulb. The battery's electrical energy flows inside the wires and is carried to the light bulb, changing the potential energy from the battery into the kinetic energy that makes the bulb light up.

      Printable Worksheet

      Use this connect-the-dots coloring worksheet to help kids review three different types of energy. After completing the worksheet, they can draw pictures of other sources of energy in the space provided.

      Science Words

      Energy- what we need in order to do all the things we do every day.

      Potential Energy- stored energy that is not being used; when something is not moving.

      Kinetic Energy- active energy that is being used; when something is moving.

      Electricity- energy that is created by the pulling and pushing of electrons and protons.

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