Energy Makes Things Happen: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

Contributor
NSTA
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Types
Lesson/Lesson Plan , Animation/Movie , Article , Activity
Note
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be “fully aligned,” the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.

Reviews

Description

This article from Science and Children provides ideas for using the trade book, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, as a foundation for a lesson on generators. This beautiful book is the inspiring true story of a teenager in Malawi who built a generator from found materials to create much-needed electricity. The lesson allows students to explore the concept of energy transfer using crank generators. Students then design improvements to the crank mechanism on the generator. The lesson may be extended by having students build their own generators.

Intended Audience

Educator
Educational Level
  • Grade 4
  • Upper Elementary
Language
English
Access Restrictions

Available for purchase - The right to view, keep, and/or download material upon payment of a one-time fee.

Performance Expectations

4-PS3-4 Apply scientific ideas to design, test, and refine a device that converts energy from one form to another.

Clarification Statement: Examples of devices could include electric circuits that convert electrical energy into motion energy of a vehicle, light, or sound; and, a passive solar heater that converts light into heat. Examples of constraints could include the materials, cost, or time to design the device.

Assessment Boundary: Devices should be limited to those that convert motion energy to electric energy or use stored energy to cause motion or produce light or sound.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
This lesson connects students' ideas about energy transfer with the story of William Kamkwamba, who built a wind turbine for his house in Malawi. Initial explorations of energy concepts enable the students to understand the challenge before designing a solution. Students then use their knowledge to refine and test commercially made generators, or they may build their own. The article includes a link to “Ultra-simple Electric Generator” video and design plan: http://www.amasci.com/amateur/coilgen.html. In each part of the lesson the teacher should highlight how energy is being transferred, for example motion in a student's arm becomes motion in the generator. That motion energy is then converted to electricity in the generator.

4-PS3-2 Make observations to provide evidence that energy can be transferred from place to place by sound, light, heat, and electric currents.

Clarification Statement: none

Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include quantitative measurements of energy.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
The concept of energy transfer is challenging for fourth graders. The observations the students make as they reverse engineer the LED crank flashlight provide the initial evidence that energy can be transferred from place to place. Motion from their arms is transferred to the generator, and electricity is transferred from the generator to the bulb.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
Through direct attention to the design challenges and solutions faced by the story's character and their own experiences with crank flashlights, students will have engaged in applying scientific ideas around energy transfer to their generator designs.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
The book, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, provides a real-world example of energy transfer to help students construct explanations. Students may view a video of Kamkwamba and his wind turbine: http://movingwindmills.org/story or hear his TED talk at http://blog.ted.com/2009/09/23/how_i_harnessed. For another example of energy transfer, have students construct ideas about how this soccer ball generator charges batteries while you play: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r8SnqImNv74

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
The lesson includes several opportunities to explore energy transfer before students begin to refine or design generators.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
The concept of energy transfer (energy moving from place to place) is present throughout the lesson as students investigate generators. To engage students more deeply with this element of the disciplinary core idea, have students draw their own diagrams to describe energy transfer in the dynamo torch and use their diagrams as the basis for discussion.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this crosscutting concept.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
It would be helpful to discuss forms of energy prior to this lesson, so students will have background information. For ideas on teaching about forms of energy, see the Science and Children article, Hunting for Energy: http://static.nsta.org/files/sc0912_42.pdf. Moving toys could also be used to introduce forms of energy. Give the students solar toys (such as a dancing flower) and wind-up toys and ask what makes them move. Light energy (in the solar toys) and motion energy (in the wind-up toys) provide the energy to make the toys work. (See p. 25 of the article for ideas about toys.)

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: All three dimensions of the NGSS are present in this lesson. Students are provided with multiple opportunities to make sense of the phenomenon of energy transfer. They are also asked to design solutions to problems involving energy transfer.

  • Instructional Supports: This lesson includes an engaging introduction with a real-world problem, how to generate electricity. Students are able to build on their initial ideas about energy through print materials, observation, and problem solving. Specific scaffolds for students are not included in the lesson plan. It would be helpful to use the suggested videos to further describe energy transfer and help students plan their devices.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: The students’ journal entries provide an opportunity for the teacher to assess student learning. These entries include their design plans and their explanations of energy transfer in a generator.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: This lesson does not include a technologically interactive component.