Energy of Moving Water

Contributor
National Energy Education Development Project (NEED) and Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE)
Type Category
Instructional Materials Assessment Materials
Types
Unit , Student Guide , Lesson/Lesson Plan , Image/Image Set , Experiment/Lab Activity , Rubric , Activity , Answer Key , Assessment Item
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 interdisciplinary curriculum unit from the National Energy Education Development Project provides 11 complete lessons for teaching about hydropower and conversion of moving water to electrical energy. The resource includes every component required for immediate classroom use: lesson plans, illustrated lab procedures, rubric, pre and post-test assessments, age-appropriate background information, worksheets, graphics for classroom projection, and student guidebooks. Each investigation requires students to first read about the topic in "infobooks" (included in the materials), then make predictions, complete the lab, record data, and write a conclusion.

Summary of key ideas:

  • What Is Energy: The Basics of Energy Forms

  • Magnets, Compasses and Magnetic Fields

  • Electromagnets Explorations

  • History of Hydropower and Dams

  • Kinetic and Potential Energy in Moving Water

  • Energy Transformations in a Hydropower Dam

  • The Science of Electricity: A Middle School Primer

  • Careers in the Hydropower Industry


Note: This evaluation is focused on NGSS connections in this resource to Middle School Physical Science: Energy and Middle School.Physical Science: Forces & Interactions. The resource covers numerous additional NGSS core ideas in Earth Systems, Natural Resources, and Human Sustainability (within the Earth and Space Science section of the NGSS).

Intended Audience

Educator and learner
Educational Level
  • Middle School
Language
English
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectations

MS-PS3-5 Construct, use, and present arguments to support the claim that when the kinetic energy of an object changes, energy is transferred to or from the object.

Clarification Statement: Examples of empirical evidence used in arguments could include an inventory or other representation of the energy before and after the transfer in the form of temperature changes or motion of object.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include calculations of energy.

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

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
The activity in this curriculum unit that explicitly addresses this PE is  “Turbine Assembly and Exploration” (Page 54 of the Student Guide and Page 30 of the Instructor Guide). Students construct a reservoir from a plastic jug, with turbine blades being built from Tinker Toy-type materials. Changes in kinetic energy can be easily observed in the movement of the blades under varying conditions. The construction plans provide thorough directions for using either a digital multimeter or a visual voltmeter to measure the electricity being generated. This would be a good time to reinforce the energy transfer and energy conversions that happen in a hydroelectric plant. Students may need additional scaffolding to understand the transformations that occur in hydroelectric technology. For an easy-to-understand illustrated tutorial on the topic, try this supplementary resource from the Foundation for Water and Energy Education: Walk Through a Hydroelectric Project. Here's the link: http://fwee.org/nw-hydro-tours/walk-through-a-hydroelectric-project/

MS-PS2-3 Ask questions about data to determine the factors that affect the strength of electric and magnetic forces.

Clarification Statement: Examples of devices that use electric and magnetic forces could include electromagnets, electric motors, or generators. Examples of data could include the effect of the number of turns of wire on the strength of an electromagnet, or the effect of increasing the number or strength of magnets on the speed of an electric motor.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment about questions that require quantitative answers is limited to proportional reasoning and algebraic thinking.

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

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
This Performance Expectation is explicitly addressed in the activity “Magnets and Compasses (page 41 in the Student Guide), as students perform various explorations to observe the strength of different magnets under varying conditions. It is also addressed in “Electromagnets 1” and “Electromagnets 2” (pages 43 and 44 of the Student Guide) as students use common household materials (copper wire, nails, batteries, paper clips)  to explore properties of electromagnetism.  

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
This Practice is addressed in activities 8 and 9,  “Turbine Assembly and Exploration” (Page 12 of the Instructor Guide) and “Turbine Exploration” (page 13).  Students will construct a physical model of a hydroelectric “reservoir” from a plastic jug, which will be placed to take advantage of gravitational potential energy to move water from the reservoir to a tank. The “turbine” will be constructed of a small electric motor, a Tinker Toy-type hub, and wooden spoons as “blades” of the turbine. The completed apparatus can be connected to either a digital multimeter or a voltmeter to measure how much electricity is generated. Learners will make hypotheses of how many blades will result in optimal electrical output, height of the reservoir (plastic jug) above the holding tank to optimize gravitational potential energy, best amount of water flow, and more.  Teachers: It may be helpful to again review with students the energy transformations that take place in a hydroelectric system. See Tips in Disciplinary Core Idea below for specifics.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

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

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
This DCI is explicitly addressed in the activity “Magnets and Compasses” (page 41 in the Student Guide), as students perform various explorations to explore shape of the magnetic field using tools to observe different magnets under varying conditions. It is also addressed in “Electromagnets 1” and “Electromagnets 2” (pages 43 and 44 of the Student Guide) as students use common household materials (copper wire, nails, batteries, paper clips)  to explore properties of electromagnetism. The first several pages of the student guide provide robust background information (at an appropriate reading level) on the science of electricity and electromagnetism, current, resistance, circuits, and electrical energy.

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
This Disciplinary Core Idea is addressed in activity 8,  “Turbine Assembly and Exploration” (Page 12 of the Instructor Guide).  Many students will need scaffolding to understand the energy transfer that occurs in a hydroelectric system. With support, they will comprehend how changing motion of the moving water and changing motion in the turbine system act to transform energy from one form to another. It may be helpful to review the energy conversions sequentially: 1. Water is the source of energy that starts the process. 2. Water accumulates in a reservoir that will undergo a large drop in elevation through a tube-like “penstock”, where gravitational potential energy is converted to kinetic energy. 3. The moving water turns a large turbine, which converts the energy of flowing water into mechanical energy. 4. The shaft from the turbine goes into a hydroelectric generator, which converts this mechanical energy into electricity.

Crosscutting Concepts

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

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
It is highly recommended that teachers take time to have students read Pages 3-5 of the Student Guide, which introduces and defines varying forms of kinetic and potential energy. It also goes into detail to differentiate energy sources from energy forms, and promote understanding of energy “efficiency” as the amount of useful energy produced by a system compared to the amount of energy put in.  In the middle grades, students commonly confuse energy sources with energy forms (i.e., thinking erroneously that the sun, water, and wind are energy forms). After a close read of the background information, students will be ready to engage in the “Turbine Assembly and Exploration” investigation that allows them to explore the various energy conversions occurring in a hydroelectric system as energy changes from one form to another.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: The three dimensions of the NGSS are addressed in the following ways: * Disciplinary Core Ideas: This curriculum unit meets many DCIs within Physical Science, Earth Science, and Engineering Design. This evaluation focused on the core ideas addressed within Physical Science-Energy and Physical Science-Forces and Interactions. The resource provides teachers with ample instructional support to  integrate the energy of motion with energy in fields. * Science and Engineering Practices: The culminating activity, “Turbine Assembly and Exploration” engages students in building a small-scale physical model of a hydroelectric system, while the “Magnets and Compasses”, “Electromagnets 1” and “Electromagnets 2” activities give students opportunities to build and test electromagnets made of household materials. While this unit focuses primarily on the Practice of Planning and Carrying Out Investigations, teachers will also find connections to the Practices of Developing and Using Models, Analyzing and Interpreting Data, and Evaluating/Communicating Information. * Crosscutting Concepts: This resource does an exemplary job of reinforcing the difference between energy sources and forms, an area of documented misconception in the middle grades. Each phase of the unit addressed the Crosscutting Concept, “Energy and Matter”, as students are asked to identify how energy changes from one form to another in each activity.

  • Instructional Supports: The resource provides a highly robust set of support materials, including learning objectives, diagram explanations, tips for implementing hands-on activities, background information for students, text-based information on the history of dams and hydroelectric projects in the U.S.,  rubrics for assessment, printable templates and student handouts for all activities, and materials to extend the learning to careers in renewable energy technology.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: Teachers will find pre and post-test assessments with answer keys, formative assessment in the form of KWL Organizers, short problem sets (with answers provided) for each section, and informal assessment pieces that include electricity measurement, electricity production/consumption charts, and a Hydropower Bingo Game.  The assessment pieces will be useful for gauging student progress related to Core Ideas and Practices, but do not fully integrate assessment of the Cross Cutting Concepts.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: The most important resources, the Student Guide and Instructor Guide, can be downloaded only in pdf format. The links work well in all major browsers, but response time is somewhat slow if the user wants to  move more than 1-2 pages at a time in the document.