Unit Overview

Lesson Overview

Students solve two potential and kinetic energy mysteries, and are then presented with their Make challenge: how can they use their knowledge of potential and kinetic energy to help the Alleycats win their next bowling match? To complete the challenge, students must complete investigations focused on the relationship between mass, potential energy, and kinetic energy. The unit culminates with an engineering challenge in which students must successfully build a roller coaster with a series of design constraints.

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    Solve: Energy In a Music Video + Roller Coaster Mystery

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    Make: Design and Conduct an Energy Investigation

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    Engineer: Engineer a Custom Roller Coaster

  • Next Generation Science Standards
    MS-PS3-1
    Construct and interpret graphical displays of data to describe the relationships of kinetic energy to the mass of an object and to the speed of an object. [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on descriptive relationships between kinetic energy and mass separately from kinetic energy and speed. Examples could include riding a bicycle at different speeds, rolling different sizes of rocks downhill, and getting hit by a wiffle ball versus a tennis ball.]
    MS-PS3-2
    Develop a model to describe that when the arrangement of objects interacting at a distance changes, different amounts of potential energy are stored in the system. [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on relative amounts of potential energy, not on calculations of potential energy. Examples of objects within systems interacting at varying distances could include: the Earth and either a roller coaster cart at varying positions on a hill or objects at varying heights on shelves, changing the direction/orientation of a magnet, and a balloon with static electrical charge being brought closer to a classmate’s hair. Examples of models could include representations, diagrams, pictures, and written descriptions of systems.] [Assessment Boundary: Assessment is limited to two objects and electric, magnetic, and gravitational interactions.]
  • Inquiry Scale

    • Each lesson in the unit has an Inquiry Scale that provides directions on how to implement the lesson at the level that works best for you and your students.
    • “Level 1” is the most teacher-driven, and recommended for students in 4th-5th grades. “Level 4” is the most student-driven, and recommended for students in 7th-8th grades.
    • For differentiation within the same grade or class, use different inquiry levels for different groups of students who may require additional support or an extra challenge.
  • Common Misconceptions
    • Learners often have a difficult time thinking of potential energy as stored energy. Emphasize to students that stored energy can come in many forms such as an object’s position (gravitational potential energy) or stored in bonds (chemical potential energy).
    • Learners may not understand that potential and kinetic energy cycle in a system, and decrease as energy is lost to friction and other factors.
    • Learners may initially think that hills along a roller coaster run can be higher than the starting height. This is impossible since there is loss of energy to friction and movement along the track. All subsequent hills and heights must be less than the starting height.
  • Vocabulary
      • Potential Energy
      • Kinetic Energy
      • Speed
      • Mass
      • Distance
  • Content Expert
    • Hans C. von Baeyer
      Chancellor Professor of Physics, Emeritus College of William and Mary
  • Leveled Reading

    * To give our users the most comprehensive science resource, Mosa Mack is piloting a partnership with RocketLit, a provider of leveled science articles.

    • Potential Energy and Distance

      In this article, we look at the way that potential energy is stored in objects that are farther away from the ground. Using the example of a roller coaster, we define the word “system” and talk about the benefits of using a model to look at the relationship between potential energy and distance.

    • Energy in Different Clothes

      Just like people may change into different clothes to do different activities, energy also changes. It may look different as heat, kinetic energy and potential energy, but it's really just the same energy in different clothes.

    • MOVE IT!

      Moving isn't always that simple! In this article, students are introduced to the basics of motion. The differences between speed and velocity are discussed as well as simple definitions for both motion and distance.

    • Potential Energy and Distance

      In this article, we look at the way that potential energy is stored in objects that are farther away from the ground. Using the example of a of roller coaster, we define the word "system" and talk about the benefits of using a model to look at the relationship between potential energy and distance