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  Home > Library > Theme Dossiers > Energy  


This month, the dossier focuses on energy. Prepared by Karl Sarnow, this dossier features experiments, top tips and interactive resources for science teachers.

You can download the whole dossier in pdf format.

Projects and activities
Experiments at school
Teacher training opportunities
External lab sessions for teachers and pupils


There is nothing more fundamental around in science than energy. Reading this sentence you might wonder about the crazy writer, but wait: We are talking about a thing that might condense into matter. No thought is created in our brains without energy. We would not live without energy.  And it has such a huge variety of forms, that we sometimes don't see the common root of all: Energy. And we are obviously only talking about the scientific definition of energy.

The concept of energy is quite new to science. It dates back to the middle of the 19th century, when steam engines where starting to revolutionize the world. Engineers at that time started to think about a
efficiency of their machines, which required a mathematical term for calculation. Names like Sadi Carnot, James Prescott Joule, Émile Claperyon, Hermann von Helmholtz and  Julius Robert von Mayer stand for the development of a concept, which was developed for the use in thermodynamics, the science of heat.

Figure 1: A mind map of energy in the classroom

Figure 1 shows a mind map of terms as they might come up in the classroom at different ages and in different levels of complexity in the various school types.

In this thematic dossier, we will take you through some of the best fact packs, experiments, interactive tools and resources for you to try out with your pupils.


Wind Energy Teachers' Guide  - English
This PDF document is a teacher's module on wind and renewable energy, from the University of Iowa. The suggestions in this guide are divided into two grade levels groups for your convenience (Kindergarten to primary schools and lower secondary schools). This guide provides teacher information, ideas for sparking children's and students' interest, suggestions for activities to undertake in and outside the classroom, and research tools for both teachers and students.

Energie,  Rohstoffe,  Ressourcen  - German
This is a collection of materials like diagrams, data collections and articles, useful for teaching the topic of energy resources. While most resources are in German language, there are also many documents in English . The spectrum of topics is from nuclear power plants to renewable energy resources.

Energie: une question essentielle pour demain - French
This is a web transformation of a slide presentation given at the 2001 summer school of physics, held at the University of Caen, France. The slides inform about the present and future use of energy and ways to overcome the foreseeable crash of fossil energies.

Teacher Lesson Plans - English
This site contains complete teacher lesson plans from the US Department of Energy.  Organized by age-grade and subject, they are dealing with all kinds of aspects of energy and science. The target age range of the material is from primary to undergraduate pupils.

DVD about renewable energy use in Schleswig-Holstein – German
The link informs about a Video-DVD which presents the use of renewable energies in Schleswig-Holstein,Germany. The Video is available from the link below for free for teachers only. An English version is under preparation.

Renseignements de base sur l'énergie - French
The Canadian “Musée des sciences et de la technologie du Canada” presents a detailed overview about many topics of energy. Unfortunately their lab offers are difficult to access from Europe.

The European experimental fusion reactor ITER is built in Cadarache,France. This site informs about the principles of nuclear fusion and the way ITER is trying to come closer to industrial use of nuclear fusion energy. Teachers of physics at upper level secondary classes find there a lot of background material about nuclear fusion.

ITER - English

This is the official website of the ITER project. It offers a fascinating Flash presentation of ITER and the history of nuclear fusion research. Many excellent videos are directly available from the web. For those who do not have the necessary high bandwidth connection, a multimedia CDROM is offered for free. This website and/or the CDROM is a must for teachers of higher secondary physics classes. In addition there are slide presentations and working sheets as PDF files for students.

What does energy really mean? - English
The web site contains an article with a philosophical background on the history of the term energy. Aside from the interesting insight into the historical development of knowledge about energy, the fascinating philosophical idea of Bruno Latour, that things cannot exist before they are formulated, is presented in the context of the term energy.

Regelung einer Wärmepumpenanlage – German
This link leads to a complete teaching unit about the regulation of a heat pump. All detailed information like a lesson plan, pedagogical background and worksheets for students are downloadable for teachers use.

Fusion education - English

A rich site from the US Department of Energy with educational resources about nuclear fusion. The material is free for download. Teacher of physics in secondary schools will like this resource about nuclear fusion.

Energy smart schools - English
The website from the US Department of Energy offers educational material, lesson plans and games for download, which are aimed to support the idea of renewable energy and energy saving. The age group of targeted pupils ranges from Kindergarten to secondary schools.

L'effet de serre – French

This site informs about the greenhouse effect. It is presented by the organisation SCIENCE CITOYEN (citizen science), which tries to engage citizens in questions which are important for our future. The reader can expect pages of lower scientific level, so the use in primary and lower secondary schools is preferred.

Nuclear power plant – English

The “How stuff works” page on nuclear power plants gives an elementary description of a typical nuclear power plant based on nuclear fission. The material is targeting pupils of  secondary schools. Nice animations allow easy access to the topic without mathematics.

Science animée  – French

This site offers many well designed animations of processes with respect to energy production. Many of the flash animations are also available as PDF files for printing and handing out to students. This is a very rich resource for teachers of physics in primary and secondary schools.

Wikipedia Kernkraftwerk – German

The Wikipedia entry Kernkraftwerk gives an excellent overview of nuclear power plants, their history, construction principles and risks. Many external links lead to related topics. This page is a good starter for wonderful research in the Internet.

Wikipedia Réacteur pressurisé européen – French

The website informs about the latest Franco-German nuclear power plant (EPR: European Pressurized Reactor), which is now built in Finland. It is assumed to be the safest nuclear power plant built until today.

Wikipedia Nuclear power – English
The Wikipedia entry for “Nuclear Power” not only informs about nuclear power plants. It demonstrates the democratic structure of Wikipedia by pointing to controversy opinions the safety of nuclear power plants. This site is therefore a good entry into the debate of nuclear safety.

Energie – German

Teachers and students who would like to be informed about some complicated definitions on the topic of energy without diving into mathematics will find this page useful. As the concepts presented here are rather complex, the site is more aimed at secondary classes.  There are many links related to topics from the quantum world and the theory of relativity.

Energy resources - English

The pages from the English science teacher Andy Darvill provide some background knowledge about the different existing energy resources, with a focus on renewable energies, but including others. The language of the material is simple and not academic, targeting middle school students. The pages come with downloadable and printable quizzes about each resource.

Chimie/ Physique – French
This is online material covering the whole spectrum of physics for a French lycee.  Obviously there are chapters about the definition of energy.

Energie, Energie-Versorgung – German
This is a very rich repository of various resources on all kind of energy-related topics in physics. While the language of the site is German, many links lead to English pages. It seems that the page contains something for everybody, but the navigation is problematic as no metadata on the resources is available. The focus is clearly on secondary schools.

Energie ? Vous avez dit « énergie » ??- French

This site located at the free University of Brussels (ULB) informs about many aspects of energy. The content is easily understandable for pupils of secondary schools.

Alternative fuels - English
This website contains some nice images about alternative fuels for cars presented by GM, the American car manufacturer. It is targeting Kindergarten and primary level pupils. 

Erneuerbare Energien / Medien für die Schule – German
The PDF document informs about activities in the web with a focus on education. The collection is compiled by BINE, which is an information service of the Fachinformationszentrum (FIZ) Karlsruhe (Science information center), supported by the German Ministry of Labour.

Hydrogen cars and combustion motor - English

The US car manufacturer GM presents some nice animations with explaining text about a traditional combustion engine and hydrogen cells. The level is chosen according to upper primary and lower secondary pupils. Teacher of physics and chemistry have access to some nice resources.

Bio-raffiniert.de – German

The Fraunhofer Institute supports this web page, informing about the latest development in using biomasses of various origin as resources for industrial production. Most people restrict the applications of biomass to the production of bio-fuels. Here teachers of chemistry may find inspiring thoughts about biomass for the whole spectrum of synthetic material needed for industrial production.

Kraftwärmekopplung – German

This site offers some animations about modern concepts in traditional power plants. The animations are downloadable, so that a teacher of physics can show the animations like small educational videos offline. Teachers of physics in secondary schools will like this offer.

Work, Energy, and Power - English
This is a tutorial from the “physics classroom”, introducing the concept of work, energy and power. The material requires some mathematics knowledge and is therefore targeting secondary schools.

EnergyQuest - English

This colourful web page from the Californian Energy Commission displays a lot of information about nearly all aspects of energy for the audience of upper primary and lower secondary schools. The thematic spectrum ranges from a library of resources from famous scientists engaged in research of energy topics to science projects which teachers might use to fresh up their lessons.

A step by step guide for elementary physics - English
This website offers a library of PDF documents for elementary physics. Many documents are related to the term energy in its various aspects. The level of the material is advanced and therefore recommended for physics lessons in upper secondary schools.

Le bois énergie  – French
Back to the roots! Wood as a modern energy resource is presented on this French website. The website gives an overview over all aspects of using wood in modern heating systems and bio fuels.

Projects and activities

Renewable Energy Workshops  – English
This workshop comes from teachers in the UK. It informs about renewable energies and how to include material into science lessons in primary and secondary schools. The action is supported by the UK Solar Energy Society.

Energietag 2006 – German
This page informs about the “Day of energy”, annually celebrated in Germany. Maintainers of power plants of renewable energies open their doors to the public. Schools can participate in activities and register on that page.

Fuel Cell Box – German
This page informs about a competition aimed at students of secondary schools running in the school year 2003/2004 and 2004/2005. While it is not clear if  the competition is continued, the idea might inspire others to continue with a similar or more advanced proposal. The goal of the competition was to create a fuel cell driven vehicle from a delivered set of materials.

PhysikOnTour– German
Xplora is a good example of using ICT in teaching science. But Xplora knows well that pupils need to stay in contact with reality, which in science is the experiment. PhysikOnTour offers fascinating experiments for kids from Kindergarten to primary level schools. But what is really exciting is that every organisation which wants to have a “Day of physics”, “Science week” or whatsoever in science promoting activity can order PhysikOnTour and contribute to a successful public science activity.

Experiments at school

SkyView – German
The university of Wuppertal,Germany, supports these web pages, guiding pupils to experimental activity in research about high energy particles, streaming to us from the universe. The information aims to engage pupils for fascinating experiments in physics and therefore get them into a science career. The information is an exciting resource for teachers and pupils in secondary level physics courses.

School experiments  – English
The Danish website offers a set of experiments for the classroom in English. The experiment description is downloadable as a text file. The covered topics range from photovoltaic to energy storage and do not leave out anything from the field of renewable energy.

Wärmeübertragung  – German
The link leads to a PDF document that explains the mechanisms of heat transport. This basic mechanism in thermodynamics drives motors, weather and enables gliders to fly hundreds of kilometers without an engine. After the explanations follows a set of easy to handle experiments for schools. This is an inspiring source for teachers of physics in lower secondary level schools.

Demonstrationspraktikum  – German
The University of Magdeburg,Germany, offers a list of experiments, which requires some advanced experimental setup. This setup is normally available in well-equipped schools. Some of the experiments are easy to guide without complex setup and useful for anyone. An interesting resource for teachers of physics in secondary schools!

Experiment des Monats – German
The website offers very simple science experiments. All experiments are not about energy. But there are many easy experiments like the heat transfer experiment, which does not need more than the pupil, a thermometer, two plastic bags. This is a good resource for teachers of primary and lower secondary schools.

Teacher training opportunities

Regenerative Energien – German
The goal of this teacher training course is to inform about the physics, technology and economy of regenerative energy resources.

Die Brennstoffzelle  – German
Hydrogen fuel cells are often called the energy modifier of the future. They are used to create electricity by splitting water into the components hydrogen and oxygen. The exhaust is again pure water. Teachers of physics in secondary classes will like this teacher training offer about a sustainable source of energy.

Power Plastic: Wie man mit Molekülen Energie erzeugt  – German
This event is part of a regular series of teacher training called “Physik am Samstag” (physics on Saturdays). The presentation is hosted by the University of Würzburg,Germany.

Dark Energy at the House of Commons  – English
Sussex astrophysicist Richard Savage has been chosen to present his research at the House of Commons on 14th March, as part of National Science Week. Discovered in the late 1990s, Dark Energy is a previously unknown phenomenon that leads the expansion of the universe to accelerate. To understand this is the first great challenge of 21st-century astrophysics.

External lab sessions for teachers and pupils

Science Days für Kinder – German
This annual event is offering scientific activities for Kindergarten and primary level kids. It is organized within a well-known environment by kids and their parents, the holiday park Rust near Freiburg (Germany). The thematic spectrum is not focused on energy. But as energy is the driving source in most spectacular experiments for kids, the relation to energy is obvious for adults and will hopefully become obvious for kids. While the kids are engaged in their experiments, their parents and teachers might relax with a cup of coffee!

Science Days  – German
This is the advanced version of the “Science Days für Kinder”, focusing on pupils of primary and secondary classes with an advanced background knowledge. Again hands on practice are the Leitmotiv of the event. The web site informs about the dates and the agenda of the actual event.

Science Week – English
The national science week in the UK offers many activity sessions for pupils and teachers with the topic of energy. A visit to the site and a selection of the region of interest with the keyword Energy guides to the many events. 

Festival of science – English
Although the agenda of the festival is not fixed yet, the title of the festival “People, science and society” lets assume that energy will play a major role. Interested people might have a look at the upcoming planning or review the events of the 2005 festival.

JuLab  – German
JuLab is an extra-curricular laboratory, carried by the Forschungszentrum Jülich (Research center Jülich, Germany).   School classes can visit the laboratory and run prepared sessions under the guidance of scientists. The “Brennstofzelle” (fuel cell) and Spektrometrie (spectrometry) experiments especially allow pupils to have hands on some specific topic of energy.

XLAB – German/English
The Xlab is one of the first German laboratories offering pupils laboratory exercises out of school.  The program changes from time to time but there are normally many courses with energy as a main topic. For example fuel cells, spectrometry and radioactivity. The courses are open for German schools and schools from Europe.

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