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Powerful Explorations - Physics Lessons

Threaded Big Idea
Our society is heavily dependent on the energy we consume. The consumption of this energy contributes to environmental health concerns.
Essential Question
What can we do to minimize the environmental health impacts of our inevitable consumption of energy?
Learning Cycle
Lesson Title & Description
Objective
Students will:
Class period & week
Engage
Power-Who Needs It?
The reading for the lesson is from July 4, 2004 from the NY Times. The information provided should be appropriate for a very long time.
Become aware of an energy-driven environmental health issue.

Week 1
Day 1

Explore
Energy and Environmental Trade-offs
During this lesson students will brainstorm ideas about how they consume energy, and what sources of energy are available to them.
Explore the idea of energy consumption, and begin to understand finite resources
Week 1
Day2-3
Explain
     
Apply/Project
We just don’t have the power! Make a recommendation on which plant should be built.
Week 7
Day 2-5
Week 8
All

 

Big Idea
Energy can be neither created nor destroyed. All traditional energy sources are finite in nature, and their use inevitably causes pollution and/or waste.
Essential Question
Where does our energy come from?
Learning Cycle
Lesson Title & Description
Objective
Students will:
Class period & week
Engage
Energy and Environmental Trade-offs
During this lesson students will brainstorm ideas about how they consume energy, and what sources of energy are available to them.
Relate the consumption of energy to both natural resources and to pollution. Discuss renewable vs. non-renewable.

Week 1
Day 2-3

Explore/Explain

Energy for Free
Students will observe the “drinking bird” perpetual motion machine when coming into class. Without the knowledge of how the bird works, it might seem like it will go forever. Of course it will not, and the reasons for this will be discussed.

Understand the fallacy of perpetual motion machines through knowledge of the conservation of energy.

Week 1
Day 4

Apply
How much more is there?

Research a topic related to non-renewable energy sources, focusing on the idea that these resources will be depleted. (list of topics provided)

Week 1
Day 5
Week 2
Day 1-3

 

Big Idea
A large portion of the energy we consume is in the form of electricity. Electricity performs work by electrons flowing through a circuit.
Essential Question
What is electricity? What laws govern its behavior?
Learning Cycle
Lesson Title & Description
Objective
Students will:
Class period & week
Engage
Opposites Attract
This lesson introduces students to the forces involved with like and unlike electrical charges.
See the attraction between two charged particles, and know Coulomb’s Law

Week 2
Day 4-5

Explore/Explain
Circuit Lab
A circuit lab is an essential part of any unit on electricity. The laws governing the behavior of electricity in simple circuits are, well, simple.
Understand the importance of a circuit, and begin to see relationships between voltage, current, and resistance.
Week 3
Day 1-3
Apply
Electrical Engineers for a Day
There are a few options for this lesson, depending on the resources available. There are two projects provided that would require purchases.
Design a circuit to produce a desired current, and test these circuits for accuracy.
Week 3
Day 4-5
Week 4
Day 1

 

Big Idea
Electricity is generated using electromagnetic fields in machines called turbines. There are many different ways of driving these turbines, such as falling water and steam.
Essential Question How are magnets used to generate electricity?
Learning Cycle
Lesson Title & Description
Objective
Students will:
Class period & week
Engage
Are they really that different?
This lesson serves as an introduction to both the next unit and the second half of the quarter. The upcoming unit deals with electromagnetism and its use in turbines to generate electricity.
List many sources of electrical energy, and understand that they all utilize turbines.

Week 4
Day 2

Explore/Explain
Home-made Generator
This experiment is a great chance for students to design their own experiments. On the first day of the lesson, students will build their own electric generators.
Explore the effects of moving a conductor through a magnetic field.
Week 4
Day 3-5

 

Big Idea
Fossil fuels are used to generate electricity by the conversion of their stored chemical-potential energy to heat. This heat is then used to power a turbine. The burning and mining of fossil fuels creates pollution.
Essential Question
Where did the energy stored in fossil fuels originally come from? Are fossil fuels renewable?
Learning Cycle
Lesson Title & Description
Objective
Students will:
Class period & week
Engage
Global warming Or
Mining?

Killer Coal
During this lesson, students will be exploring some of the environmental health risks involved with both the mining and burning of coal.
Understand the possible impacts of global warming and know that it stems from CO2.

Week 5
Day 1

Explore
Chemistry review, and the chemistry of coal.
This lesson serves as a review of conservation of mass, simple reactions and equation balancing.
Research the pollutants formed by burning coal, and their environmental health effects.
Week 5
Day 2-3
Explain
Explore cont.
Write a one-page paper demonstrating their understanding of coal produced air pollution.
Week 5
Day 4-5
Apply
Clean coal?
Using the knowledge gained from the previous day’s lesson, students will continue to explore coal and its environmental health impacts.
Develop a fact sheet about clean coal technologies
Week 6
Day 1

 

Big Idea
The process used to power nuclear reactors is called fission. This involves the splitting of large, unstable atoms into smaller ones, which generates a lot of heat, as well as dangerous nuclear waste.
Essential Question
Where does the energy of nuclear reactions come from? Is nuclear energy safe? Renewable?
Learning Cycle
Lesson Title & Description
Objective
Students will:
Class period & week
Engage
Chernobyl
During this lesson, students will be exposed to information and images from the Chernobyl power plant accident.
See the effects of radiation poisoning.

Week 6
Day 2

Explore/Explain
Uranium On a Diet
During this lesson, students will work on a thought exercise about how the Theory of Relativity can explain the energy of nuclear reactions.
Question the conservation of energy, and discover Relativity.
Week 6
Day 3-4
Apply
Cold Fusion?
During this lesson, students will be introduced to fusion. Having studied fission and learned about mass defect, students are now prepared to learn about fusion.
Understand the difference between fusion and fission, and know that the Sun’s energy comes from fusion.
Week 6
Day 5
Week 7
Day 1

 


PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:


an
NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award

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Last update: November 10, 2009
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