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The Relationship Between Potential and Kinetic Energy

Driving or Multi-dimensional Question:

How can the speed and weight of an object affect an amount of kinetic energy? What type of energy is created when a brick falls from a wall? Explain how potential energy can be changed into kinetic energy.

Unit Summary:

Students will be participating in multiple hands-on activities developing and using models created with materials such as marbles, dominoes, chalk and balloons. Students will be discovering the relationship between potential energy and kinetic energy. They will also watch videos and play interactive games to help them reach an understanding of how energy is transferred from one form to another. Students will be able to use this understanding to answer the formative assessment question about sledding with a sibling and parent.

Hook Event:

Culminating Event:


Science Standards:

4.PS3.2 Observe and explain the relationship between potential energy and kinetic energy.
4.ETS2.3 Determine the effectiveness of multiple solutions to a design problem given the criteria and the constraints.

Math Standards:

ELA and Other Standards:

Daily Activities

For more information on this lesson please see the Lesson Resources below

ActivitiesDescription Resources and Materials
Activity One


Hook: Potential and Kinetic Energy Prediction Sheet
1. Students will play red light, and green light.
2. Students will watch videos and experiment with a pendulum.
3. Students will complete marbles with a ruler station.
4. Students will complete a marble run.

Cars and Cups Video:

Seesaw Acrobats Video:

Bowling Ball Pendulum Video:

• Pendulum
• Ruler with groove in center
• Marbles—big, medium and small
• Tape measure
• Milk carton
• Incline plane/ramp (ex: textbooks with binder)

Activity Two

1. Chalk drop station
2. Balloons station
3. Dominoes station

Dominoes Video:

• Pieces of chalk
• Tape measure
• Balloons
• Dominoes


Activity Three

Game Time:
1. Students will play an interactive roller coaster game.
2. Students will play millionaire game.

Roller Coaster Game:

Millionaire Game:
Activity Four

Independent Study:
1. Watch the Currents of Change video.
2. Read the hydro energy article.
3. Watch the Rivers to Power video.

Currents of Change:

Rivers to Power Video:
Activity Five

Field Trip:
Visit to Cheatham County or other dams

Contact Local Dam:

Technology Integration:

Business PartnerContribution to Learning ExperienceContact Information
Cheatham Lake Resource Manager’s OfficeStudents will get to see firsthand the potential energy of water transforming into kinetic energy.615-792-5697
Find a Dam Near YouStudents will get to see firsthand the potential energy of water transforming into kinetic

Capstone Presentation:

A. You and your younger sibling wake up one winter morning and discover that the outside is covered in a blanket of white powdery snow. You quickly get your warm snow clothes on and grab your sled. You and your sibling decide to race down the hill in your backyard. However, when you say, “Go!” your sibling’s sled doesn’t move. How can you explain the relationship between potential and kinetic energy to your sibling to help him/her understand why the sled won’t move?

B. Your dad comes outside to join the sledding fun. You race your dad, but he wins every time. Why does your dad beat you to the bottom of the hill even though you both have the same sled? Can you and your sibling use your knowledge of potential and kinetic energy to figure out a way to win the race against your dad?

Lesson Resources