Thursday, July 18, 2013

Energy Theater?

I've read the "press release" of this work, but only had a quick glance at the paper. But that should not stop you from having a look at it.

This activity for elementary/primary level education is meant to give a rather visual representation of the concept of energy, the ability of energy to transform from one form into another, and the conservation of energy principle.

In the current study, the researchers report their ongoing examination of an activity that they have created, called "Energy Theater." Energy Theater is specifically designed to help learners visualize energy and how it dynamically changes form and location. In Energy Theater, learners (K-12 science teachers in this study) each play the role of one "chunk" of energy, and indicate with hand gestures what form that energy has (e.g., chemical, motion, gravitational, thermal). Different objects are represented by loops of rope on the ground, and learners can move from object to object, demonstrating energy moving between those objects. While energy is not actually a material substance, this metaphor can help learners think about how a fixed amount of energy can flow between different objects.

For example, the group may be given the problem of, "Show what happens when a hand pushes a box across a table." Participants would first stand in the area representing the hand, making the gesture for "chemical energy." One by one, they would move to the area representing the box, changing their gesture to "energy of motion." Other scenarios might include how energy flows when an incandescent light bulb is turned on. The group must work together to decide how the "theater" will play out for a particular situation, making complicated decisions about just where and when the energy will flow and take different forms. 

It sounds rather convoluted to me, but that is probably because I haven't had the chance to actually see it. Maybe something like this can sink in easier with students at that age and level.

In any case, you should be able to read the actual publication that appeared in PRST-PER that gives free access.


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