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Middle School Curriculum

Back in 1963 when LAB-AIDS® shipped its first kit, we had a vision, to revolutionize the middle school classroom with one of the first inquiry-based approaches to learning science through hands-on activity. More Info

Energy | NGSS

Energy | NGSS

~30 - 40 to 50 minute class periods (5 weeks)

How can people manipulate energy transfer and transformation to use energy more efficiently?

Students learn about the transfer and transformation of energy in their everyday lives. They plan and carry out investigations and analyze and interpret data from experiments to investigate how energy is transferred and transformed. They also engage in engineering challenges to design and test devices to maximize and minimize energy transfer.

PE Assessment Example: Design, test, evaluate, and redesign a solar oven that maximizes thermal energy transfer.

Energy is part of Issues and Science three year middle school program, designed by SEPUP at the Lawrence Hall of Science. This six week unit anchors the lessons around the the socio-science issue: How can people manipulate energy transfer and transformation to use energy more efficiently? Investigative phenomena within the 15 activities connect back to the issue and storyline. This unit builds towards and assesses PEs PS3-3, PS3-4, PS3-5, MS-ETS1-4.


Content in Energy | NGSS is organized into 15 activities, as follows:

Activity Title Activity Type Activity Overview
1. Home Energy Use Investigation Students brainstorm the uses of energy in the home and become aware of everyday energy consumption. They compare the features of two homes and suggest which one consumes less energy. Students then develop an operational definition of energy efficiency.
2. Drive a Nail Laboratory Students are introduced to the concepts of kinetic and gravitational potential energy. They design and conduct an experiment to drop metal rods of different masses from different heights to drive a nail into a foam block. This activity allows students to explore energy transfer, the relationship of gravitational potential energy to mass and height, and the transformation of gravitational potential energy to kinetic energy
3. Roller Coaster Energy Role Play Students further examine energy transformations between gravitational potential energy and kinetic energy in the context of a common experience—namely, roller coasters. Students are introduced to the idea that some energy is transformed into thermal energy and sound during energy transformations.
4. Shake the Shot Investigation Students further investigate energy transfer and transformation. They transfer kinetic energy to a system of metal shot in a container and explore the resulting energy transformation by measuring temperature change. The investigation introduces the relationships between motion, temperature, and thermal energy.
5. Conservation of Energy Reading Students are introduced to the fundamental principle of energy—the law of conservation of energy. They learn that almost all energy transformations involve the process of heating, in which some energy is transformed to thermal energy. People usually consider this energy as “lost” since it is often no longer useful to them. Students are introduced to the idea of efficiency in a transformation.
6. Follow the Energy Investigation Students continue to explore the consequences of the law of conservation of energy by analyzing specific energy transfers and transformations. Students focus on different energy types through examples of transformations that either absorb or release energy.
7. Mixing Hot and Cold Water Laboratory Students investigate thermal energy transfer between water samples of different volumes and temperatures. To start, students predict the results of mixing water samples of different temperatures. They then test their predictions through experimental measurement of the temperatures of the mixtures as they reach thermal equilibrium. Lastly, students explain their results by applying their understanding of thermal energy transfer.
8. Thermal Energy Storage Laboratory Students design and conduct an investigation to determine the relationship between the mass, type of material, and temperature change when substances at different initial temperatures are combined.
9. Energy Across the Sciences Reading Students read about energy transfers and energy transformation in several different examples, keeping track of this information as they read. They summarize what all of the examples have in common by writing a blurb that could go on the back of a science textbook about energy.
10. Energy Transfer Challenge Design Students explore thermal energy transfer (heat) by coming up with, designing, and testing one process and structure to melt as much ice as possible and another to allow as little ice to melt. They then use the data collected to compare and analyze the effectiveness of their designs and analyze variables that affect the transfer of thermal energy.
11. Energy in Light Laboratory Students measure, compare, and analyze the temperature change experienced by different materials when exposed to the same amount of sunlight.
12. Conduction, Convection, and Radiation Reading Students read about thermal energy transfer. They are introduced to the terms convection and radiation and compare the three methods of thermal energy transfer. The Listen, Stop, and Write literacy strategy helps students comprehend the ideas presented in the text.
13. Maximizing Solar Energy Transfer Design Students design, test, evaluate, and redesign a solar heater.
14. Hot Bulbs Laboratory Students compare the amount of thermal energy transferred by a small incandescent and LED light bulb. They use their measurements to calculate the effciency of the bulbs to produce light by measuring how much “wasted” energy is “lost” in producing thermal energy. They also compare “lifetime” costs for different types of bulbs. Finally, students consider the trade-offs involved when deciding which type of bulb to purchase.
15. Improving Home Efficiency Problem Solving Students gather more information about the factors that affect energy use and efficiency because of how they affect energy transformation. They use their knowledge of energy concepts and an economic analysis to make energy saving recommendations that meet the needs of families in fictional scenarios. Their analyses calculate the time it takes for energy improvements to pay for themselves and the savings over 10 years. Students present the trade-offs of their home energy efficiency plans in their recommendations.

Lab-Aids® provides several useful tools to guide you and your students through the Energy unit:

Energy | NGSS

Student Book

The Student Book guides students in exploring a socio-science issue and connected phemonena through a series of varied activity types. Activity types use one of twelve different instructional strategies to apply Science and Engineering Practices to specific Disciplinary Core Ideas and Cross Cutting Concepts.

SEPUP's integrated literacy strategies help students process new science content, develop their analytical skills, make connections between related concepts, and express their knowledge orally and in writing. The built-in assessment system helps teachers identify students' strengths and weaknesses from the beginning of the unit. This allows them to adjust activities when needed so that all students get the best chance to build their knowledge and appreciation of science. At the back of the Student Book there is an Appendix containing additional resources for students, such as science skills, literacy strategies, and media literacy among others.

Energy | NGSS

Lab-Aids® Science Lab Notebook

A science notebook not only models the way scientists work, but it helps to develop and reinforce students’ science learning and literacy skills.

The Lab-Aids Science Lab Notebook is designed to support best practice note-booking strategies. It includes three-hole punched pages in a two-column design for Cornell-style notes. GraphAnywhere pages allow students to both write and easily create data-tables and graphs anywhere on the page. The unique “Lab-Log” column serves as a blank canvas for drawings, connections, and self-reflective notes. 160 pages total.

Energy | NGSS

Complete Equipment Package

Lab-Aids programs include high-quality equipment for each activity. This includes innovative lab-ware to be used throughout the year, specific solutions and materials for unique labs, as well as items needed for card sorts, modeling, role-plays, and projects.

Materials for up to 5 classes of 32 students, mobile storage cart, Online Portal for one teacher includes online subscription to Teacher Edition and Resources, Student Book in English/Spanish (E/S), student sheets (E/S), visual aids (E/S), PowerPoints, online assessment system, LABsent, and supplemental resources

Energy | NGSS

Teacher's Edition and Resources

The SEPUP Teacher Edition (TE) guides you through each activity in the Student Book and helps you see the development of concepts within the big picture of the unit. It helps you set up the equipment from the kit, organize the classroom, conduct activities, and manage practical details, all of which enhance students’ learning environment.

The Teacher Edition text is broken down into several sections, such as Activity Overview, NGSS Connections and Correlations, Materials and Advanced Prep, Teaching Summary, and Background information to name a few. The Teacher Edition is packaged as a color-printed, loose-leaf binder which allows you to personalize it with highlighting, annotations, rearrangements, and insertions. It provides full support for teaching the program. Additional support resources can also found in the Teacher Resource book.

The Teacher Resource (TR) provides background and suggestions to increase the overall effectiveness of implementing the program across all levels of learners. Some sections include: SEPUP’s Approach to Teaching and Learning, Differentiation Strategies for Diverse Learners, Literacy Strategies for Supporting Reading Comprehension and for Enhancing Students’ Writing, and comprehensive instruction on the SEPUP Assessment System. There is also a section containing unit specific resources, such as overviews, unit storyline and phenomena table, NGSS correlations, assessment blueprints, and item banks.

Online Portal for Students

Access to Student online portal for 1 year, which includes: the digital Student Book (Spanish coming soon), additional resources, and LABsent sheets and videos for absent students. Ability to highlight, bookmark and make notes in the Student Book, complete homework and assessments, and communicate with the teacher. Also available as multi-year subscriptions.

Online Portal for Teachers

Access to Teacher online portal for 7 years, which includes: online subscription to the Teacher Edition and Resources, Student Book (Spanish coming soon), LABsent sheets & videos for absent students, Editable PowerPoints for each lesson, and integrated online assessment system. Ability to highlight, bookmark, and make notes in personal Student and Teacher books, create and assign homework and assessments, and communicate with students. Available as multi-year subscriptions. Single Sign-On (SSO) available.