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Principles of Energy: Learning by Doing

As part of Mr. Whaley’s Sixth Grade Science unit on energy, the class went down to the baseball field for a hands-on experiment to better understand how solar energy works. After filling a black plastic weather balloon with air, the students stood back to watch what happened, not knowing what to expect. As the sun heated the black bag, it rose off the ground and everyone got excited. Mr. Whaley explained to the group that as the sun heats the air in the balloon, the balloon starts to rise, illustrating the scientific principle of thermal energy. 

When the bag rose more than 200 feet off the ground, even Mr. Whaley got excited. “We’ve never gotten it this high before!” he exclaimed. “We went out to ‘play’ for 40 minutes and we got a great learning moment out of it. To see the actual scientific principle that heat rises gave everyone an ‘aha!’ moment, including why air temperature differential is critical to motion, why we launch hot air balloons in the morning, and why we do this experiment in first period rather than fifth period.”

This foundational class on the transfer of energy, force, and motion is part of the Earth Science, Life Science, and Physical Science curriculum that builds year-by-year as students progress through Middle School.