Science Week 1: Energy!

As I have briefly posted about before, we didn’t find a science curriculum that really got me excited.  First of all, we had to weed out all the Christian curricula.  There are some other options, especially for elementary school science.  However, none of them really excited me.  We did a lot of biology last year so I wanted something different for this year.  Some of the best curricula are nature-based for this age, but I know myself.  I like to hike, I like to be outside, but I can only maintain my enthusiasm for nature for so long.  Not to mention that I don’t know and don’t care what kind of plant that is, assuming it’s not poison ivy.

When presented with the options, Mushroom and BalletBoy chose physical science.  Everything I saw either talked down to the kids or was meant for older elementary school kids who could do more complicated reasoning.  And all the curricula seemed so focused on worksheets, which turned me off.

So I made my own plans.  We’re reading books and looking at videos, then once a week we’re doing an afternoon of experiments with another homeschooling family.  I’m posting about what we did.  We’ll see how long I can keep it up.  If I manage to do it every week, it ought to add up to a full K-2 physical science curriculum.  But we’ll see if I make it!

Here are the basic resources we’re using throughout:

  • Usborne Science Encyclopedia or The Usborne First Encyclopedia of Science: our basic spine and jumping off point
  • Let’s Read and Find Out, series books
  • The Magic School Bus, books and TV series
  • Bill Nye, the Science Guy, TV series
  • Science Journals, for writing science vocabulary words

First up, we started with Energy.  The book Energy Makes Things Happen by Kimberly Bradley was an excellent introduction.  We talked a lot about two basic terms: potential and kinetic energy.  We watched an episode of Bill Nye about energy and a Magic School Bus episode about powering a ferris wheel using unusual means of energy.  That one was a little subpar, honestly.  However, the Bill Nye episode was excellent.  Check out this clip:

When we got together with our friends for experiment day, we started by making brownies and talking about all the different forms of energy that went into them: kinetic to stir the ingredients, electricity to power the oven, heat to cook them, chemical for when we digest them and finally solar because most of the ingredients came from plants, which make energy using the sun.  Anything that starts with making brownies is a winner in my mind.

Before doing anything else, we made some simple notes in our science journals.  None of the kids are that adept at writing, but they wrote down the vocabulary words and drew some pictures.

Next, we did a bunch of demonstrations and experiments:

  • We bounced a ball and talked about the potential and kinetic energy again.
  • We made origami frogs that jumped to think again about potential and kinetic energy.  The ones we made are from Jan VanCleave’s Energy for Every Kid, but this is a similar one that would also work.  When the frog is sitting there, it’s full of potential energy, but when you push its back, your work turns that into kinetic energy and the frog leaps or does a little somersault.
  • We made a “magic can” that stores energy in a rubber band inside the can.  I got the idea from the VanCleave book, but here’s a video of how to do it.
  • I showed them that sound is also energy by doing this simple experiment – scroll down to the experiment titled “Good Sound Vibrations Experiment.”  Note that this will work by clanging a pot over the bowl as well.
  • We did a classic vinegar and baking soda experiment to talk about chemical energy.  We combined them in a bottle to blow up a balloon.

We took a break to eat the brownies.  While we did that, we brainstormed types of energy and wrote them up on the board: solar, chemical, heat, light, sound, etc.  Then we talked about how some types of energy are renewable and others are nonrenewable.  To demonstrate this, we made pinwheels.  Here’s a simple set of instructions.  Then we burned a candle.  The candle, like the fuel in our cars and homes, is used up when it burns.  However, the wind can keep blowing the pinwheel as long as there’s more wind.

At that point we were out of energy for science.  The kids went to play Legos instead.

5 thoughts on “Science Week 1: Energy!

  1. I recently stumbled across your blog, I personally was home schooled from K-12. It was a great experience. I know every little thing helps. In terms of learning about energy nothing could be better than to see your real-time energy usage for your home.

    Using a home energy monitor you could show your kids how different appliances affect energy consumption. You could play with lights, microwaves, tvs, washers, dryers or anything else to show your kids how everything uses electricity and how each devices uses different amounts. You mentioned liking nature based curriculum, you could easily tie this in to carbon emissions, carbon footprints and the environment. Just an idea. If you are interested check out my blog, or our companies website at

  2. This sounds great!

    I think it’s really hard to find good science experiments/demonstrations for this age. It seems like they’re all either too sophisticated, or too heavily weighted towards entertainment rather than education. It sounds like you had some excellent choices of activities that were pitched just right.

    I hope you’ll keep blogging about your science program in detail! I am definitely taking notes.

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