Teaching Energy to Gifted and Talented Elementary School Students with Switch Classroom

Julie Valsaint  ·  SEA Teacher Advisory Council
Wed, August 3, 2022

I teach 3rd through 5th grade Gifted and Talented students. The gifted students at my school meet once a month for an hour, we do this six times a year. At the first meeting with the students I introduce them to an organization called The NEED Project. NEED introduces my students to all things energy and provides the student infobooks for free as a download. Within NEED you can find lessons on different types of energy sources (wind, solar, hydro, biomass, etc). For the short amount of time I have with my students each month, I pick certain topics within NEED to teach them.  The Wind Energy and Hydro Energy lessons are my main focus, and I spend about two class periods on each topic. I use Switch Classroom as a supplemental resource to the NEED project, because it helps my students better understand different sources of energy.  

Our first meeting together involves showing them the NEED website, the opportunities within NEED as a student and giving each student the Energy Poll from NEED. We begin with hands-on lessons using the Science of Energy Kit. Here my students become familiar with potential and kinetic energy, chemical energy, endothermic and exothermic processes, and radiant energy transformations. It takes us two, one hour class periods to make it through all six of the stations. After introducing my students to Science of Energy, we head over to the Switch Classroom. In the Gifted Google Classroom, I post videos for my students to watch before the return to our next session. Since our Gifted students only meet once a month I ask them to watch the videos online in their google classroom, this helps to keep them engaged even when we are not together. I assign Introduction to Energy, Foundation of Modern Life video and the Hydropower Primer video. These videos help my students better understand what we will be doing as a whole group when we meet again. 

Our next two, one hour sessions, are spent investigating Wind Energy. In Oklahoma, we have wind farms, but they are not in our area. I want my students to understand that while we get our energy one way, hydroelectric, other areas of our state and country receive energy from other sources. We spend one class period completing the lesson “Wind Can Do Work”, this lesson uses a windmill to lift a load of paperclips, from the Wonders of Wind Kit. The second lesson we do is “Blade Design Introduction”. Here the students work with a windmill that the teacher has put together and figure out how much my windmill will lift and then which blade design would generate the most electricity.  If you will attend a kidwind workshop, they will provide a fan and windmill for your class. I then assign the Wind Primer and the Science of Wind in the students Google Classroom for them to watch. 

Our next two meetings we start to dig deeper into hydro power. Our community receives its electricity from a dam that is about an hour away from us. I have the Wonders of Water Kit, my students use the kit to design a waterwheel.  We complete the lesson “Moving Water Can Do Work”, here students build a waterwheel using a pencil, Polystyrene craft ball, and paddles.  They add paper clips to the pencil to see how much load their waterwheel can move. In our next meeting together we watch Introduction to Hydropower and How Hydropower Works, then we use the Hydropower Plant worksheet to label the parts of a Hydropwer Plant. These activities take the entire school year to complete, and we conclude with a field trip to the Pensacola Dam and tour the hydropower plant. 

If you are looking for something extra to help support your energy lessons, Switch Classroom is the place to find it! It is quick and easy to join the classroom and you can link it with your Google account.


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