Grade Levels: K-3

This page contains information to support educators and families in teaching K-3 students about energy sources.The information is designed to complement the BrainPOP Jr. movie Energy Sources. It explains the type of content covered in the movie, provides ideas for how teachers and parents can develop related understandings, and suggests how other BrainPOP Jr. resources can be used to scaffold and extend student learning.

Review with children that energy is the ability to do work or change. Many cars burn gasoline for energy, we use electricity to power our homes, and we may use natural gas in our stoves and ovens to cook. Brainstorm different ways we use energy in our daily lives. Be sure to discuss how individual items we use, such as pencils and paper, rely on fuel or energy to get manufactured. Gasoline powered the vehicles used to harvest wood, and the machines used to make pencils or process wood pulp for paper most likely relied on natural gas or electricity. Help children understand how we rely on sources of energy. Remind children that sources of energy can be non-renewable or renewable.

Review with children that fossil fuels are fuels formed in the earth and made from the remains of plants and animals. Fossil fuels take millions of years to form, so they are not easily or quickly made or replaced. For example, coal is a fossil fuel. Coal is a type of rock that burns easily, so some power plants burn coal to generate, or make, electricity. Crude oil, or petroleum, is also a fossil fuel. We use it to make gasoline and kerosene, and many people use it to heat their homes. We also use petroleum to manufacture plastic. Natural gas is the gas released by plants and animals as they decay over millions of years. We mine natural gas and use it in our homes. Help children realize that billions of people around the world rely on these fossil fuels, and we’re using them faster than they can be replaced. Today, about 92% of our energy sources in the United States are non-renewable. Burning fossil fuels causes pollution, releases greenhouse gases into our atmosphere, and contributes to global climate change.

Renewable forms of energy are much friendlier to our environment. Review with children that renewable energy includes forms of energy that can be replaced easily. People have been using wind and water power for thousands of years. Vikings, ancient Egyptians, and ancient Romans utilized wind and water power in different ways to help them do work. Now we use wind to generate electricity that can power entire communities. Wind turns a turbine, and the rotors generate electricity, which can travel through power lines to reach communities. Dams use the energy of flowing water to turn turbines and generate electricity. Many children will have encountered a solar-powered calculator or toy. Explain that solar cells use sunlight to generate electricity to power the device, and today solar farms can provide power to communities. Remind children that wind power, hydroelectric energy, and solar power are renewable sources.

Help children become aware of their energy consumption. Brainstorm different ways to conserve, or save, energy at home or at school. For example, children can turn off the lights when they are not needed, open windows to cool off instead of running energy-draining fans and air conditioners, or put on an extra sweater to stay warm instead of turning up the thermostat. To save fossil fuels, children can use public transportation or carpools, or they can ride their bikes or walk to where they need to go. Even cutting down a few trips in the car contributes to a cleaner environment. Each of us can also make smarter decisions when we buy items. We can choose to purchase things made from recycled materials or items that have less wasteful packaging, since packaging takes a considerable amount of water and energy to manufacture. There are plenty of ways we can all be more responsible global citizens. Brainstorm different ways and share tips with each other.

Filed as:  Energy, Energy Sources, K-3, Science