Lesson 1: What Is Energy?

Getting Started

Energy is the ability to do work. In order for work to be done, there must be a force (a push or pull) that causes something to move. Energy can cause things to change. There are many types of energy, and you will learn about several in this lesson. We use and observe energy every day without even realizing it.

Stuff You Need

  • Let's Explore Energy by Moving Beyond the Page
  • bags or cans of food
  • calculator
  • colored pencils or markers
  • marbles (kit)
  • masking tape
  • meter stick or tape measure
  • ruler with a groove in the middle (kit)
  • scissors
  • string (kit)
  • thick book

Ideas to Think About

  • How does energy affect our daily lives?
  • What is the relationship between work, distance, and force?

Things to Know

  • Energy is the ability to do work.
  • A newton is a unit used to measure force.
  • A joule is a unit used to measure work.
  • Potential energy is stored energy that is waiting to be used.
  • Kinetic energy is the energy of a moving object.
  • Work = force × distance


  • Determine the motion of an object by following and measuring its position over time. (S)
  • Evaluate how pushing or pulling forces change the position and motion of an object. (S)
  • Differentiate among forms of energy including light, heat, electrical, nuclear, chemical, sound, mechanical, magnetic, and solar energy. (S)
  • Recognize the difference between potential and kinetic energy. (S)

Introducing the Lesson

Explain to your child that today he will explore forms of energy. Many people think of electricity when they think of energy, but there are many forms of energy at work in the world. We could never keep track of the number of roles that energy has in our daily lives.

NOTE: In most lessons your child will read sections of a booklet called Let's Explore Energy. This booklet is located in your science kit.
Reading and Questions
Materials: Let's Explore Energy by Moving Beyond the Page
Read pages 2-8 in Let's Explore Energy and then answer these questions.
  1. What is a chemical bond?
    A chemical bond is an attractive force between atoms that holds them together.
  2. What two things are required in order for work to have been performed? (Hint: Consider the formula for work.)
    Work requires a force, and there must be some distance involved.
  3. Which has more energy, a hot object or a cool object? What form of energy does that object have more of?
    A hot object has more thermal energy than a cool object.