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Understanding energy transformation plays a key role in middle school students’ engagement with energy conservation themes. The purpose of this lesson is to engage students in an interactive exploration of various forms of energy: thermal, gravitational, electromagnetic, elastic, chemical and electric, and so forth. The lesson includes several hands-on and online, interactive activities that enable students to make the connection between science and real life. All of the instructional activities listed are appropriate for Grades 6-7. Through four instructional, enjoyable activities, this lesson meets all of the requirements of the Project 2061 Benchmark 4E.

SpicyNodes can be integrated into classroom learning and homework assignments. The open-ended format of SpicyNodes provides a toolkit for learning across disciplines and integrating a variety of subjects. SpicyNodes can be used in all phases of learning - from brainstorming ideas to presenting one’s findings. For example, students can utilize SpicyNodes to break down complex topics into small, manageable, engaging segments. SpicyNodes supports open-ended and nonlinear learning, which is preferred by tech-savvy students. SpicyNodes also encourages a dynamic learning environment by providing virtually unlimited space and scope, as opposed to static and space-constrained concept mapping on paper or Microsoft’s PowerPoint.


This lesson plan fulfills the requirements of the Project 2061 Benchmark 4E: The Physical Setting-Energy Transformation for Grades 6 through 8:

Benchmark 4E
Energy appears in different forms and can be transformed within a system. Motion energy is associated with the speed of an object. Thermal energy is associated with the temperature of an object. Gravitational energy is associated with the height of an object above a reference point. Elastic energy is associated with the stretching or compressing of an elastic object. Chemical energy is associated with the composition of a substance. Electrical energy is associated with an electric current in a circuit. Light energy is associated with the frequency of electromagnetic waves. 4E/M4*

Multidisciplinary Connections

This topic can be integrated with social studies, language arts, and environment. Students can connect their learning to language arts by exploring the origin of the word, "energy," and understanding the meaning of scientific terms such as "kinetic," "potential," and "frequency." They can also explore energy usage, starting with prehistoric people and moving through historical events like the Industrial Revolution. Students can research the history of energy by studying pioneers like Thomas Young (1773-1829), who invented the word, “energy,” Benjamin Franklin (experiments in electricity), and James Joule (units of energy). In addition, students can make the real-life connections by exploring how household appliances and electronic gadgets make use of energy and demonstrate energy transformation. To connect with the environment, students can delve into the topic of renewable and nonrenewable energy forms and their implications to the present energy crisis.


Worksheets and Resources


Research evidence indicates that graphic organizers like SpicyNodes enhance the performance of students with learning disabilities. The following articles support the usability and applicability of visual learning tools like SpicyNodes for exceptional children and special education:

  1. Horton, Steven V. (1990). The Effectiveness of Graphic Organizers for Three Classifications of Secondary Students in Content Area Classes. Journal of Learning Disabilities, v23 n1 p12-22 Jan 1990).
  1. Kim, Ae-Hwa; Wanzek, Jeanne; and Wei, Shangjin (2004).
    Graphic Organizers and Their Effects on the Reading Comprehension of Students with LD: A Synthesis of Research. Journal of Learning Disabilities, Vol. 37, No. 2, 105-118
  1. Dye, Glora (2000). Teaching Exceptional Children. Retrieved June 9, 2008 from

Worksheets online:


Suggested Reading

The following books provide deep learning opportunities for students on the topics of energy conversion and energy resources:

  1. Stille, Darlene R. (2005). Energy. Child’s World, Chanhassen, MN
  1. White, Larry (1995). Energy: Simple Experiments for Young Scientists. The Millbrook Press. Brookfield, CN.

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