Energy: Useful and Not So Useful Energy

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Science Objects are two hour on-line interactive inquiry-based content modules that help teachers better understand the science content they teach. This Science Object is the fourth of four Science Objects in the Energy SciPack. It provides a conceptual and real-world understanding of why energy in some forms can easily be used but in other forms is difficult to use. Energy transformations usually produce some heat, which is transferred to cooler places or objects in the surrounding area via radiation or conduction. In such interactions the number of atoms or molecules is very large and statistics dictate that they will end up with less order than that the initial state. Although just as much total energy remains, it is more widely distributed or spread out which means less can be done with it. This is because useful transfer of energy can be accomplished only when energy is concentrated (such as in falling water, in high-energy molecules in fuels and food, or in radiation from sources such as the intensely hot sun).

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Reviews (11)
  • on Tue Oct 28, 2014 12:19 AM

I found this resource useful and practical. Common everyday examples made it easy to comprehend and digest.

Yoli Gonzales  (Boise, ID)
Yoli Gonzales (Boise, ID)

  • on Tue Sep 02, 2014 7:20 AM

I really enjoy Science Objects. In 1-3 hours, the Energy: Useful and Not So Useful Energy Science Object will help me re-learn, refresh, or learn for the first time some critical science concepts I will have to know to obtain my Science Educator credentials. I appreciate that I can complete them at my own pace, and that, if used as park of a SciPack, I have access to a content expert to go to for help. The NSTA Learning Center Science Objects are really beneficial!

Naomi Beverly  (Marietta, GA)
Naomi Beverly (Marietta, GA)

  • on Mon Sep 01, 2014 11:57 AM

I enjoyed this lesson not only for the relevant pictures but also for the helpful explanations to questions throughout the lesson. If a question was answered correctly, it explained why it was true and if it was answered incorrectly, it explained why it was false. It was a well rounded lesson and was interesting to the reader.


  • on Thu Mar 01, 2012 12:11 AM

This is a topic that has given energy more its practical side. Learning with this sci-object provided me with more solid grasp of how to classify energy in terms of its utility and value.

Ronaldo Relador  (Bowie, MD)
Ronaldo Relador (Bowie, MD)

  • on Mon Jan 16, 2012 12:05 AM

Out of the entire energy Sci-pack, this one took me the longest to get through because it was more of a lecture-style of learning. However, I must say, I gave it 5 stars because you can't deny how well the concepts were explained in this Object. I learned a great deal of information!

Brandy Stewart
Brandy Stewart

  • on Tue Nov 09, 2010 6:35 PM

This SciObject focuses not only on content, but addresses the "why do I need to know this?" question. Assessing the level of usefulness of energy both conceptually and mathematically provides a practical use for the study of energy and its transformations. Often when students ask about the practical aspects of science content knowledge, teachers don't have the necessary information at their fingertips. This SciObject provides the background necessary. It is one of the reasons that I enjoy the SciPack in which this SciObject resides so much. It provides everything.

Bambi Bailey  (Tyler, TX)
Bambi Bailey (Tyler, TX)

  • on Tue Nov 14, 2017 9:44 AM

This Sci Object was a great way to elicit some misconceptions on the subject of energy usage and address them via relevant data. It assessed for understanding throughout with little quiz questions. Regardless of whether you got the question right or wrong, it would include an explanation of why. It is very practical in terms of judging between different energy sources and determining the usefulness of them. Also, covers ideas such as efficiency, entropy, and perpetual motion machines. Overall, a good way to help solidify knowledge on the topic.

Stephen Suglio  (Akron, OH)
Stephen Suglio (Akron, OH)

  • on Fri Mar 25, 2016 12:47 PM

This Science Object gave me some good ideas on questions I can ask my students. Many questions presented in the lesson had more than one answer or were open ended. This type of questioning is great for Middle school students because it makes them think.

Bonnie Johnson  (Mount Airy, MD)
Bonnie Johnson (Mount Airy, MD)

  • on Tue Mar 11, 2014 9:58 AM

Good explanation of entropy. Great visual with the magnets.

Tory Addison  (Winter Haven, FL)
Tory Addison (Winter Haven, FL)

  • on Thu Nov 14, 2013 12:36 AM

The NSTA's lesson of Useful and not so Useful Energy Science Objects is a lesson designed to cover basic concepts of energy and the application of energy in useful work output. The lesson consist of various media sources of literature, picture slide shows, and podcasts. Formative assessments are provided after each lesson with a final summative assessment at the end of the lesson. The lesson progresses with the introduction of energy, while addressing the previous knowledge of students through examples that are relevant to their daily lives. Then continues to apply the concepts and terms to while presenting new examples to students. And finally encouraging the student to apply the topics to real world situations. The main topics covered by this lesson are energy, entropy, energy resources, simple machines, efficiency, and perpetual motion. Objectives are clearly stated and terms are defined within the objectives to help students identify the relevance of supplementary images and podcasts to the terms within the objectives. This lesson is designed to stay relevant to the lives of the students. The lesson addresses common misconceptions of previous knowledge about energy and energy usage. Within this lesson are many examples with the intentions of the student to be able to identify the un-useful energy examples. Most of the examples are relevant, although some farfetched examples could possibly lead to further misconceptions. Simulations are also provided to enhance science thinking within experience when the experience isn't available. The provided examples and simulations build with the most relevant to students everyday lives and then lead to examples that can be applied on a larger scale within consumerism to larger scale energy production. Many resources are available to enhance the students understanding of the concepts, as well as to provide support and application. Math concepts are implemented to identify validity of the concepts that are being covered. For example, efficiency is calculated for common machines that are used within the daily lives of students. Interaction with experts are advocated to the student to enhance learning opportunities and to clear up ideas learned during the lesson that may not be as clear as the student wanted it to be. These opportunities allow the student to build and apply the ideas of energy within generalized situations. Finally the summative assessment is provided to identify the knowledge gained as well as link concepts to examples the examples provided; such as entropy to building implosions. Although formatting limits to only answer selecting questions, and limits application of concepts without free thinking.

Abigail Houfe
Abigail Houfe

  • on Wed Oct 26, 2011 11:47 PM

This Science Object was useful to the extent taht it clarified for me some of the more subtle points about energy. Fine-tuning would be a phrase I would use to describe the usefulness of this Science Object!

Duane Little  (Washington, DC)
Duane Little (Washington, DC)

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