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May. 03, 2011

Teacher's Review: Harnessing Wind Energy and Racing Sail Cars

by Christopher Hong

Click to enlarge images

Hi everyone, it’s time for my second lesson review. I’m Chris and this semester I am in the progress of teaching 4 lessons at the New York Hall of Science (NYSCI) to first graders and their families. If you recall, my unit is called Harnessing the Elements. I will be teaching students and families about energy and how we can “harness the elements” for our use. Students will learn about wind, water, and solar energy.

I taught my second lesson, Harnessing Wind Energy, on April 2, 2011. This lesson was about wind energy and how we can use or “harness” wind energy. Students and families participated in "Minute to Win It”-like challenges throughout the lesson to learn about wind energy and they built and redesigned a sail car to compete in distance and race challenges.

The lesson was quite good overall. The kids loved the games that we played, “Win With Wind” and “Tissue Blower.” In “Win With Wind,” students and families were to get a ping pong ball from one corner of a table to another corner into a cup by blowing on it. In “Tissue Blower,” students and families blew a quarter of a tissue across the room. Everyone had a lot of fun and was extremely excited.

The experiment went quite well, too. The distance challenge went better than expected and some sail cars went as far as 23 feet! One reason why the sail cars were so well built was because I had experience with building cars from last semester (Sumo Bumper Cars), and the wheels have to spin so I guided everyone to make the holes for their axels large enough to allow rotation of the wheels.

The final demo of wind turbines opened the eyes of everyone. I had three cheap pinwheels connected to three cheap motors and it lit two LEDs. This surprised many people and I even got questions afterward about how they worked. Lastly, similar to the last lesson, the scavenger hunt and the exit questions went phenomenally well.

Unfortunately, there were some glitches to the lesson when I taught it. Since I was teaching first graders, they were so excited to start the games that they didn’t wait for a countdown, but I’m sure older kids will take these games more seriously (in a good way of course). My discussion on nonrenewable energy didn’t go so well because it was an abstract concept that older kids can identify with better. The bubble demo didn’t go do well since the kids were too excited on seeing bubbles and started running into them. The cardboard demo (which I improvised with a plate and a metal plate) went okay, but it was not as dramatic as I was hoping. The race challenge did not go so well because the hand fans provided were not strong enough. Students can blow wind stronger than those weak fans. Thus, if I were to do this again, I would definitely let kids know about this. Lastly, I didn’t talk about renewable energy because nonrenewable energy was a bit abstract and this concept would go over the kids’ heads. I’ll try to talk about renewable energy next time.

Overall, I felt very good and prepared about this lesson. I arrived at NYSCI two hours early to rearrange desks (last week we had too few desks and this week we had twice the required amount) and set up the demos. Next time, I would make sure to bring poster board for the area-wind demo to demonstrate that the larger the area, the more wind would be captured. Poster board is more dramatic than cardboard.

I was surprised when I received questions about the wind turbine demo that I showed everyone. The fact that they were amazed and curious about how it all worked was a great moment for me. Two parents and a child stayed for about three minutes to ask me how it all worked and I explained it all to them.

Something that I didn’t expect was how happy I was to see everyone participate and enjoy the games that I created. It was amazing to see the fun everyone was having using their blown wind to complete challenges. These amazing game moments were my favorite parts of this lesson. It goes to show that games really do teach you things (and my passion for games may be a reason why I feel that I am quite successful in school).

The complete lesson plan is online at Harnessing the Elements: Harnessing Wind Energy.

I also used a scavenger hunt with exit questions like the first lesson: Harnessing Wind Energy Scavenger Hunt.
__________
Christopher Hong is a sophomore electrical engineering student at The Cooper Union.

Iridescent, a science & engineering education nonprofit, uses science, engineering and technology to develop persistent curiosity and to show that knowledge is empowering. Through their Engineers as Teachers program, Iridescent trains undergraduate, graduate and professional engineers and scientists to develop engaging, hands-on, design-based science courses for underserved children and their families, and to communicate cutting-edge science concepts to large, diverse, public audiences.
About Christopher Hong

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