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Smithsonian Science for the Classroom™: How Can We Provide Energy to People's Homes? 1-Use Module

(in stock)


Grade 4. Module Highlights: In 15 lessons spanning 20 class sessions, students explore how energy moves and changes, and how people obtain sources of energy and convert them for practical purposes. In the first focus question, students observe phenomena—motion, light, sound, and heat—that provide evidence of the presence of energy, and track how energy moves and changes in systems. They then observe that electrical energy moves via electric current and can be changed into other forms of energy. In the second focus question, students obtain and combine information about the advantages and disadvantages of using various natural resources to generate electricity. Students apply what they learn to identify the best energy resource solution for four real-world locations, based on criteria and constraints. In the third focus question, students obtain information about how energy gets from power plants to homes and explore simple electric circuits. They apply what they learn to design and build electric devices that serve specific purposes. In the final focus question, students engage in a two-part summative assessment. In the written assessment, students use information about a fictional family to demonstrate their understanding of energy movement and the advantages and disadvantages of renewable and nonrenewable resources. Students are then challenged to apply what they have learned about electrical systems to solve an engineering problem: to design, build, test, and optimize a solar-powered doorbell system for a model house.

This module includes a teacher guide, 10 Student Activity Guides, 16 Smithsonian Science Stories student readers, and enough materials for 32 students to use 1 time.

Next Generation Science Standards*
Performance Expectations

  • 3–5-ETS1-1: Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.
  • 3–5-ETS1-2: Generate and compare multiple possible solutions to a problem based on how well each is likely to meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
  • 3–5-ETS1-3: Plan and carry out fair tests in which variables are controlled and failure points are considered to identify aspects of a model or prototype that can be improved.
  • 4-PS3-2: Make observations to provide evidence that energy can be transferred from place to place by sound, light, heat, and electric currents.
  • 4-PS3-4: Apply scientific ideas to design, test, and refine a device that converts energy from one form to another.
  • 4-ESS3-1: Obtain and combine information to describe that energy and fuels are derived from natural resources and their uses affect the environment.

Disciplinary Core Ideas
PS3.A: Definitions of Energy

  • Energy can be moved from place to place by moving objects or through sound, light, or electrical currents.

PS3.B: Conservation of Energy and Energy Transfer

  • Energy is present whenever there are moving objects, sound, light, or heat. When objects collide, energy can be transferred from one object to another, thereby changing their motion. In such collisions, some energy is typically also transferred to the surrounding air; as a result, the air gets heated and sound is produced.
  • Light also transfers energy from place to place.
  • Energy can also be transferred from place to place by electric currents, which can then be used locally to produce motion, sound, heat, or light. The currents may have been produced to begin with by transforming the energy of motion into electrical energy.

PS3.D: Energy in Chemical Processes and Everyday Life

  • The expression "produce energy" typically refers to the conversion of stored energy into a desired form for practical use.

ESS3.A: Natural Resources

  • Energy and fuels that humans use are derived from natural sources, and their use affects the environment in multiple ways. Some resources are renewable over time, and others are not.

ETS1.A: Defining and Delimiting Engineering Problems

  • Possible solutions to a problem are limited by available materials and resources (constraints). The success of a designed solution is determined by considering the desired features of a solution (criteria). Different proposals for solutions can be compared on the basis of how well each one meets the specified criteria for success or how well each takes the constraints into account.

ETS1.B: Developing Possible Solutions

  • Research on a problem should be carried out before beginning to design a solution. Testing a solution involves investigating how well it performs under a range of likely conditions.
  • At whatever stage, communicating with peers about proposed solutions is an important part of the design process, and shared ideas can lead to improved designs.
  • Tests are often designed to identify failure points or difficulties, which suggest the elements of the design that need to be improved.

ETS1.C: Optimizing the Design Solution

  • Different solutions need to be tested in order to determine which of them best solves the problem, given the criteria and the constraints.

Science and Engineering Practices

  • Developing and using models
  • Designing solutions
  • Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information


  • Defining problems
  • Planning and carrying out investigations
  • Analyzing and interpreting data
  • Using mathematics and computational thinking
  • Constructing explanations
  • Engaging in argument from evidence

Crosscutting Concepts

  • Cause and effect
  • Systems and system models
  • Energy and matter
  • Supporting:
  • Patterns

Lesson Summaries
Focus Question 1: How does energy move and change?
Lesson 1: Energy Around Us

Evidence of energy is all around us.
Students begin to explore energy as they read about and observe common household objects to find evidence of the presence of energy. They evaluate a broken object and design a possible solution to make the object usable again.
Lesson 2: Energy in Action
Energy can change and can move from place to place.
Students observe various phenomena for evidence that energy can move from place to place and change into other forms of energy. They develop models to document energy in the systems they investigate.
Lesson 3: It's Electric!
Energy can move via electric currents.
Students observe evidence of electrical energy in a variety of systems. They create models of the systems and analyze patterns to infer that energy moves and changes.
Lesson 4: Generate!
Motion, light, and stored energy can be converted to electrical energy.
Students investigate systems for evidence that motion, light, and stored energy can be changed into electrical energy. They plan a fair test of possible ways to increase the output of an electrical system.
Focus Question 2: What are the advantages and disadvantages of the different energy resources used to generate electricity?
Lesson 5: Power to the People

Motion, light, and stored energy can be converted to electrical energy on a large scale.
Groups obtain information from text to compare and contrast two kinds of power plants. They use models to explain that the motion of a turbine within power plants results in the generation of electrical energy.
Lesson 6: Energy Resources
Obtaining and using energy resources can impact the environment.
Students create common goals for communicating their research findings. They then work collaboratively to obtain and combine information about renewable and nonrenewable energy resources and identify how using these resources to generate electricity causes environmental impacts.
Lesson 7: Energy Experts
Obtaining and using energy resources can impact the environment.
Students use their research to prepare and deliver presentations that communicate the effects of using various energy resources to generate electricity. They look for patterns in the compiled information, leading to definitions of renewable and nonrenewable resources.
Lesson 8: Energy Resources in Use
Some energy resources are renewable and others are not, but all impact the environment in some way.
Students analyze mathematical representations of data about the mix of renewable and nonrenewable resources that are currently being used in the US to generate electricity, and look for patterns to support an argument about how the energy mix could be improved.
Lesson 9: Energy—The Big Picture
Solutions to problems consider criteria and constraints and are based on research.
Students use the information they gathered on the effects of energy resource use to develop an argument about which energy resource solution is best in four real-world locations.
Focus Question 3: How does electricity power our devices?
Lesson 10: Electricity on a Budget

Solutions to problems consider criteria and constraints and are based on research.
Students obtain information about electricity transmission and home use through text, data, and visual formats. They use the information to design a solution to cause a decrease in a family’s home electricity use.
Lesson 11: Complete the Circuit
Electric circuits are designed so that electrical energy can power devices.
Students investigate the design of electrical systems by constructing circuits. They apply their understanding to designing a solution to an engineering problem.
Lesson 12: Design a Device
Electric circuits are designed so that electrical energy can power devices.
Students interpret and use a new model of electrical systems, the circuit diagram, as they apply what they have learned about electrical energy and circuits to design and build handheld fans.
Design Challenge
Focus Question 4: How can you design a house that runs on renewable energy?
Lesson 13: I'm Here! Let Me In!

Electrical devices are designed to meet specific needs.
In a written assessment, students design a solution for a family interested in installing solar panels. Their solutions weigh environmental effects and use models of energy flow. Groups begin their design challenge, developing a plan for solving the problem and using models to document their plan.
Lesson 14: Model House Doorbell Part 1
Electrical devices are designed to meet specific needs.
Groups use their models to build their doorbell systems. They test their models to determine whether they meet the criteria of the design challenge and investigate the impact of design changes through fair tests.
Lesson 15: Model House Doorbell Part 2
Design teams analyze their solutions and communicate their results to peers.
Groups analyze and communicate the success of their doorbell systems. Their presentations include evidence-supported claims and the use of models showing the presence and flow of energy

*Next Generation Science Standards® is a registered trademark of WestEd. Neither WestEd nor the lead states and partners that developed the Next Generation Science Standards were involved in the production of this product, and do not endorse it.


What’s Included:
  • How Can We Provide Energy to People’s Homes? Teacher Guide
  • 10 How Can We Provide Energy to People’s Homes? Student Activity Guide
  • 16 Smithsonian Science Stories Literacy Series™: Everyday Energy
  • 1 Digital Access to Teacher Guide and Student Literacy (for 32 students)
  • 1 Ball, Energy
  • 30 Battery Holder, Metal, Size D
  • 4 Battery, Alkaline, Size AA
  • 30 Battery, Alkaline, Size D
  • 12 Blade, Fan, Plastic, 4"
  • 10 Bottle, Plant Mister
  • 16 Box, Cardboard, 11-1/4 x 9 x 3"
  • 30 Bulb, Mini
  • 10 Buzzer, Electric
  • 100 Card, 3 x 5"
  • 8 Cards, Circuit Diagram
  • 8 Cards, Energy Around the World
  • 1 Cards, Energy in Action, Set of 6
  • 1 Cards, Generate!, Set of 5
  • 1 Cards, It’s Electric!, Set of 4
  • 4 Clamp Lamp with Reflector (without bulb)
  • 100 Clip, Fahnestock
  • 1 Clock, Battery-Operated, with Sweep Second Hand
  • 8 Cup, Plastic, Squat, 9 oz
  • 1 Cutter/Stripper, Wire
  • 2 DC Hand Generator
  • 8 DC Motor, Low Voltage
  • 1 Electric Bell
  • 1 Fan, Personal, Battery-Operated
  • 100 Fastener, Brass
  • 1 Flashlight, LED, with Batteries
  • 1 Group Role Poster, 24 x 36"
  • 1 Hand Boiler
  • 2 Hand Warmer, Mini
  • 16 Holder, Light Bulb, Mini
  • 1 Hot Pot
  • 8 Knife Switch, SP/ST, Screw
  • 20 Light Bulb, Grain of Wheat
  • 4 Light Bulbs, Halogen, 100 W
  • 16 Marble
  • 1 Mirror, Unbreakable, 4 x 6"
  • 6 Mount, Fan Motor
  • 1 Pad, Foam, 9 x 12 x 1/4"
  • 100 Paper Clip, No. 1
  • 1 Pinwheel, 7-1/2"
  • 3 Rubber, Synthetic Sheet, 6 x 6"
  • 8 Ruler, Plastic, Metric (12")
  • 6 Solar Cell, 1.0 V, with Leads
  • 10 Sprayer, Plant Mister
  • 2 Tape, Masking, 3/4" wide, 36-yd Roll
  • 1 Timer, Manual, 60 min
  • 8 Tube, Cardboard 5.3 x 15 cm
  • 8 Tube, Cardboard, 1-1/2 x 6"
  • 1 Tuning Fork, C Scale, Frequency 512
  • 64 Washer, Steel
  • 10 Wire, Connector, with Alligator Clips, 12", Black
  • 2 Wire, Hook-Up, 22 Gauge, 100-ft Roll
Return Policy:

If for any reason you are not satisfied with this item, it is eligible for a return, exchange, refund, or credit up to 180 days from date of purchase. Restrictions may apply. Returns & Exchanges Policy.