Potential and Kinetic Energy

State Standards:

Essential Question:

What is potential and kinetic energy and what are the differences between these two types of energy?

Lesson Question:

What are some real-life examples of potential and kinetic energy and how do they affect us?


This lesson plan involves lab investigations which are designed to help students develop an understanding of the physics of potential and kinetic energy. The teacher will display three items:

  1. an electric cord
  2. a can of Coke (or any carbonated soda)
  3. a picture of a person climbing up a ladder

The teacher explains that these three items have something in common. The teacher mediates a clasroom discussion as the students attempt to answer the question.


Students will work with a partner and will gather the following materials from the "resource materials desk":
For each student team:

  1. a yo-yo
  2. yo-yo worksheet
  3. rubber band
  4. puff ball
  5. safety glasses
  6. sling-shot worksheet

For the teacher:

  1. shoe box
  2. piece of wood
  3. battery
  4. spring
  5. slingshot (or rubber band)
  6. Potential and Kinetic written on a piece of paper
  7. whiteboard magnets

Lesson Experiences:

Since the teacher sets the stage for the investigation, I will begin the lesson by showing the class a shoe box. I will share that when I am not using my favorite basketball sneakers, I store them in a box so they will be in good shape when I need them. I will ask what other things are stored until they are ready to be used.

Ask the students if they know any examples of stored energy. Display some items includinga:

Potential and Kinetic Energy in a YoYo from - Initiate a discussion about how each item represents stored energy. This will lead into a discussion of potential energy and kinetic energy.


Energy is part of our lives and students should now understand the differences between potential and kinetic energy and be able to give examples of each.


Assessments of understanding can be accomplished through written assessments (quizzes) or by having each group share their findings with the teacher and be graded accordingly.


Internet Web searches and (Web 2.0) YouTube or TeacherTube videos designed to explain basic physics concepts.
Potential and Kinetic Energy video:

NOTE: This lab may seem simplistic to the casual reader but it would be suitable for my high school special education classes where physics concepts must be presented in a slower more concrete manner with plenty of hands on learning experiences.