Energy home

Notes on What is energy?

Objective: Understand that many things need energy to ‘work’, and that energy can come from different ‘fuels’

Key words: energy, fuel, switch, plug, batteries, energy source, electricity, gas, petrol, diesel


Most pupils will understand that things need energy to grow, move, and work.

Pupils working at a lower level will be able to identify the energy sources that different things need.

Pupils working at a higher level will be able to compare how machines and living things get their energy.

Online activity: What is energy? (10 mins)

This activity introduces the concept of energy. Pupils need to work out what energy sources will give Robbie and Boo the dog some ‘get up and go’.

Before the pupils move on to working out what gives the television energy, ask pupils what they have for breakfast or other meals during the day. Discuss why we need to eat and drink and why pets and other animals need to eat and drink too. Emphasise the importance of eating sensibly to stay healthy and active. Pupils could draw pictures to show the food that different creatures eat and what they drink.

When pupils decide how the television gets its energy, they are made aware of the difference between a switch (a remote control) and a source of energy (plug and wall socket). Ask pupils to list the appliances that can be operated by remote control. What source of energy do they use? Highlight the fact that the remote controls all use electricity as they have batteries inside them.

The animation that plays on the television shows that all living creatures need energy to survive, move and grow, and that machines use energy too. After watching the animation, discuss the differences between the ways that different things get their energy. In particular, ask pupils from where they think plants get their food and drink.

To emphasise that plants need energy and water and that they get their energy from the Sun, you could try the following experiment. Plant three beans in soil in individual pots and put them in different places around the room: two on a sunny windowsill and one in a dark cupboard. Pupils should water one of the pots on the windowsill and the pot in the cupboard at the same time. Over a few weeks, they will notice that the bean that isn’t watered doesn’t grow at all and the bean in the dark grows more slowly than the bean on the windowsill.

Go to What is energy? activity

Activity card 1: Energy sources

After watching the animation played on the television in What is energy?, discuss with the class where the people, creatures and machines get their energy from.

If you are not using the online activities, start a class discussion about where pupils think people, animals and machines like cars get their energy from. Look at the card together and name all the energy sources. Ask pupils to pick out the energy source that is eaten (cereal) and the energy sources that are burnt (coal, petrol). Pupils might find it difficult to name the energy sources that are burnt so they may need some prompting.

Explain that all the energy sources that are burnt to give energy are called ‘fuels’. Ask pupils whether they know any other examples, eg bottled gas used when camping, barbecue briquettes, charcoal, peat.

Additional support: Pupils could draw other foods that Robbie could eat to give him energy.

Extension: Pupils could choose three of the energy sources on the right and draw other things or creatures that use them.

Download Activity card 1: Energy sources

Activity card 2: Energy at home

Pupils circle the items that use energy. Then they draw something else that isn’t shown that uses energy.

Additional support: Pupils could circle the items that use energy and say what they are used for.

Extension: Pupils could draw something that uses electricity and something that uses gas.

Download Activity card 2: Energy at home