The Up and Down With Energy Concept Builder is an adjustable-size file that displays nicely on smart phones, on tablets such as the iPad, on Chromebooks, and on laptops and desktops. The size of the Concept Builder can be scaled to fit the device that it is displayed on. The compatibility with smart phones, iPads, other tablets, and Chromebooks make it a perfect tool for use in a 1:1 classroom.


Teaching Ideas and Suggestions:

This Concept Builder is intended for use in the middle to later stages of a learning cycle on mechanical energy conservation. There are three highly scaffolded difficulty levels involving an energy analysis of a vertically launched projectile. Students must determine values of PE and KE at various locations along the trajectory. The motion is entirely vertical; the upward path and downward path are offset horizontally for clarity purposed. In each case, the initial kinetic energy (at ground level) of the object is given. This kinetic energy value and height information are used to determine potential and kinetic energy at other locations. In the Apprentice Difficulty Level, a background grid is used to determine PE values. The peak of the trajectory is 20 squares high. Other locations include the half-way height(10 squares high) and either the one-quarter height(5 squares high) or the three-quarters height(15 squares high). In the Master Difficulty Level, height values of three locations are given and used to determine the potential energy values. Energy conservation can be used to determine the kinetic energy values. In the Wizard Difficulty Level, the locations to be examined are the peak location, the half-way height, and either the one-quarter height or the three-quarters height. Students must use enery conservation to determine the PE and KE values and then calculate two height values and two speed values.

We recommend all three difficulty levels, beginning with the easiest. For purely conceptual physics classes, the Apprentice Level may be most suitable; the Master level might be a stretch for such classes. More advanced classes should find all three difficulty levels very do-able. Students will quickly gain an understanding that the PE and the height are directly related. You will need to prep students on how to use energy conservation to determine the PE and the KE values. And if doing the Wizard Difficulty Level, you will need to prepare students with a strategy for calculating speed values from KE values.

Student misses are tracked and use to determine a Health Rating. The Health Rating is published at the completion of the difficulty level. The formula for determining a Health Rating is shown on a separate page. Students can repeat the exercise as many times as needed to improve their grade above a minimum-required level. Task Tracker Note: as of this time, we do not collect information regarding the Health Penalty in our Task Tracker database.

This Concept Builder was intended as an in-class activity or as an assigned out-of-class activity for those classrooms subscribed to Task Tracker. After some lab work, some discussion of how to analyze energy values, and some guided practice, allow students to try it for themselves. Teachers using the Concept Builder with their classes should preview the activity (or view the Questions in a separate file) in order to judge which difficulty levels would be most appropriate for their students.


The Health Rating:

Students can complete as much of the table as they wish before checking their answers. And they can check their answers as many times as they wish. Feedback regarding the correctness of their answers is immediate and provided using a color-coding system. Correct answers are displayed in a table cell with a green background; these correct answers become locked and cannot be changed. Incorrect answers are displayed in a table cell with a red background. Each time students check their answers, the number of missed answers is determined. A running tally is kept of the number of misses. When a student accurately completes the table, a Health rating is displayed on the screen. The Health rating is dependent upon the number of misses. Formulas for computing the Health rating are discussed on a separate page. The Health rating is also displayed on the Main Menu screen for any completed difficulty level. A student can always repeat a difficulty level in order to improve their Health rating for that level. The best Health rating is always displayed on the Main Menu screen below the trophy for that difficulty level.

We leave it to the discretion of individual teachers as to what they wish to do with the Health rating information. We recognize that there will be some teachers who feel most comfortable with their students in simply requiring that a difficulty level be completed and  trophy be earned. Other teachers may wish to require completion of a difficulty level with a minimum Health rating. For instance, such teachers may require that each difficulty level be completed with a 70% or higher Health rating. Still other teachers may tie the Health rating into a grade or allow a homework pass for completing an activity that exceeds a 90% Health rating. Decisions as to what to do with the Health rating are best left for individual teachers who know their students the best.


Getting Help:

The most valuable (and most overlooked) aspect of this Concept Builder is the Help Me! feature. Each question group is accompanied by a Help page that discusses the specifics of the question. This Help feature transforms the activity from a question-answering activity into a concept-building activity. The student who takes the time to use the Help pages can be transformed from a guesser to a learner and from an unsure student to a confident student. The "meat and potatoes" of the Help pages are in the sections titled "How to Think About This Situation:" Students need to be encouraged by teachers to use the Help Me! button and to read this section of the page. A student that takes time to reflect upon how they are answering the question and how an expert would think about the situation can transform their naivete into expertise. 


Related Resources

There are numerous resources at The Physics Classroom website that serve as very complementary supports for the Up and Down With Energy Concept Builder. These include:
  • Minds On Physics Internet Modules:
    The Minds On Physics Internet Modules include a collection of interactive questioning modules that help learners assess their understanding of physics concepts and solidify those understandings by answering questions that require higher-order thinking. Missions WE3, WE7, and WE8 of the Work and Energy module provide great complements and extensions to this Concept Builder. They are best used in the middle to later stages of the learning cycle. Visit the Minds On Physics Internet Modules.

  • Physics Interactives:
    The Physics Interactives section of our website include numerous interactive physics simulations that allow a student to visualize and explore various physical concepts. The Work and Energy chapter of the Physics Interactives includes several simulations that will serve as great extensions to this Concept Builder. Most simulations come with one or more Activity pages which are convenient for classroom use and utilize a guided inquiry approach to the use of the simulation. The following Interactives would be of interest to most teachers:

    It's All Uphill

    Stopping Distance

    Roller Coaster Model

    Work-Energy Bar Charts

    Visit Physics Interactives

  • Curriculum/Practice: Several Concept Development worksheets at the Curriculum Corner will be very useful in assisting students in cultivating their understanding, most notably ...


    Energy Concepts

    Work-Energy Relationships

    Work-Energy Calculations

    Visit the Curriculum Corner - Work and Energy

Additional resources and ideas for incorporating Up and Down with Energy into an instructional unit on Work and Energy can be found at the Teacher Toolkits section of The Physics Classroom website.  Visit Teacher Toolkits.