Capturing the essence of energy: A graphical representation

Wright, Tony
June 2007
Teaching Science: The Journal of the Australian Science Teachers;Winter2007, Vol. 53 Issue 2, p24
Academic Journal
This article describes a way of representing energy that is particularly appropriate for the middle years of schooling. The method, using bar graphs, provides a framework that helps the student analyse events in terms of energy transfers and transformations while making the application of the law of conservation of energy explicit. A range of contexts that include mechanics, electricity, chemical reactions and ecology, are explored. While the major focus described is qualitative, there is a natural extension to quantitative work that lends itself to the use of spread sheets. The potential of the representation for assessment is considered. Finally, extension of the representation to include the second law, and thus the prediction of spontaneous change, is canvassed and advantages deriving from its inclusion in the middle years curriculum discussed.


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