The Sun Is Pretty Hot Stuff!


Ted Beyer, Educational Innovations, Inc.by Ted Beyer

The sun is, on average, about 93,000,000 miles (149,668,992 kilometers) away from us.  That’s pretty darn far.  In fact, if the sun went out right now, we would not know about it for about eight minutes.  Not to worry, that’s not going to be a thing to fret about for quite a while—a couple of billion years last time I checked.

That huge (try 109 times as big as Earth) ball of fusion reactor up in our sky is arguably responsible for all of the energy we use on Earth.  Not just solar power, but all of it.  Fossil fuels (oil, coal, and natural gas) were created from ancient plant and animal matter—which all lived because of the sun.

The Sun Is Pretty Hot Stuff! Educational Innovations Blog

  Image source: Stanford Solar Center

Hydropower is only possible because of the water cycle (best look that one up on your own, they won’t let me make these posts too long).  Wind power relies on, well, wind—and that is a byproduct of the warming and cooling of the atmosphere—and that’s the sun doing that warming too.  Atomic power uses heavy elements like Uranium, which was created in the hearts of suns.

I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea.

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Thermal Energy TV


EI TV - Educational Innovations BlogThermal energy—the energy that is generated and measured by heat—is such a wonderful topic that can be approached in many ways.  So many questions to explore!  What is heat?  How does heat travel?  What’s the difference between heat and temperature?  How do we measure temperature?  What are conductors?  Insulators?  And on and on…

There are times when a video offers the easiest, most accessible way to explain a concept.  This is certainly true when it comes to thermal energy.  Feel free to share this collection of videos with your students!   If you find a video on thermal energy that you think deserves to be added here, please let us know in the Comments section below.

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Thermal Energy in the News


latino-professor-newspaperThese days, thermal energy has become—dare we say it?—an even hotter topic than ever!  All over the world, researchers are working to discover new ways to store thermal energy, transform it into usable power (i.e., electricity), and more.  Although it may be years before some of these discoveries can be put to practical use, it’s exciting see how this area of science is thriving.

Here are just a few of the headlines that caught our attention in recent weeks.  Share them with your students!  If you find an interesting article on thermal energy, please post it in our Comments section.

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Thermal Energy Lesson


Lesson - Educational Innovations BlogWhen it comes to thermal energy lessons, we are reminded of the potato chip slogan, “Nobody can eat just one.”

There are so many awesome thermal energy lessons on the Internet, we couldn’t pick just one!  Take a moment to review the lesson plans and interactive classroom lab ideas below.  We’re certain you will find something to use with your students.

If you come across any thermal energy lessons you’d like to share, please leave us a comment below! Read the rest of this entry »


Thermal Energy Discussion Starters


Discussion Starters - Educational Innovations NewsletterEven toddlers understand the concepts of hot and cold.  And we’re all familiar with the plight of an ice cream cone on a hot day, right?  So does that mean it’s easy to teach the concept of thermal energy?  Not necessarily.  It’s important to start with clear definitions of terms such as “heat” and “temperature.”  Many students cannot discriminate between these terms or may use them interchangeably. This confusion can present a barrier to understanding other important physical science concepts.

One of the best ways to explain thermal energy to your students is by using real-life examples, which is why we’ve compiled a bunch of curiosity-inducing questions below.  Use these questions to start a thermal energy discussion with your students.  If you have other questions you’d like to share, please write to us in the Comments section below.

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