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Energy Concepts

See also | Sound | Light | Heat | Electricity | Magnetism | Chemical | Nuclear | Solar |

Initial perceptual naive misconceptions (any age)

Misconceptions (Explanations, Naive understanding, Misconceptions, or Perceptual responses)

  1. Energy can be made, used, and lost.
  2. Energy is what makes us work.
  3. Energy just appears, striking a match, combustion, in animals.
  4. When things burn all of it turns into only a gas or smoke.
  5. Fuels turn into heat, or smoke, or gases,
  6. All substances become less when they burn (decrease in mass, disappear,
  7. Air is not needed for combustion.
  8. The black when something burns comes from the flame.
  9. Fire is not particles.
  10. Energy is a substance in gas… (fuels).
  11. Rest is a way to refuel the body. Energy within the body is increasing.
  12. Force = energy
  13. Gravity = energy
  14. Energy from gravity depends only on the height of the fall
  15. Energy is an object
  16. Energy is confined to its origin
  17. Energy is used up.
  18. Energy is not conserved.
  19. It takes energy to change things. Heat objects, move objects to a higher position, but the energy does not stay in the objects. They do not have more
  20. Energy is moving around
  21. Energy is only in living things (humans and animals)
  22. Excitement, enthusiasm, positive attitude, performance…
  23. Energy transfer mass does not affect the amount of energy transfer. Energy disappears.
  24. Potential energy in not energy. It becomes energy when it is transferred.
  25. Computers and televisions use more energy than heating
  26. Energy sources = the energy.
  27. Nuclear energy is a different kind of energy. Has something to do with mass. See matter
  28. Energy can't be measured

Beginning (preschool - 7 years)


  1. A push or pull requires energy. The sun warms the land, air, and water. People use fuels such as wood, oil, coal, natural gas, electricity or solar to heat and cook.
  2. People can save energy and money by turning off machines when they are not using them.
  3. People try to conserve energy to slow down the depletion of energy resources.

Intermediate (7 years - 11 years)


  1. Energy is a property of many substance and is associated with heat, light, electricity, magnetism, gravity, mechanical motion, sound, nuclei, and the nature of a chemical.
  2. All living organisms need energy. Energy is transferred in many ways from a source to a receiver.
  3. Objects that give off light usually give off heat.
  4. Mechanical energy is usually related to heat through friction.
  5. Hot and cold objects will transfer heat energy until they reach equilibrium. Some material conduct energy better than others.
  6. Some materials can transfer heat by contact or at a distance

Literate (11+)


  1. Energy can be changed from one form to another but not created or destroyed.
  2. Most anything that goes on in the universe involves energy transfer (stars, biological, physical, weather, earth, machines). Heat is almost always a result of energy transfer.
  3. Heat can be transferred by collisions of atoms (conduction), or through space (radiation) or currents in a fluid (convection). Heat energy is the disorderly motion of molecules and in radiation.
  4. Chemical energy is the arrangement of atoms. Mechanical energy is the moving of bodies or in elastically distorted shapes. Electrical energy is the attraction or repulsion of charges.
  5. Different ways of using energy have different environmental consequences.
  6. Energy from the sun (wind, water, solar) is available indefinitely.
  7. Use of solar energy usually requires large collection systems. Different parts of the world have different amounts and kinds of energy resources available.



Dr. Robert Sweetland's notes