What Is Energy?

Contributor: Roxann Penny. Lesson ID: 12898

When you think of energy, you might think of cars, electricity, heaters, the sun, athletes . . . you probably don't think of rocks or sleeping dogs. Learn what these things have in common energy-wise!



learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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Energy may be defined as the ability to cause motion or create change.

Every day, you use energy to get things done. For example, you use energy to brush your teeth, clean your room, ride your bike, and dance to your favorite song.

There are different forms of energy. They include sound, light, electrical, and thermal energy. These types of power fall into two main categories.

  • potential energy
  • kinetic energy

Potential energy is energy that is stored in an object. This type of energy is released when an object is in motion. Look at the cup in the image below.

  • What would happen if something bumped into the cup?

cup of water

The cup on the edge of the wall contains potential energy because it is not moving; it is at rest. It has the potential to fall off the wall. If the cup falls off the edge, its potential energy is released in the falling motion.

In other words, the cup in its resting state contains stored energy. When the cup is in motion or falls, its stored or potential energy is released.

It is important to note that the amount of energy released by an object depends on the speed at which the object is moving and the weight of the object.

The second category of energy mentioned is kinetic energy. Kinetic energy may be defined as the energy of motion. Any moving object has kinetic energy.

The moving swing in the image below has kinetic energy.

tire swing

If the swing stops moving or is no longer in motion, its energy is stored as potential energy. Once the swing starts moving again, its potential energy is transformed into kinetic energy.

This leads to another critical point about energy, Energy cannot be created or destroyed; instead, it can be transferred from one form to another.

For example, lighting has a potential electric energy that is transformed into light, heat, and sound energy.

To continue learning about energy, move to the Got It? section to practice sorting the different forms of energy.

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