4th Grade Energy Transfer Science Unit - OpenSciEd Elementary
Unit Overview

Unit 4.1 Energy Transfer: Collisions

Why does an object's motion change?

Unit Summary

What sports and games do you like to play? What objects move in those games? How do they change motion? In this unit, students experience and observe what happens to a soccer ball as they pass it back and forth to a partner at different distances, and then they explore other games such as marbles, ice hockey, and other related phenomena they have experienced. From there, the unit supports students in developing foundational ideas about energy, its relationship to changes in motion and shape, and evidence that energy has been transferred between two objects when they collide. Through a series of investigations, students understand that contact forces between two colliding objects (e.g., a foot and a soccer ball or a ball and a surface) transfer energy from one object to the other, and that increasingly bigger kicks (stronger forces) cause the ball to travel farther and with more speed. Students also investigate how energy transfer occurs when a ball or other moving object slows down as it transfers energy to the surface it is moving on, transferring energy as sound and/or heat to the surroundings in addition to changing motion and shape. As students build their understanding of energy and energy transfer, they ask scientific questions, make predictions related to their questions and the cause-and-effect patterns they observe, as well as plan, evaluate, and carry out fair test investigations to gather evidence to support their explanations of phenomena. At the end of the unit, students apply these ideas to a new context as they explain, using evidence, why an object’s motion changes in a game or sport of their choice.

Additional Unit Information

Next Generation Science Standards Addressed in this Unit

Performance Expectations

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This unit builds toward the following NGSS Performance Expectations (PEs): 

4-PS3-1

  • Use evidence to construct an explanation relating the speed of an object to the energy of that object.

4-PS3-3

  • Ask questions and predict outcomes about the changes in energy that occur when objects collide. (Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on the change in the energy due to the change in speed, not on the forces, as objects interact.)

Disciplinary Core Ideas

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PS3.A Definitions of Energy

  • The faster a given object is moving, the more energy it possesses.
  • Energy can be moved from place to place by moving objects or through sound, light, or electric currents.

PS3.B Conservation of Energy and Energy Transfer

  • Energy is present whenever there are moving objects, sound, light, or heat. When objects collide, energy can be transferred from one object to another, thereby changing their motion. In such collisions, some energy is typically also transferred to the surrounding air; as a result, the air gets heated and sound is produced.

PS3.C Relationship Between Energy and Forces

  • When objects collide, the contact forces transfer energy so as to change the objects’ motions.

Science & Engineering Practices

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This unit intentionally develops students’ engagement in these practice elements:

Asking Questions and Defining Problems

  • Ask questions about what would happen if a variable is changed. (AQDP-E1)
  • Identify scientific (testable) and non-scientific (non-testable) questions. (AQDP-E2).
  • Ask questions that can be investigated and predict reasonable outcomes based on patterns such as cause and effect relationships. (AQDP-E3)

Planning and Carrying Out Investigations

  • Plan and conduct an investigation collaboratively to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence, using fair tests in which variables are controlled and the number of trials considered. (INV-E1)
  • Evaluate appropriate methods and/or tools for collecting data. (INV-E2)
  • Make observations and/or measurements to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence for an explanation of a phenomenon or test a design solution. (INV-E3)
  • Make predictions about what would happen if a variable changes. (INV-E4)

Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions

  • Construct an explanation of observed relationships (e.g., the distribution of plants in the back yard). (CEDS-E1)
  • Use evidence (e.g., measurements, observations, patterns) to construct or support an explanation or design a solution to a problem. (CEDS-E2)
  • Identify the evidence that supports particular points in an explanation. (CEDS-E3)

In this unit, there are opportunities to practice the following Science and Engineering Practices:

  • Developing and Using Models
  • Analyzing and Interpreting Data
  • Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information
  • Using Mathematical and Computational Thinking

Crosscutting Concepts

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This unit intentionally develops students’ engagement in these practice elements:

Patterns

  • Patterns of change can be used to make predictions. (PAT-E2)
  • Patterns can be used as evidence to support an explanation. (PAT-E3)

Cause and Effect

  • Cause and effect relationships are routinely identified, tested, and used to explain change. (CE-E1)

Energy and Matter

  • Energy can be transferred in various ways and between objects. (EM-E3)

In this unit, there are opportunities to practice the following Science and Engineering Practices:

  • Scale, Proportion, and Quantity
    Systems and Systems Models

 

Connections to the Nature of Science

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  • Science investigations begin with a question.
    • Students ask questions on the Driving Question Board and define and identify a testable question before conducting their investigations. The teacher points this out when they revisit the Driving Question Board and when students collaboratively determine what testable question is a for their investigations.
  • Science methods are determined by questions.
    • Students craft new questions based on the observations of different collisions. The teacher points this out when students are determining the appropriate ways to collect the data needed to address their scientific questions.
  • Science investigations use a variety of methods, tools, and techniques.
    • Students plan and carry out a series of investigations using different materials and units of measurements. The teacher points out to students that scientists also use different materials and measurements to explore phenomena they are investigating.
  • Science explanations can change based on new evidence.
    • Students update their Class Consensus Model of why a soccer ball’s motion changes after investigations where they have gathered evidence to address their questions. The teachers point this out when the class updates their consensus model and asks for evidence to support their claims.
  • Scientists search for cause and effect relationships to explain natural events.
    • Students construct explanations of the causes and effects of energy and energy transfer, and use patterns in the cause-and-effect relationships they have observed to make predictions of what they will observe in investigations. The teacher points out to students that scientists often rely on previous explanations and observations to make sense of the phenomena they are investigating.
  • Science findings are based on recognizing patterns.
    • Students observe different patterns generated from investigating collisions in multiple trials across different investigations and investigation systems. The teacher points this out when supporting students’ collection, analysis, and interpretation of data.
  • Science uses tools and technologies to make accurate measurements
    and observations.

    • Students plan and carry out a series of investigations using a variety of tools and technologies to make their measurements and observations. The teacher points out to students that scientists also use different materials and measurements to explore phenomena they are investigating.
  • Most scientists and engineers work in teams.
    • Students collaborate to create Classroom Agreements to guide their sensemaking, and collaboratively plan and carry out the investigations in this unit. The teacher points out to students that collaboration is key for scientists to be able to understand how investigation plans are carried out and to determine if data are reliable.
  • Science findings are limited to what can be answered with empirical
    evidence.

    • Students make observations and use those observations as evidence to make sense of energy and energy transfer when trying to explain why does the motion of a soccer ball change. Teachers point this out to students when asking them to identify their evidence when explaining what caused the observations that they made.

Unit Placement Information

What is the anchoring phenomenon and why was it chosen?

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The anchoring phenomenon for this unit is the observable changes in motion of a kicked soccer ball. Students initially explore this phenomenon by safely passing (kicking) a ball back and forth between one another and gradually moving apart from one another with each pass. They also explore other games and sports that involve an object moving from one place to another by playing marbles, watching a video of ice hockey, and reading about other sports. These games all involve energy transfer through contact forces. Importantly, as students collaboratively engage in planning and carrying out their investigations about energy, observing evidence of energy transfer is accessible to all learners since we can feel (heat), see (speeding up or slowing down), and/or hear (sound) energy transfer happening. 

This phenomenon was chosen as the unit anchor for the following reasons:

  • Elementary students were surveyed about their interest in possible phenomena, and students were interested in sports-related phenomena. Educators from our nine partner states also informed us that many elementary students have experience playing or observing soccer or other related sports and that it would be of high interest to young learners.
  • Learning about collisions is integral to PS3.C and as designers we were mindful of the kinds of collisions that could be traumatic for students to discuss in the classroom. We chose sports-related phenomena that did not involve concussions, crashes, and/or and colliding with other players, and our state leaders agreed with that choice.
  • Sports and games are something that nearly all students will have experienced or observed at some point in their lives, and they are phenomena students can experience and observe firsthand in a school setting. Similarly, all students have experience pushing objects from one place to another, and without recognizing it, have sensed (seen, felt, or heard) energy transfer. The soccer kick and other related phenomena allow us to broaden students’ understanding of when and where they experience and observe energy transfer.
  • While simple enough to observe and experience, the soccer kick provides enough complexity for students to plan and carry out investigations that allow them to explore and explain different aspects of the phenomenon. Students are able to design investigation systems to mimic a kick and change variables to test. These experiences allow students to establish their understanding of energy and energy transfer while building on 3rd grade concepts like balanced and unbalanced forces.

How is the unit structured?

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How are connections to CCSS Math used to support student sensemaking in this unit?

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The goal of integrating mathematics in the OpenSciEd units is to build a strong base of knowledge to reinforce and strengthen science learning. Mathematics integration is intentional – to help the storyline along, clarify pieces of the puzzle students are figuring out, or provide students with tools to highlight, analyze, model, and interpret important patterns in the data they are exploring. Mathematical practices (MP4, MP6, and MP7) along with crosscutting concepts are employed throughout the unit to develop student understanding of science ideas and deepen science practices. In this unit, students will use line plots to represent the measurements for the distance a ball travels and analyze and interpret patterns in the data (part of 4.MD.A.2) in lesson 5, 7, and 8. Students will continue to analyze and interpret data from tables and line plots for evidence of energy transfer in collisions in lessons 10 and 11. See the Teacher Handbook for additional support and differentiation options.

Math standards are incorporated into lessons as needed for specific science learning objectives and teacher guides for those lessons include explicit support for teachers and/or students around connecting to those standards. See the Unit Connections to the Common Core Standards matrix for details about where these specific math standard connections happen and how they are used to support the science work in those lessons. These standards are indicated on that matrix with an asterisk (✱).

How are connections to CCSS ELA used to support student sensemaking in this unit?

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The goal of integrating literacy within OpenSciEd units is to offer opportunities for practicing reading, writing, speaking, and listening to support science learning. Literacy is fundamental to science because reading, writing, speaking, and listening are the primary means for students to understand and communicate their science ideas. Students use oral (speaking, listening) and written (reading, writing) language to communicate their science ideas and to support their ongoing science sensemaking. Literacy integration throughout the program also helps students learn how to use their oral and written language in a way that mirrors the work of scientists and engineers.

ELA standards are also integrated throughout the unit to highlight the link between literacy and science for teachers and students. Many ELA standards are incorporated into lessons as needed for specific science learning objectives and teacher guides for those lessons include explicit support for teachers and/or students around connecting to those standards (e.g., W.4.4 in Lesson 1). See the Unit Connections to the Common Core Standards matrix for details about where these specific ELA connection standards happen and how they are used to support the science work in those lessons. These standards are indicated on that matrix with an asterisk (✱).

Several of the ELA Common Core State Standards for 4th are addressed regularly in many lessons of a unit because they are intertwined with students’ science learning and their communication of their sensemaking. The table below describes the ELA Common Core State Standards that are practiced regularly in lessons but that do not always have explicit callouts in a lesson. This is because these standards, or key parts of these standards, are addressed so frequently that it would be repetitive to keep calling them out within the Teacher Guide. They are listed and explained here and they are also listed on the Unit Connections to the Common Core Standards matrix with a checkmark (✔).

Unit Acknowledgements

Unit Development Team

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  • Unit Writing Team
    • Candice Guy-Gaytán, Unit Lead, BSCS Science Learning
    • Areal Joplin, Writer, Northwestern University
    • Adam Kirn, Writer, _________
    • Ashley Stanley, Writer, _______
    • Diego Rojas-Perilla, ROLE, BSCS Science Learning
    • Heather _______? Coherence Reviewer, ____
    • Guy Ollison, Professional Learning Designer, BSCS Science Learning
    • Gail Housman, Field Test Unit Lead, Northwestern University
  • Culturally and Linguistically Sustaining (CLS) Team
    • María González-Howard, CLS Lead, The University of Texas at Austin
    • Carla Robinson, CLS Unit Support The University of Texas at Austin
    • Janna Mahfoud, CLS PL Lead, BSCS Science Learning
  • Literacy Integration Team
    • Tanya S. Wright, Literacy Integration Lead, Michigan State University
    • Amanda Dahl, Text Development & English Language Arts Integration, Michigan State University
  • Math Integration Team
    • Cathery Yeh, Math Integration Lead, The University of Texas at Austin
    • Lauren Rigby, Math Unit Support, The University of Texas at Austin
  • Assessment Team
    • Amelia Gotwals

Production Team

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  • Gen Zoufal, Project Manager, Northwestern University
  • Stephanie Roberts, Copy Editor, Beehive Editing
  • Chris Moraine, Graphic Designer, BSCS Science Learning

Unit External Evaluation

NSTA's Peer Review Panel

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An integral component of OpenSciEd’s development process is external validation of alignment to the Next Generation Science Standards by NextGenScience’s Science Peer Review Panel using the EQuIP Rubric for Science. We are proud that this unit has earned the highest score available and has been awarded the NGSS Design Badge. You can find additional information and read this unit’s review on the nextgenscience.org website.

Unit standards

This unit builds toward the following NGSS Performance Expectations (PEs) as described in the OpenSciEd Scope & Sequence:

  • 4-PS3-1
  • 4-PS3-3
Reference to kit materials

The OpenSciEd units are designed for hands-on learning and therefore materials are necessary to teach the unit. These materials can be purchased as science kits or assembled using the kit material list.

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