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Energy Forms and Changes

PhET Team , PhET; University of Colorado

This pair of interactive visualizations allows students to explore basic and more complex concepts around heat conduction, heat capacity and energy transfer. The basic simulation demonstrates how heating and cooling iron, brick, water, and olive oil adds or removes energy from a system and transfers between objects. At the more advanced level, the systems simulation allows students to see that energy takes various forms, as well as how energy flows and changes from one form of energy into another.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

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Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • This would work well as demonstration or as student use.
  • Easy to embed in lesson on energy forms or transfer of energy within systems.
  • Simulation can be easily manipulated.
  • There is a teaching guide if you create a free account.
  • There are Teacher Submitted Activities that include the simulation. Some are in Spanish. The submitted activities include grade levels from K-5 to college undergraduates.

About the Science

  • In the introduction students learn about heat conduction and heat capacity of different materials.
  • In the systems part of the visualization students learn about the transfer of energy in every day systems that occur in real life.
  • Comments from expert scientist: The simulations are engaging and showcase well some real-world example of basic scientific principles.

About the Pedagogy

  • This interactive visualization allows students to experiment with different settings in order to see how energy is transferred in objects/materials and in systems.
  • The visualization is ideal for those who learn by doing.
  • Learning objectives are listed on the main page but teachers may have to create their own assessment and lesson around the simulation.
  • For individual users, small groups, or class demonstration.
  • Students may explore various energy forms and systems at own pace.
  • Grades 3-5 will likely need a lot of scaffolding to understand the visualization.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • The resource requires users to create and sign into an account, but the account is free.
  • You must hold down the temperature under the burner in order for it to work (it is not just click and drag).
  • The visualization is available in 50 languages.

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