Energy around us

  • What forms can energy take?
  • What are energy sources?
  • Can energy be transferred from one form to another?


Let's find out how energy can be all around us.

Energy comes in many different forms and is all around us.

Identifying energy all around us

There are many things we do daily that require energy. We get energy from food, so breakfast is an important meal. Movement requires energy and in this picture some people are carrying some boxes, also using energy. There are other kinds of energy in this picture too.

Learners need to know all these different kinds of energy. There are bicycles, motor cars, motor bikes and an aeroplane and all these kinds of transport need energy to move. Also there are electric lights on the streets which give us the light we need. There is sound energy coming from the man playing a guitar, from people talking, from the traffic. A lady is sun tanning on her roof and absorbing the Sun's energy. There are many activities happening in this town. It is up to the teacher to ask as many open-ended questions as possible to get learners to discuss the different uses of energy.


  1. Look at the following picture.
  2. Draw a circle around all the places where you think energy is being used.
  3. If you have coloured pencils, you can colour the picture in.


  1. Write down five of the activities that you circled.

We saw in the activity that energy comes in many different forms, such as light, heat, movement and sound energy. Let's take a closer look at these different forms of energy.


Light is energy that travels in rays. Some of these rays we can see, so we call that visible light. Some of the rays we cannot see but we can feel their effect on us. We cannot see ultraviolet (UV) rays but they burn our skin when we are in the Sun without sunblock. We can also not see infrared rays but we can feel how hot they are on our skin.

Living things need light energy from the Sun to survive.

Your body also needs sunlight to make Vitamin D in your skin. Without Vitamin D your body cannot absorb calcium and your bones cannot grow and get strong.

Light comes from a light source. Anything that produces light is called a source of light.

  • The Sun is a source of light.
  • Stars are sources of light.
  • A fire is a source of light.
  • A candle is a source of light.
  • An electric bulb is a source of light.

Having fun with shadows

A shadow of an object forms when light cannot pass through it. Let's see how many different and interesting shadows we can make!


  • differently shaped objects
  • a torch

The teacher can provide some interesting objects for the class, such as differently shaped cut-outs. This activity could also be done as a teacher demonstration if enough equipment is not available.


  1. Work in pairs.
  2. Find some objects around the classroom.
  3. Once you all have some objects, ask your teacher to turn the lights off and close the curtains in your classroom.
  4. Stand with your partner near a wall.
  5. One of you must hold a torch and shine it onto an object that you have found so that a shadow is made on the wall.
  6. Your partner must guess which object it is from the shadow. Do not peak at the actual object!
  7. Experiment in your pairs with one object and answer the questions.
Can you make a shadow shaped like a dog?!


How can you make the shape of the shadow bigger?

Hold your hands/object closer to the light source.

How can you make the shape of the shadow smaller?

Hold your hands/object further away from the light source.


Do you enjoy standing outside on a warm summer day and feeling the warmth from the Sun on your skin? What about warming your hands on a frosty cold morning in front of a fire? You are feeling heat! We discussed that the Sun provides us with light, but it also provides us with heat.

Look at these lions enjoying lying in the heat from the Sun!

Heat can be found in many different places. Anything that provides us with heat is a source of heat. Let's look more closely at different sources of heat energy.

Sources of heat energy


  1. Look at the pictures of some sources of heat energy below.
  2. Can you recognise the source of heat energy in each picture?
  3. Fill in the sources for each picture.
  4. Can you think of any other sources of heat energy from everyday life? Add some of your own sources of heat energy into the blank blocks.

Examples can include: Electric blanket, bar heater, wall heater, fan heater.


Wood fire


Extend your thinking


  1. Look at the picture of the lady in the image below.
  2. Answer the questions.


How does the blanket help her to stay warm?

It stops the heat from her body leaving

Do you think a blanket should be included in the table above showing the SOURCES of heat energy? Complete the sentence below by drawing a line through the option you do not want. Then write an explanation for your choice:

Yes I think it IS a source of heat energy / No, I think it is NOT a source of heat energy


Prompt questions to walk children through this thought process. What is the blanket actually doing for us, i.e. does it give off/contain heat energy? No. So, therefore a blanket is not a SOURCE of heat energy, it is a means by which to KEEP heat energy in a space. The blanket is providing insulation.


When objects are moving, they have movement. The faster the object is moving, the more movement it has. Look at the examples of movement below.

While you are riding your bicycle, you have movement.
A race car that is travelling has lots of movement.
A rocket that is taking off has a huge amount of movement.
When I am dancing I have movement!

Look at the front cover for Energy and Change. Three of the Thunderbolt Kids have movement. Who are they and explain why they have movement?

Jojo has movement energy as he is running while he flies a kite. Farrah has movement energy when she is swinging her arms as she plays the marimba/instrument. Sophie has movement energy as she is kayaking and moving her arms and body through the water.


Did you know sound is also a type of energy?! Sound is everywhere.

Observing sound energy around us


  1. Close your eyes and be very quiet for two minutes.
  2. Be very still and listen to your surroundings.
  3. Write down five different sounds that you heard.

Sound is a special type of movement. Sound is energy that makes substances vibrate. Sound travels as vibrations that we can hear and sometimes even feel. All sounds are caused by vibration of substances.

Use your dictionary to write down a definition for `vibration'.

a rapid to and fro (back and forth) movement across a central point that is repeated

Sound can come from different sources. You can clap your hands, stamp your feet, talk, sing or play a musical instrument. Different vibrations will make different sounds.

Use a ruler to make sound

MATERIALS (What you will need):

  • aruler
  • the edge of a desk

INSTRUCTIONS (What to do):

  1. Put the ruler on the table so that it sticks out over the edge.
  2. Push the ruler down.
  3. Pluck the ruler and hear the sound.


You can see the vibrations of the ruler as it moves. Can you hear the vibrations?

Discuss these conclusions from this activity with your learners:

  • You cause vibrations by giving energy to the ruler.
  • The ruler gets vibration energy from you.
  • The ruler is a very simple musical instrument!

Stored energy

Energy is also stored in some sources. Stored energy is the energy that is stored in our food, in petrol, in wood, oil and other chemicals. Batteries also contain chemicals which are used to store energy. This stored energy can be used for different purposes.


  1. When we eat food, the stored energy in the food can be used by our bodies.
  2. When we burn wood or coal, the stored energy is released as heat energy that we can use to keep us warm.
  3. When we burn gas, we can use it to cook our food.
  4. When we turn on a car, we use the energy in the petrol to give movement energy to the car.
Energy is stored in food, such as eggs, which we eat for breakfast.
Burning coal releases the stored energy as heat and light.
Natural gas stores energy which is released as heat when it burns to cook our food.
When your parents or taxi driver turn on the ignition in their car, the energy stored in the petrol or diesel is released.

Transfer of energy

Energy can also be transferred (moved) from one part of a system to another part.

You must have heard of electricity before? We use electricity every day in our modern lives. Electrical energy can be transferred from a source to an appliance or light bulb.

Write down some things which you think need electricity in your life.

Anything from lights in the house, the stove, the fridge, boiling the kettle, to using a hair dryer

Look at this picture of the light bulb below. Electrical energy is transferred from a source to the light bulb to make it glow.

A light bulb gives off light energy and heat energy.
In a torch, energy is transferred from the batteries to the bulb.

Have you ever used a torch before? How do you think the bulb lights up in the torch? The batteries are the source of energy in the torch. When the torch is turned on, the energy is transferred from the batteries to the bulb to make it light up so you can see in the dark.

This brings us to the next section. We can think of the energy in the batteries of the torch as being the input energy and the light energy that is given off by the bulb as the output energy.

Input and output energy

Whenever anything happens, energy is transferred from one component into another. People, machines and appliances need an energy input to work. They also have an energy output that may be useful.

Let's look at some examples.

Example 1:

A girl is running a race. In order for the girl to have energy, she needs energy from somewhere. Her input energy is the chemical energy from the food that she ate. By running the race, she is giving out energy in the form of movement energy and heat.

Example 2:

A TV will only work if it is plugged in. It needs energy to work. While watching TV, electrical energy is the input and light and sound is the output.

Example 3:

A torch will not work when you turn it on unless it has batteries. The input energy for the torch to work comes from the chemical energy in the batteries which is changed to electrical energy. The output energy from the torch is light and heat energy.

Machines and appliances

We use lots of appliances in our lives. These machines and appliances need input energy to make them work. This is usually electrical energy. The output energy (the work the appliance or machine does) is something that is useful to us.

Let's look at some examples.

Investigating the input and output energy of appliances

After going through this activity to identify what the output energy is (and there are often more than one), go through the appliances in which there are output energies which are incidental and not the main purpose of the appliance. For example in a lamp, the main purpose is to get light energy, but heat energy is also given off. Heat energy is the incidental energy. many learners struggle to identify what the core phenomena are (the output energy which is essential to the function of the appliance, such as light energy in a lamp) and what the peripheral ones are. This activity presents an ideal opportunity to start teaching some of these appliances. Once you have gone through all the appliances, perhaps explain the concept with the lamp, as it is easy to understand, and then go through the others and ask learners what the essential output energy is that you want from the appliance and which are the incidental ones which also occur. For example, with a drill the main, essential output is movement, and the peripheral, incidental output energies are sound and heat energy. Another concept to note, which can be subtly introduced at this point, is that in order to make an appliance energy efficient, you want to minimise the energy conversion to the incidental energy output and maximise the energy conversion to the essential energy output.


  1. Below are pictures of different appliances.
  2. Each one has input energy (electricity) and output energy which is transferred to the surroundings, such as heat, sound, light or movement.
  3. Look at each image and write down the type of output energy that it transfers to the environment.
  4. Some of the appliances may transfer more than one type of energy to the surroundings!


Output energy transferred to surroundings


Heat energy


Heat energy (and movement energy of the water)


Heat and light energy

Hair dryer

Heat and sound and movement energy

Vacuum cleaner

Sound and movement (air) energy

Electric fan

Movement energy and sound energy


Movement and sound energy, and heat energy (the motor and drill bit gets hot)

In summary, we can say that in appliances and machines, the input is normally electrical energy and the output depends on the appliance:

  • Heat energy - from a geyser, stove, kettle, hair dryer
  • Sound energy - from a drill, vacuum cleaner, hair dryer
  • Light energy - from a lamp, torch
  • Movement - from an electric fan, drill

  • Energy is all around us.
  • Energy can be moving in the form of light, heat, sound and moving objects.
  • Energy can be stored in food, wood, coal, oil and natural gas.

In the table, fill in examples of different sources of energy.

Light energy source

Heat energy source

Sound energy source

Stored energy source










stove plate

guitar or instrument






There are many correct answers for this table. As with the last activity, you can also distinguish between the primary (functional) conversions and the secondary (incidental) conversions.

Which sense organ do you use to detect sound?

You use your ears.

A hearing-impaired person cannot hear music. How do you think someone who is hearing impaired could still dance to the music?

They can feel the vibrations through their feet or hands. They can feel the music.

Which sense organ do you use to detect light?

You use your eyes.

For each of the following appliances, decide what is the input energy and identify the output energy.


Input Energy

Output Energy


chemical or electrical


hair dryer


heat and moving energy

car moving

chemical from petrol

moving energy and heat

riding a bicycle

chemical from food

moving energy and heat

playing drums

chemical and moving


lights in your home


light and heat

plants growing

light and heat / solar


What does "energy is transferred" mean?

The word transfer means `to move from one person, place, or object, to another'. Therefore, `energy transfer' means that energy has moved from one object to another, for example, from a battery to a torch bulb.

List three substances that contain stored energy that we can use.

Three substances could be food, wood, oil, petrol, coal, etc.