In The Classroom: Xploring Energy Transformations

In The Classroom: Xploring Energy Transformations

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Madeline Runion is a sixth grade general science teacher in Southwest Virginia. Runion as been teaching for three years. She is always looking for hands-on activities that allow her students to have fun and learn.

When you teach in a rural community, your access to technology is sometimes limited. My students do not always have the luxury of using computers or other devices whenever they want. We have to find other ways to get technology into the classroom. I have to be really creative, and sometimes that can be challenging. When it was brought to my attention that I should try the UL Xplorlabs Portable Electrical Power activity with my students, I was excited. This module was a great way to incorporate technology into class, and UL Xplorlabs is a free and easily accessible resource.

UL Xplorlabs from Underwriters Laboratories (UL) modules are inquiry-based STEM online interactive lessons that include video and hands-on experiments. They align with the Next Generation Science Standards, which works perfectly for my curriculum. Likewise, this was aligned with Virginia state standards. My students are required to create and interpret a model or diagram of an energy transformation and this activity helped them do just that!


The interactive video was great. It was easy to watch and kept the kids interested by using a hoverboard example. We learned about lithium-ion batteries and how they are used in many electronic devices!


Thermal runaway was another term we learned which is “a rapid, uncontrolled increase in temperature causing additional increases in temperature, usually resulting in a hazardous situation.” Basically, if we do not test batteries to withstand certain things like overcharging or dropping, they could potentially combust.

I used the example of the to have my students understand why scientists test batteries. My students could not believe that s were that “dangerous” or that they needed so much testing. And honestly, I could not believe it either. I loved that I got to learn with my students as well and try out different scenarios throughout the interactive video. My students particularly loved watching the

After watching the interactive video, I decided to try The Bologna Test lab extension. In sixth grade, we talk about energy transformations, which is a difficult topic for students to understand because they cannot see the transformation. I usually use examples like a light bulb (electrical to thermal energy to light energy) but they have a hard time recalling this information. When I saw this lab, I knew it would be a perfect visual for my students. Plus, anything with food is a hit (but of course, they did not eat this one)! We started off by talking about what would happen if someone swallowed a battery and what it would do. After the discussion, I told them that we were going to test our hypotheses.

Every student got gloves, bologna, a lithium battery, and some saline solution. Once every minute for 10 minutes they observed what happened. The bologna started to look pretty nasty and they could see that the battery was burning it. They could not control their reactions. They loved it! When I asked what energy transformation they saw they got it right away! Chemical energy to thermal energy! My students had a blast conducting the experiment and I was so happy to see them have fun learning too.

STEM activities are so important for students. Our world is constantly evolving. Technology is EVERYWHERE, and the students now will need these basic skills to keep up in the world. Using the UL Xplorlabs has given my students a FREE way to explore their engineering skills! They are able to solve problems through science and make educated discussions on different topics.