Skip to main content


3rd Grade Energy and Electricity Workshops prepared for Bartle Elementary School, Highland Park, New Jersey


During the 2011-12 school year, eight graduate students from Rutgers and Princeton Universities, participants in the National Science Foundation-funded Nanotechnology for Clean Energy IGERT, led Energy and Electricity Workshops for 3rd grade students at Bartle Elementary School in Highland Park, New Jersey, coinciding with their Electricity and Magnetism science unit. The workshop introduces the concept of energy sources and their conversion to electricity by asking the question “Where does electricity come from?” The 60-minute workshop has been designed to enrich the Electricity and Magnetism science unit and coordinate with the New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards (8.2 Technology, Engineering and Design). One workshop was presented to each 3rd grade class individually, focusing on energy power from wind, water and sun.

The workshop starts with a short discussion of some of the concepts that the students already understand about electricity and introduces them to different sources of energy that can be used to generate electricity. During the workshop, the students are divided into three groups: wind, solar and water, and each group rotates through the different energy stations supervised by IGERT trainees. Each group is given a short demonstration showing how wind, water or the sun (light) can be used to generate electricity, followed by a 10 minute hands-on activity, ranging from building a solar cell with fruit juice, powering an LED with a waterwheel and choosing the best blade design for a windmill. The students are also shown a demonstration of a model fuel cell car with a demonstrating how electrical energy from a solar cell can be stored and used, introducing a more complicated concept, electrical energy storage. The stations were designed and run by the IGERT program trainees under the supervision of Dr. Johanna Bernstein, IGERT program coordinator. The IGERT program is led at Rutgers University by Prof. Manish Chhowalla. Funding for this workshop was supported by the NSF Grant No. 0903661 “Nanotechnology for Clean Energy IGERT.”

Address Goals

This activity is designed to teach the trainees the valuable skill of communicating science to members of the wider public with little knowledge of science and engineering. By learning to make difficult concepts easy to understand, the trainees improved their general communication skills. Simultaneously the activity provided opportunity to expose students early in their K-12 education to fun science and energy related topics. This early intervention is important in ensuring that young children recognize that science and engineering can be fun and beneficial for society. This in turn may help them to pursue STEM disciplines in higher education. Thus, this activity is designed to train doctoral students in the IGERT program to communicate science to the wider public as well as fostering interest in young K-12 students who may go on to become scientists and engineers in their own right.