Students may think that energy disappears when an object is thrown upwards

Energy and Thermal Physics

Misconception TEACHER COMMUNITY

Students may think that energy disappears when an object is stationary. In particular, this is prevalent when teaching about energy transfers and the gravitational potential energy store. The idea of 'potential' energy is difficult for students to comprehend, and students fail to identify where the energy transfers when an object is thrown upwards.

Resources to Address This

  • This simulation from PhET demonstrates how energy stored kinetically transfers to gravitational potential energy as the skater reaches the top of the ramp, but the total energy remains the same.

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  • Demonstrate how energy can be transferred between kinetic energy, gravitational potential energy and back to kinetic energy. Start with the mass low down and 

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  • Demonstrate this analogy to help students conceptualise energy stored gravitationally.

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  • Use demonstration 1 in this activity to aid an explanation of transferring energy between kinetic energy and gravitational potential energy.

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With thanks to the teaching community for submitting this misconception.

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