Back to Project Listings

Learn about our sources of energy through drawing

Objective: To create a series of drawings illustrating where we get our energy from, and to foster an appreciation of energy uses in everyday life.

New Mexico Standards and Benchmarks: 


Time: 4 hours


  1. Some chocolate chips

  2. A piece of coal

  3. Some motor oil

  4. A solar powered device, such as a calculator, or radio.

  5. Five pieces of drawing paper (larger than 8 x 11 inch) per student and crayons or markers.

  6. A lamp with an accessible 40-60 watt light bulb.


Note: All the drawings should be done in "landscape" format, that is, long side at the bottom. The teacher may also want to consider making one large drawing for each concept, with all the students helping in the drawing.

Part I: Body energy and food

Begin by explaining that energy is something we need to be able to do things. 

Ask the students why they eat food in the morning. Explain that we eat so that we will have energy to do things.

Ask them what would happen if they didn't eat food. Explain that they wouldn't have any energy, so they couldn't do things.

Ask them to pretend that they don't have any energy (lie on the floor playing dead).

Give them a few chocolate chips each and let them eat them. Now ask them to jump around and pretend that they have lots of energy. 

Ask them again where their energy came from. Make sure they realize its from the chocolate chips.

Explain that they are going to create an "Energy Book", so that they can teach their friends and parents about energy. Have them write "Energy Book" and their name on the first page in big letters. 

Ask the students where food comes from. Explain that it comes from plants and animals. Therefore, our body's energy comes from eating plants and animals.

Ask the student where plants get their energy. Explain that it comes from the Sun.

On the second paper, have them draw a horizontal line in brown across the bottom of the paper, and draw a yellow sun in the upper left hand corner. Now, in the leftmost third of the paper, have them draw a green plant, and yellow rays from the sun falling on the plant. Draw an orange fruit hanging from the plant.

In the middle third of the page, have them draw a person eating a piece of the fruit.

In the right most third of the page, have them draw a person running, or jumping.

Have them label the picture "how people get energy".

When the drawing is done, guide them through the flow of energy, starting from the Sun, through the plants, and into the actions of people.

Part II: Energy for cars

Now ask the students if cars need energy to go places. Explain that yes, cars need energy just like people.

On the third piece of paper, have them draw a brown horizontal line across the middle of their paper to represent the ground. Then have them draw a picture of a car on the upper left corner of the paper. Show them how to add streaks to indicate motion. 

Ask the students where cars get their energy. Explain that cars have to "eat food" to get their energy, just like people, and specifically that cars have to "drink" gasoline to make them go. The gasoline has energy in it. Have them add a box to the car to represent a gas tank to the car in blue, and label it "gas tank". 

Ask the students if they remember going to a gas station with their parents. Now have them add a gas pump to the upper right corner of the paper,  with a hose feeding the tank. Also add a sign that says "gas station".

Ask the students if they know where gasoline comes from. Explain that gasoline is made from dead dinosaurs and the plants around them. Show them the piece of coal and the motor oil. Explain to them that this is in fact dead dinosaurs and very old plants. Point of that the oil is the same color as the coal, and that they come from the same source. The explain that gasoline comes from oil.

Have them draw a picture of a dead dinosaur to the bottom half of the drawing. A dead dinosaur can be drawn as a regular dinosaur shape, but with x's for eyes. They can add some dead plants too. Now add a drawing of a pipe going from the dinosaur to the gas pump. 

Remind them that the car is "eating" the dead dinosaur to get energy. Ask them if they could eat a dead dinosaur?!

Part III: Electrical Energy

Turn off the room lights, and turn on the lamp. Have the students come up and cup their hands around the light bulb, and feel the light hitting and warming their hands. Ask the students what the light coming out of the lamp is made of. Explain that the light is different from the other things in the room: the other things in the room are made of matter, whereas the light is made of lots of little pieces of pure energy which travel quickly through space. Remind them that the Sun also gives off light, and is therefore a source of pure energy.

Ask the students if the light bulb needs "food" to make light (yes). Explain that bulb's "food" is electrical energy, just like the toys, but in this case, the electricity comes through the lamp's electrical cord. Show them the cord, and the wall socket. Warn them never to touch the wall socket because there is so much (electrical) energy there.

Ask them to name five other things that are powered by electricity.

Ask them if they know where the electrical energy from the wall socket comes from. Tell them that like the car, most of it comes from dead dinosaurs and plants. Specifically, tell them that coal is mostly used for electricity, while oil is used for cars.

On the fourth piece of paper, have them draw a brown horizontal line across the middle of their paper to represent the ground.  Have them draw a small sun in the upper leftmost corner. Next to that, a house with a peaked roof on the left side with two yellow light bulbs inside inside. Leave 3/4 of the paper to the right of the house open. 

To the right of the house, but left of center, draw a few large crosses to represent power line poles, and just right of center, draw another box about the size of or bigger than the house, to represent a power plant. Then draw wires from the power plant across the poles to the house and the lamp. Label the power plant as "power plant". To the right of the power plant, draw a small train, hauling (black) coal. Draw another dead dinosaur underneath the train, and a hole going down to the dinosaur with a bucket hauling up the coal for the train. 

Now explain the flow of energy, from the Sun to the plants and the dead dinosaur, to coal, then the coal to the power plant, and from the power plant to the house via the electrical lines. 

Now explain that we can also capture electricity directly from the Sun, using solar cells, and from wind, using propellers connected to generators. Demonstrate a solar cell powered device to them at this time.

Draw a thick line on top of roof, parallel to the left slope of the roof, to represent a solar panel. Draw yellow rays from the Sun to the panel. Then draw a wire from the panel to the lamp. 

Ask the students if there are any problems with using old dinosaurs and very old plants for energy. Explain that there are three problems:

Explain that the solar panel captures light energy from the Sun without any of these problems, and therefore, that many people think its a better source of energy.

You may also want to draw a picture of a wind power turbine (a tower, motor, and propeller blades), to the left of the house, with a wire running to the lamp.

Label the drawing "How people get electricity".

Part IV: Heat energy for Houses

Turn on the lamp again, and show them that the light bulb gets hot (have them touch it very quickly or put their hands near it to feel the heat). You might want to put a chocolate chip on the light and watch it melt. Ask them if they've ever felt anything else hot, and have them describe it. Hold a piece of paper against the light bulb, and have them feel that it gets hot too. Explain that something hot has energy, and that this is called "thermal" or "heat" energy.  

There are many other ways you might introduce heat as well, for example, by placing a black painted rock in a sunny window, or if there is a warm radiator in the room. Another interesting way is to have the students make a fist and vigorously rub a sheet of plexiglas. Plexiglas provides the right kind of friction to make their hand feel hot.

Ask the students what people need heat energy for. Explain that heat energy is needed, for example, to stay warm, and also for cooking. Ask them how their house stays warm. 

Explain that most people get heat for their houses by burning old dinosaurs and very old plants, or by burning wood from trees. Also explain that some people get house heat by letting the Sun shine through the window.

On the fifth piece of paper, have them draw a picture of a house with a window, and Sun, with rays coming through the window. Explain that this is one way they can get heat energy for their house. 

Then draw a black box in the house, with squiggly lines radiating out, and with a pipe going down to a dead dinosaur. Explain that this another way of heating the house, that is, by burning dead dinosaurs and very old plants.  

Label the drawing "How houses get heat energy"

Part V: Analysis


After the activity, and then again a week or so later, ask the students the following questions:

  1. Where does the energy of your body come from? (Answer: from food)
  2. Where does the energy of food come from? (Answer: from plants and animals).
  3. Where does the energy of plants and animals come from? (Answer: the Sun!)
  4. Where does the energy that cars use come from? (Answer: from gasoline).
  5. Where does the energy of gasoline come from? (Answer: from dead dinosaurs and very old plants).
  6. What kind of energy do lamps use? (Answer: electrical energy)
  7. Where does electrical energy come from? (Answer: from dead dinosaurs and very old plants, and also from the Sun or from the wind).
  8. Where kind of energy keeps use warm and cooks our food? (Answer: heat energy).
  9. Where does heat energy come from? (Answer: from burning dead dinosaurs and very old plants, and also from the Sun).

return to project listing