In the United States, cars are the most widely used mode of personal transportation. This means that most students are familiar with traveling in cars and most likely have experience with watching their parents fill their cars with fuel. They also know that cars emit exhaust, and that car engines warm after the engine has been running. These experiences are ones that your students will share and can be used to help them build a more complete understanding of gasoline and energy in cars. What happens to fuel once inside the car can be mysterious to students. They often believe the fuel either evaporates or turns into energy. Many students, however, do connect fuel use with exhaust. Energy transformations inside a car engine are also a mystery. How does the energy in gasoline give us kinetic energy to move the car? This energy transformation deserves a closer look.
Watch this video of 4th and 5th grade students in San Diego, California—a coastal community. The purpose of this classroom video is to listen to students' ideas about what happens to energy in cars.
For additional classroom context, video analysis, and reflection opportunities, read the Picture of Practice page for "Energy From Cars" in the Energy Potential Environmental Literacy Teacher Guide, page 33.