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So windy

  • GCSE
  • Popular Activity
  • Topical

Type: Activity
Learning Strategy: Data work
Topic: Generating electricity

Thursday 18 January 2007 was the windiest day in the UK for 17 years. Winds of up to 100 mph caused millions of pounds worth of damage and killed thirteen people. In this activity, students learn what wind is, calculate the energy of wind at different speeds and consider how and why wind can be both dangerous and useful.

14-16 How Science Works:
1c: How explanations of many phenomena can be developed using scientific theories, models and ideas.

Published: 19th January 2007
Reviews & Comments: 6

Learning objectives

Students will:
• Understand that air has mass, and that moving air (wind) has kinetic energy.
• Be able to calculate the kinetic energy of wind at different wind speeds.
• Be able to apply this knowledge to consider the uses and dangers of wind.

Try the activity

You will need Acrobat Reader installed to open the activity sheets.

11 – 14 Energy and electricity (KS3 QCA module 9I)
• Useful changes usually involve energy transfers. The term 'kinetic' is useful when describing energy.

14 – 16 How science works: data, evidence, theories and explanations
• 1c: How explanations of many phenomena can be developed using scientific theories, models and ideas.

14 – 16 Energy - see downloadable teachers' notes for details of individual specifications

Running the activity

Display page 1. This sets the context and asks three key questions, which are the focus of the activity. Use the illustrations and the key questions to briefly discuss the uses and dangers of wind.

[Optional] Display page 2, and get small groups of students to use the concept cartoon to decide what wind is and why it can be dangerous.

Display page 3, which explains that the kinetic energy carried by the wind is a function of its mass and speed.

Then distribute copies of page 4 (more able students) or page 5 (less able students).
Page 4 prompts students to calculate the kinetic energy in a 'gym-full' of air moving at different speeds [KE = column A column D]. They then plot a graph to summarise their calculations. Page 5 gives the answers to the calculations on page 4, as well as graph axes on which students can plot the results of the calculations.

Extension: Pupils could use the m/s to mph conversion table (see web links) to convert the fastest recorded gust of wind on 18th Jan (99mph or 100 mph, depending on which newspaper you read!) to m/s and then calculate the kinetic energy of it.

Page 6 prompts students to interpret their graphs and the Beaufort scale (page 7) to estimate wind speeds that endanger trees and to consider the impact of wind speeds on wind turbines.

Extension: If time allows pupils could make a survey of wind speed at different points around the school campus, and use this information to think about how electricity companies choose sites for onshore wind farms.

Note: The calculations are, of course, greatly simplified. No attempt is made to consider how much energy is transferred from the moving 'gym-full' of air to a tree, for example.

News links

BBC news
BBC News report, with links to video reports.
BBC news
Images of the wind on 18th Jan 2007
XC Weather
Live wind data for many areas in the UK.
Online conversion
Converts m/s to mph and vice versa.
Fact file about wind.

Reviews & Comments

Write your online review to share your feedback and classroom tips with other teachers. How well does it work, how engaging is it, how did you use it, and how could it be improved?


Sep 2nd, 2013

5 Star

Brilliant for a topic on wind turbines. Especially for trying to bring together lots of HSW skills in one activity.

Reviewer: Hannah Jones

addicted to energy

Dec 7th, 2010

5 Star

Pupils enjoyed discussing ideas for a present which was eco -friendly. The pupil presented this information which was filmed.The pupils in the class evaluated each others presentation.

Reviewer: valerie mitchell

Energy Yr 9

Feb 22nd, 2008

5 Star

My students really enjoyed using this resource along with several of the other energy activities. Students had to produce a ppt presentation to the rest of the class, their fellow students then evaluated and levelled their presentation.

Reviewer: Janet Brewer

So windy

Feb 9th, 2007

3 Star

Used this with a middle set of year 9's, level 4-5 borderlines. Showed the screens through a projector onto the whiteboard, much better than printing as already mentioned by other reviwer they dont print and copy so well.
They liked the opening screens really did focus them onto the task.
They were able to fill in the data grid with some prompting and some calculators.
Again projecting the sheet on the board got some to fill in the grid at front of class for every one to check answers. Graph section worked well and nearly all plotted the graph without help. They were able to find the energies for the winds from the graphs and this got discussion going as we do have trees like that on site. Well worth doing.

Reviewer: w woodburn

So Windy...

Feb 9th, 2007

4 Star

Found this activity useful, very appropriate as we had wind damage to school recently. The .pdf files look fantastic on the whiteboard and helped to promote some good discussion points. They dont print off very well as handouts as on a mono printer some of the lighter colours failed to print leaving some big gaps for the students to fill in.
This was the first resource I have used and would give it the thumbs up! (as long as you put it on a whiteboard!!)

Reviewer: Olly White

So Windy

Feb 4th, 2007

5 Star

This activity appeared at just the right time, looking at energy resources etc. I used it with a middle set year 9 group. Unfortunately the video clip wouldn't load which spoilt the starter a bit, but we all discussed the wind the previous week. I didn't attempt the equation with this group, but explained the concept, and gave them the results to draw the graph.
This took them a while, but helped with their Sc1 skills. They then used the graph to find the wind speed needed to knock down different sized trees, and some got further and used the Beaufort scale to estimate the wind speed that day.
I think this activity was useful for the graph drawing practice, but the KE equation was too difficult for my Y9's, better for KS4.

Reviewer: Joanne Rankine

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