My modelling grade 11 students know that energy is a number with many formulas, but my grade 6 students have a lot of different ideas about the meaning of energy.
Many have identified different kinds of energy, which is a good approach but doesn’t really answer the question.
Others are clearly half-remembering a good-intentioned elementary school class in which they learned (although I suspect ‘were told’ would be accurate) that living things need energy. Perhaps I could ellicit a description of photodynthesis or a food web from these students.
Beyind the curriculum, I have been attracted to energy because of the way it has been adopted by youth culture. One student defined energy as “whatever is in” a can of Monster energy drink. I am in need of an area of focus for a culture+physics project I am doing, and energy seems appropriate.