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Wind for Schools Curricula: Middle School 7 - 8

Getting Started


Compared to elementary school students, middle school students come to school with more analytical skills and can to synthesize more and varied data sets, extracting ideas or concepts of what the data is illustrating. While they may have heard about wind power, climate change, and other related ideas, they may not totally understand these concepts and how they are related to one another. In middle school we can start to build a foundation around these concepts and weave a more complete narrative using different types of science to connect these concepts and ideas.

Expand Your Understanding

 Concepts and Standards

Making Connections


Climate Change, Power Generation and Renewable Energy

Middle school is a great place to start having students make connections between human-induced climate change, what is driving this process, the reasons for it, and the steps we need to take if we want to reduce carbon emissions. Lessons that start to build vocabulary and understanding will go a long way toward helping students see the connections. The NEED Project investigates all kinds of power generation technologies and sets the stage for delving more deeply into wind.

Weather & Wind


Earth Science

Middle schools students extend their basic understanding of weather and begin to dig more deeply into macro-level concepts around global weather patterns, the causes of wind, and weather patterns over longer periods of time (climate). This provides a great opportunity for students to start looking at more detailed wind data, measuring wind, and exploring wind patterns.

Turbine Design and Function


Pre-Engineering

There are a number of science standards in middle school for which students need to participate in experimental design, data collection and analysis, and optimization of models and devices. Classroom wind turbines (with gearboxes, blades, and generators) provide a robust of area of study for students to engage in meeting these standards through wind turbine design activities.

Forces and Magnetism


Physical Science

Middle school students more deeply explore forces on objects and this can be extended to windmills and wind turbines. Students also begin to learn more deeply about magnetism and electricity and we can extend that exploration to how generators transform the wind energy to electrical energy.

 Most Popular Activities

Shorter Explorations

How deeply you explore wind energy with your students depends on how much time you have available in your academic schedule. If you have 1 to 3 days available and want to explore wind energy, here are the most popular lessons that we use to engage students with wind energy topics.

MacGyver Wind Power
Using identical bags of “junk,” students construct windmills that are designed to lift weights.
How Does a Generator Work?
Students construct their own generators. If they have time, they can try to use the wind to drive these generators and produce power.
Genecon Activities
The NEED Intermediate Wind Guide (Energy from the Wind 6–8) has great activities using Genecons to explore electricity generation and measurement.
Where is it Windy
WindWise Lesson #5 has students explore wind flow on a miniature landscape they create in the classroom and wind flow patterns all over the US.
Siting Activities
The NEED Intermediate Wind Guide (Energy from the Wind 6–8) has a siting activity that explores wind farm construction from a variety of stakeholder perspectives.
Boy Who Harnessed the Wind
A great book for older elementary students! This book documents the life of young boy in Africa who builds his own wind turbine to generate power. This is a very inspiring complement to more advanced wind energy activities. A student reader is available that is appropriate for middle school students.

 Explore Materials

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Students observe birds around their school. They use transects to conduct field work to assess whether birds are being impacted by turbines or other human made structures.
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Using a game students explore the challenges of managing the electrical grid. Explores concepts such as baseload and peak demand and how we use a mix of sources to meet generation challenges.
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Students explore concepts of lift, drag and torque as the relate to wind turbine blades.
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Students combine their knowledge from Wind Blade Investigations and Blade Aerodynamics during a competition to see what team can produce the most powerful turbine.
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Over time, engineers have experimented with many different shapes, designs, materials, and numbers of blades to find what works best. In this experiment, you will explore the optimal blade design to maximize power output.
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In this project, you will design a wind farm, a collection of wind turbines grouped together to create a single wind power plant. The wind farm you design will provide electricity to one or more KidWind Small Water Pumps with the goal of moving as much water as you can, as high as possible
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CPO Science makes it easy to bring real-world engineering and STEM to your classroom. With the Wind Turbine, students explore concepts in engineering design, energy transformation, electromagnetism, and forces. Students will design, test, and refine a working turbine and challenge each other to see which model can generate the highest voltage with this unique equipment module
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After completing "Which blades are best?" lesson students will use a variety of materials to design blades that optimize the power output of a model wind turbine."
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Students will estimate classroom power consumption and then will examine wind energy data to understand the relationship between wind speed and turbine power output. Using these data they can explore the feasibility of powering their classroom or school with a wind turbine.
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Over time student collect wind data and use that to predict power output from a small wind turbine.
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Students will be able to compare and contrast small wind turbine models.
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Students apply the concepts of power and energy in order to test three different types of light bulbs with a Kill A Watt Meter. They then apply these concepts to a variety of loads and explore efficiency.
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Day by Day
  • Day 1: Why Wind Power?
  • Days 2-3: Measuring Wind, Understanding Wind, Where Is It Windy?
  • Days 4-5: Siting a Wind Turbine at School


Extensions
  • Offshore Wind
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How does geography dictate the type of power plants that can be developed.
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Energy Roundup is a good activity to introduce an energy unit or to reinforce students' knowledge of the nation's leading sources of energy. Energy Roundup divides a large group into ten or less small groups.
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Students determine the energy requirements and calculate the cost of using several electrical appliances. Students explore wind systems capable of powering different loads.
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This lesson plan details the wind locally and around the globe, how to measure the wind and wind turbines. It includes information for both students and teachers.
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In this experiment, you will explore variables that affect how a turbine turns. You will then investigate the effect of fan speed on the power output of a wind turbine.
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Students explore forms of energy, sources of energy, and energy transformations through a demonstration, PowerPoint presentation, class discussion, readingpassage and worksheets.
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The NEED Intermediate Wind Guide (Energy from the Wind 6–8) has great activities using Genecons to explore electricity generation and measurement.
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Students will use a “Spec Sheet” to learn the basic characteristics of the Skystream 3.7 turbine used in the Wind for Schools program.
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Students read a passage and explore they history of human use of wind power.
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Students construct their own generators. If they have time, they can try to use the wind to drive these generators and produce power. All wind turbines contain generators that transform the energy of the wind into electricity. Engineers are constantly trying to improve the performance of these generators, allowing the turbines to transform more energy of the wind into electricity. This lesson explores the physics of how generators work and some variables to improve performance.
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Students will analyze media materials related to wind energy to determine which tools are used to create an image and inform opinion. Following their analyses, they will write a persuasive argument for or against wind energy.
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Students will use a limited amount of materials to design and build functioning windmill models. They will use these models to convert wind into usable mechanical energy to lift weights.
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Students will work teams and use the fact sheets and worksheets to research and compare the effects of four electricity generation sources on wildlife. They will then compare and discuss their findings with the class and be prepared to write a summary report.
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Students will work in small groups to learn about the behaviors of different bat species near a wind farm. Based on these data, students will design a dispatch schedule for a wind farm that lowers the risk of bat mortality
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Students will play the role of ornithologists studying potential impacts to birds. They will read about how birds can be impacted by wind turbines and then use the information, along with data on birds and wind farms, to determine potential risk to raptors.
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Student explore the generation and movement of electricty using hand generators, wind turbines and various electrical components.
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Student read passages about wind energy and reflect on the contents. Covers basic wind energy concepts
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This engineering education toy allows young builders to construct six different fully functioning replicas of renewable energy machines, two at a time. It consists of more than 280 assorted parts made of durable plastic. These include rods and connectors for creating a wind-powered lift, a sail car, and a water-powered grist mill that actually move. Building instructions and a comprehensive teacher's guide aligned to national educational standards, including ITEEA, NSES, NCTM, NGSS and Common Core, are included.
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Discover advanced concepts of wind turbine technology, including gearboxes and generator construction (with the GenPack add-on). Students can use the blades they design to generate electricity, lift weights, and pump water. This kit is perfect for grades 7–12 and college. All you need to add is a wind source, basic tools, and imagination!
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This kit allows young scientists to test a variety of blade designs, generate electricity (0.5 –3 V range), and lift weights. The Basic Wind Experiment Kit has all the materials you need to get started understanding wind power. Great for classrooms, as well as individual science fair projects.
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Windmills are the ancient ancestors of modern wind turbines. To understand how wind turbines work, one must first understand a basic windmill. This lesson will help students understand how a windmill captures the energy of the wind and converts it into usable mechanical energy, which is the basis for understanding modern wind turbines. Students will use the engineering design process and the scientific method to design, build, test, and improve their models.
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Using identical bags of “junk,” students construct windmills that are designed to lift weights. Explore the engineering behind blade design and windmill construction and participate in the MacGyver Windmill Challenge.
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Use common household materials to build a windmill. Explore the engineering behind blade design and windmill construction and participate in the MacGyver Windmill Challenge.
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Make a kite out of simple materials and use it to understand where the wind is. Use the flags on the tail of the kite to understand wind speed and direction changes with height.
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You can use a wind sock to find out what direction the wind is coming from. This is very important to know when designing a wind farm.
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By making and using anemometers students measure wind speed and direction and think about how that will affect wind power.
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Students will be able to use environmental clues to assess wind speed.
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Students will work in teams to build what they believe will be the most efficient model wind turbine in the classroom. They will calculate and measure power and tip speed ratio and design experiments to explore the variables that can affect turbine efficiency.
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  • Day #1: Why Wind Power?
  • Day #2/3: Energy Transformations (WindWise Lesson #1 )
  • Day #3/4: Measuring Electricity (Understanding Voltage, Current and Power)
  • Day #4/5: What is a Generator? (WindWise Lesson # 9)
    • Extensions
      • Wind Turbine Math (NEED Activity, Energy from the Wind Guide)
      • Wind Turbines and Blade Design (NEED Activity, Energy from the Wind Guide, WindWise Lessons #10 & #11)
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Students will learn to determine the amount of theoretical, mathematically calculated, power in the wind reaching a turbine and compare it to the actual production of the school turbine. Students will use the data to determine the efficiency of the school turbine. They can then use this information to discuss the positives and negatives of the school wind turbine.
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  • Day #1: Why Wind Power?
  • Day #2/3: MacGyver Windpower
  • Day #4/5: Wind Turbines and Blade Design
    • Extensions
      • KidWind Challenge
      • WhiteBox Learning Design a Turbine Software
      • Energy Transformations - WindWise Lesson #1:
      • Can Wind Power My Classroom - WindWise Lesson # 7 & NEED Wind for School Lesson
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Students will be able to describe and identify different turbine designs and why they are more effective in certain areas than others.
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Students are challenged to think big and toward the future as they explore sustainable solutions to our energy needs and investigate the impact of energy on our lives and the world. They design and model alternative energy sources and evaluate options for reducing energy consumption.
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Build a Sail Car using inexpensive materials to demonstrate how wind can be used to propel an object. Gather measurements, record changes in variables, and use simple engineering design concepts to build sails that can push the car the farthest. Serves 8-24 students (8 Sail Cars). Recommended age range between K-12th grade. Approximately 1 class period required.
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This unit provides background information and hands-on experiments to explore the different forms of energy and how energy is transformed from one form to another. Groups of students master six stations, then teach others about the energy transformations at their stations. The stations include equipment to teach transformations focusing on kinetic and potential energy, heat, light, motors, batteries, and electromagnetism.
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Students will be able to read a wind rose and interpret the most likely wind directions. Students will be able to analyze information about an area (map, descriptions, etc.) and select good and bad areas to site a wind turbine or wind farm.
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The NEED Intermediate Wind Guide (Energy from the Wind 6–8) has a siting activity that explores wind farm construction from a variety of stakeholder perspectives.
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Through a debate and stakeholder process students will identify the many benefits and challenges of siting a wind farm.
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Students will be able to locate the best area for their school’s (actual or fictional) wind turbine installation.
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Students work in teams to prepare a plan and submit a bid for installing a wind turbine on a residence.
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The Power of the Wind teaches youth to design, create, build, and test wind powered devices and explore wind as a potential energy source in your community.
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Students will be able to compare tip speeds of a SkyStream 3.7 with the rated speed of the same turbine and will be able to discover blade speeds at various lengths (intervals) from the hub to the tip.

Students will be able to create a table to show the change in speeds at the different intervals of length from the hub and will discover that maximum blade speed is at the tip. Students will verify that maximum tip speed is at full radius.

Students will be able to write and illustrate an article that describes the difference in speed at the various intervals addressed in the assignment.
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Students explore electric power generation and consider the advantages and disadvantages of different generation technologies through a demonstration, PowerPoint, class discussion, reading passage and worksheets.
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Students use a power monitor to estimate the energy used by all appliances and lights in the classroom and use the wind turbine’s power curve to determine if that demand can be met through wind energy.
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"Through observing a series of demonstrations and participating in hands-on activities, students learn about the relationship between temperature, pressure and wind speed."
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Students discuss the pros and cons of offshore wind and examine maps to choose the most and least desirable locations for offshore wind development.
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Students use a kite or large helium balloon with streamers attached at intervals along the string to visualize the effect of wind shear and turbulence. After measuring the height of the kite in the air, they estimate how high above the ground a turbine would have to be in order to be clear of turbulent winds.
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Students will calculate the costs and potential revenue of two potential wind farm sites. Using these figures, they will determine the current payback period of each site
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Students conduct a web quest to learn about energy efficiency and conservation, storage, and renewable and non-renewable forms of energy. They then create mock budgets to promote various solutions to bridge our demand for electricity with the intermittent supply of wind and solar.
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WindWise Lesson #5 has students explore wind flow on a miniature landscape they create in the classroom and wind flow patterns all over the US. Wind turbines produce more power at higher wind speeds than at lower wind speeds. This lesson helps students understand how topography and elevation affect wind speed. Students analyze maps and make predictions on where wind farms may be located based on regional topography.
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Working in small groups, students use a set of maps, tables, and reading materials to compare and contrast two potential sites for a wind farm.
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Students will use wind turbine kits to test different variables in blade design and measure the power output of each. Students will isolate one variable of wind turbine blade design, then collect and present data for that variable.
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Students identify and explore major blade variables that impact energy output on a wind turbine.
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Student make and test their own wind turbine blades to explore how they affect power production. They also explore basic blade aerodynamics.
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Using simple materials student construct a simple windmill that lifts weights.
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What wind careers are associated with the wind industry.
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A fun way to explore energy and wind power terminology. A great way to start a wind power unit.
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Youth will role play as various stakeholders in their community to determine how they would approach the locating of a utility-scale wind farm in their community.
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This can be a rich way to explore wind power and improve literacy. If students have time, they can write their own stories or books about a wind experience. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kampkwamba (Picture Book). This is a great book for older elementary students. It documents the life of young boy in Africa who builds his own wind turbine to generate power, a very inspiring complement to more advanced wind energy activities. There is a picture book, and a student reader is available that is appropriate for middle school students.
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Students will be able to calculate wind power using model turbines.
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A curricula exploring wind energy basics.
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Students will be able to identify the optimum wind speed for a given turbine.
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A classroom adaptation of the KidWind Challenge where students design and build wind turbine blades and compete to generate the most electricity.
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Youth will use a worksheet to determine what the actual and projected costs that would in incurred for the installation of a wind turbine at a school. A possible extension is to look a wind farms in Colorado and determine the economic costs of building and maintaining a wind farm.
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In this activity, you will build a simple generator and explore how these variables affect generator performance. Uses probes to collect data.
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Students will be able to list different variables that impact the electrical output of a wind turbine.
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In this experiment you will use a wind turbine to do the work of lifting a mass and will calculate the mechanical power (in watts) generated by the turbine as it lifts the weights.
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Students will be able to identify the possible concerns and perspectives of community members. Students will be able to identify pros and cons of a wind turbine installation.
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What impact will a wind farm have in a community from three different perspectives.
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