Learning Resource Type

Lesson Plan

Harnessing The Wind (Part One)

Subject Area





In this lesson, students will investigate materials to determine which materials would be best to harness the power of the wind. Students will design, construct, and race a puff mobile.  Students will create a class chart to record data from the puff mobile race. Students will compare features from the puff mobiles with the best race times.

This lesson results from a collaboration between the Alabama State Department of Education and ASTA.

    Science (2015) Grade(s): 4


    Design, construct, and test a device that changes energy from one form to another (e.g., electric circuits converting electrical energy into motion, light, or sound energy; a passive solar heater converting light energy into heat energy).*

    Unpacked Content



    • criteria
    • constraint
    • energy
    • device
    • convert
    • design
    • construct
    • kinetic
    • potential
    • transform
    • evidence
    • engineering design process
    • ask
    • imagine
    • plan
    • create
    • improve


    Students know:
    • Energy can be transferred from place to place by electric currents.


    Students are able to:
    • Use scientific knowledge to generate design solutions that convert energy from one form to another.
    • Describe the given criteria and constraints of the design, which include the following:
      • The initial and final forms of energy.
      • Describe how the solution functions to transfer energy from one form to another.
    • Evaluate potential solutions in terms of the desired features.
    • Modify the design solutions to make them more effective.


    Students understand that:
    • Energy can be transferred in various ways and between objects.
    • Engineers improve existing technologies or develop new ones but are limited by available resources.

    Scientific and Engineering Practices

    Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions

    Crosscutting Concepts

    Energy and Matter

    Primary Learning Objectives

    After completing this activity, students should be able to do the following:

    1) describe materials which are best to "harness" the power of the wind

    2) design, construct, and test a device that converts wind energy to kinetic energy.

    3) create a class flow chart to illustrate data

    4) make a facts chart to compare design features



    Introduce the lesson by gathering a deep breath and blowing it out. Then, ask the students to draw a picture of what they see in their science journals (expect some confused looks).  Gather another deep breath, this time blowing it out onto a pinwheel and ask the students to draw a picture of what they see in their science journals.  Give the students a few minutes to create their drawings.  Ask the students, "What was the difference in the two drawings"?   Facilitate a discussion about the power of wind (although it is invisible, it is very powerful), and then pose the question, "What could happen if someone could harness the wind?"

    Read the picture book The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer, aloud to the students.  After reading, talk about what it means to "harness the wind".


    Pass out the Wind Rating Chart, and place the students in groups with 4 students in each group.  Using the Wind Rating Charts, the students will test different materials to investigate their ability to "harness" the wind and use the Wind Rating Chart to rate their ability. 

    After groups have had some time to explore the materials, ask the following:

    1.  Do you notice any similarities in the materials that easily harness the wind?   (they were thinner, lighter, easily allowed air to travel)

    2.  Which material/materials worked best at harnessing the wind? (plastic grocery bags, clear plastic wrap, paper)


    Pass out the Puff Mobile Design & Evaluation Sheet and say, "Remember that puff of air that made the pinwheel spin?  You are going to design a vehicle that is powered by a puff of air."  Allow the groups time to design, build, and test their puff mobiles.  Then section off a track and allow the groups to race their puff mobiles.  


    Create a class chart on the wall or smartboard to record data from the race, including which puff mobile traveled the farthest in the shortest amount of time.  Next to that chart, create a Wind Facts Chart to compare design features of each puff mobile. Lead a discussion about the similarities or differences in the vehicles that traveled the farthest distance in the shortest amount of time. What features do they have in common that may have helped to increase their time?

    Assessment Strategies

    This lesson will be assessed based on the Puff Mobile Rubric and the Puff Mobile Design and Evaluation Sheet.


    Students can visit the American Clean Power Association at https://cleanpower.org/facts/state-fact-sheets/ and click on each state's fact sheet.  Are there similarities within these states that make them better suited for wind energy? 


    Students who need extra support should be placed in groups with teammates sensitive to the needs of that student.  The teacher may need to more closely supervise groups that contain students who are struggling with the concepts of this lesson.

    Approximate Duration

    Total Duration

    31 to 60 Minutes

    Background and Preparation


    For Teacher:  When you blow, you create moving air, or wind. When the wind pushes against an object, it can make the object move. Adding wheels to the object or adding more wind can make the object move even faster.  Lighter materials are easier to catch the wind.

    At the age of 14, William Kamkwamba used the power of wind to construct a windmill and bring electricity to his village.

    Teachers should always be alert to safety in the science classroom.  Please review safety guidelines with students before daily instruction.  Caution children about choking on candy, paper cuts, and the sharpness of the paper clips. Caution students with asthma. Goggles should be used any time small parts are used to protect the eyes.

    For the Student:  This is an introductory lesson to wind power.  No prior knowledge is needed.

    Materials and Resources

    Materials and Resources

    The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, a picture book by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer

    toy pinwheel


    for the puff mobile: (instructions)

    paper clips      

    wind testing materials:

    plastic grocery bags
    clear plastic wrap
    aluminum foil
    construction paper
    small fan or hair dryer     


    Wind rating chart 

    Puff Mobile Design & Evaluation Sheet

    Puff Mobile Rubric

    Puff Mobile Instructions