Activity Introduction

Quick summary: Students explore one way that water can be used to generate power by creating a water wheel. Students begin by thinking about all the ways that we can use water and focus on how we can use it for energy. Students are asked to make predictions about their water wheels and record observations.

Activity developed in partnership with   tasmania_hydro_200x84_300pxl

Hydro Tasmania has been at the forefront of clean energy innovation for one hundred years. It is Australia’s largest producer of clean energy – generating hydro and wind power – and the largest water manager. Hydro Tasmania has 55 major dams, operates 30 hydropower stations and has built some of Australia’s largest wind farms.

Hydro Tasmania also sells energy in the National Electricity Market through its retail business Momentum Energy, and sells its expertise internationally through its consulting business Entura. Visit the Hydro Tasmania website to learn how the business is working towards Australia’s clean energy future.

Learning goals:

  • Students understand that water can be used to generate electricity.
  • Students understand that a water wheel is a technology that can be used to move water and harness the energy in water.
  • Students make predictions about how their water wheels will respond to running water.

General capabilities: Critical and creative thinking

Cross-curriculum priority: Sustainability – OI.8.

Australian Curriculum content description:

Foundation and Years 1 & 2 Design and Technologies

  • Explore how technologies use forces to create movement in products (ACTDEK002)

Year 2 Science

  • Earth’s resources, including water, are used in a variety of ways (ACSSU032)
  • Science involves asking questions about, and describing changes in, objects and events (ACSHE034)

Syllabus outcomes: ST1-8ES, ST1-9ES, ST1-4WS

Topic: Hydro Tasmania, Energy.

Time required: 60 mins

Level of teacher scaffolding: High – oversee activity and lead or assist in construction of water wheel

Resources required:

  • Cool Australia’s How to Make a Water Wheel Instruction Sheet
  • Waterwheel image
  • Two circles of cardboard of the same size, at least 15cm in diameter
  • Some small plastic or cardboard cups of the same size (number will depend on the size of your cardboard circles and the size of your cups)
  • Stapler and staples or masking tape
  • Bucket or trough
  • Long stick long enough to comfortably rest across the bucket or trough

Digital technology opportunities: Digital sharing capabilities (extension).

Homework and extension opportunities: Includes opportunities for extension.

Keywords: Water, wheel, energy, hydropower.

Cool Australia’s curriculum team continually reviews and refines our resources to be in line with changes to the Australian Curriculum.


Teacher Worksheet

Teacher preparation

Overarching learning goal: By participating in this activity students understand that the energy created by the movement of water can be used to generate electricity. Students will make predictions and investigate how a water wheel responds to running water.

Teacher background information: Energy is the lifeblood of our modern life. It gives us light and keeps our food fresh. It powers our industry, fuels our cars, and charges our iPhones. Our energy is produced by burning fossil fuels and this has a range of environmental, social and economic impacts. One of the most significant is the emission of greenhouse gases. A solution is the transition to clean energy sources. The brilliant thing is that we have huge amounts of free, renewable and clean supplies of natural energies. These include sunlight, wind, running water, oceans and underground hot rocks.

According to the Clean Energy Australia Report 2013:

  • 14.76% of Australia's electricity came from renewable s
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Student Worksheet

Thought starter: What other types of wheels can you think of?

Answer these questions about your water wheel -

What caused the wheel to spin the fastest?

What speed caused the most splashes?


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