Work, Power and 100 Watts of Energy

Eighth Graders Use Their Minds – and Feet – for Physics Lab

Up, down, then up again. On a recent afternoon, Mount Madonna School eighth grade students exercised their minds and bodies, by first walking, then running up and down a couple of flights of outdoor stairs on their hillside, mountain campus. Fitness wasn’t their primary goal, however, this was science class, part of a physics unit on energy. This cardio activity was a means to calculate their “work” (force x distance) and their “power” (work/time) and compare it to a common household object, the 100-watt lightbulb.

“While students already know that the higher the number of watts a lightbulb has, the brighter it is and more energy it has,” said teacher Nicole Silva. “In this lab, however, they figured how that is calculated and what creates wattage.

“Students realized that they have ‘power’ and were able to compare while running or walking up stairs how much energy it takes to light a 100-watt bulb,” she continued. “In fact, many students didn’t even create 100 watts of energy when walking up the stairs, though most did when running. This activity engaged students’ minds and bodies to help them understand the difference between work and power as they calculated it using their own data – their own human body walking and/or running up stairs – which turns these abstract physics concepts into laws they understand.”


Contact: Leigh Ann Clifton, director of marketing & communication,

Nestled among the redwoods on 375 acres, Mount Madonna School (MMS) is a diverse learning community dedicated to creative, intellectual, and ethical growth. MMS supports its students in becoming caring, self-aware, discerning and articulate individuals; and believe a fulfilling life includes personal accomplishments, meaningful relationships and service to society. The CAIS and WASC accredited program emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville. Founded in 1979.