Lesson plan for Windmill activity


Estimated Length

  • Class period for windmill movie.
  • Approximately 5 class periods for research and construction of windmill


Prerequisite knowledge and skills

The students will have a background knowledge in different types of renewable energy.

They will use their knowledge of wind to have an understanding of how a windmill can produce electricity.

The students should have knowledge of wind basics; such as the fact that wind is created by differences in earth temperature and also the effects of wind on objects, in particular lift and drag. This background knowledge will be used to help build an efficient windmill blade design.

The students should have background in how an electric motor works because the wind turbines will be connected to the electric motors.

The students will incorporate their engineering design skills to build a working windmill that can produce electricity via a toy electric motor.

The students will learn the concept of energy conservation and take into account how they utilize power and if there are things they can do to help cut down their energy usage.

The students will be given various reading material regarding windmills.

Description of New Content

The students will learn how to build an efficient windmill design by taking into account how the lift and drag caused by the movement of wind can be used to make the blades of the turbine move. Through their readings, hypothesis and by trial and error, the students’ goal will be to build the most efficient blade design that will produce the most electricity.

Through this activity, the students’ team skills will be exercised as well as their creativity and their ability to apply engineering knowledge.

The students will understand how electricity is produced and distributed and some of the environmental issues by using coal and nuclear fuels to produce electricity.


The windmill activity is a great way for students to understand and be introduced to a few concepts; how electricity is produced and distributed and how windmills can be used as an alternative and environmentally friendly way to produce electricity.


  • The students will understand the basic concept of how power is distributed from power plants to their homes.
  • The students will be exposed, via various articles, to the advantages/disadvantages or wind power along with some of the advantages/disadvantages of using coal and nuclear fuel to produce electricity.
  • They will understand how electrical energy can be produced via a windmill and generator.
  • The students will build a working windmill that will produce electricity via a toy motor.

Materials Needed



Building the windmill stands is realtively an easy task once you have all the proper tools. The picture on the right shows a completed stand. On the lower left hand side there's a closeup of the motor. The motor can sit inside a PVC elbow joint that will then connect to the main shaft of the windmill stand. The motors that we used fit inside the 3/4" elbow joints which then were connected to the stand.

In order to fit the windmill blades onto the shaft of the toy motor, we used a tinker toy set to accomplish this. Visit http://www.kidwind.org/materials/buildingwindmills/tinkertoy.html to see a demonstration on how this can be accomplished. The blades used were made from cardboard. Check the kidwind site for other materials that could be used for blades.

A list of materials and a reference for prices for building these windmills can be found by clicking here.

The Kidwind site is a great resource for building these windmills. One can find essentially all resources in order to implement this activity.



In the opener, the students will be shown a video on wind energy. Through the video, they will be given a brief history of power distribution in the US and also where current wind farms are located.

A teacher’s model of the windmill, which they are to construct, should be used as the template for the students’ models.


The students will first have short readings from various websites regarding windmill blade design. They will use their knowledge of lift and drag to come up with a plan on what blade design will work best.

After the demonstrations, the students will have a teacher led discussion about what they read about and to talk in depth, if necessary, about any topics that are unclear.

The students will be responsible for taking notes and making sure they understand the material.

Steps for building windmill

a. Students create teams

-The students must assign and document group roles and responsibilities.

b. Define the problem.

c. Research and brainstorm; Divide workload, find and take notes on websites that were provided by the teacher or any other sites that the students can find.

d. The students should then reach a consensus between themselves with respect to a design and document a plan.

e. Create a prototype.

f. Test prototype.

g. Evaluate and document results.

h. Retrofit , repeat the process to improve the design.



  • The students should build a working windmill that produces electricity.
  • The students should know the basics of how a windmill can produce electricity.
  • The students will write an essay about the project which should include the following information:
  • Research support documents ( information about what was learned)
  • group roles and responsibilities
  • Problem definition
  • Research support documents ( information about what was learned)
  • Plan - a formal proposal
  • Lab results, what were the results of the test?
  • What changes were made to the design and why.
  • Retest results
  • Additional information



    Click here for pdf file of this lesson plan.

    The following websites are useful for implementing this activity

    Kidwind.org - website that offers much information and advice on implementing the windmill activity for your class
    Windpower.org - get a crash course on wind power. Good website that keeps concepts simple for quick understanding.
    Watts up with torque - good information with history of windmills
    Otherpower.com - Thourough website with lots of resources
    Energy Kids page - Good website for students to read to get overall background on windmills and wind energy



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