ITEEA The Elementary STEM Journal, Vol. 24, Issue 4
PublisherInternational Technology and Engineering Educators Association, Reston, VA
ReleasedMay 1, 2020
The Elementary STEM Journal, Volume 24, Issue 4 - May, 2020

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Activity - Making Wind Turbines


Making Wind Turbines

by Tracy Young

During these trying times of the COVID-19 pandemic, you might be wondering what STEM activities you can have your students do at home or activities to do with your own children. There are numerous “real world” activities that can be explored. Let’s begin by thinking about some of our natural resources as well as nonrenewable and renewable resources.

You can start a conversation with your students by asking the question: What are natural resources, renewable, and nonrenewable resources? 

Natural resources can be either renewable or nonrenewable. They serve as the sources of energy for electricity generation. Coal, oil, and natural gas are fossil fuels; they are nonrenewable resources because it takes millions of years for them to form. Solar, moving wind, moving water, and biomass resources are examples of renewable resources. All sources of energy used to produce electricity require energy conversion to change their original form of energy to electrical energy.

After conversations have been had about natural resources, renewable resources, and nonrenewable resources, pose the question: What do you know about wind energy? 

Wind energy (or wind power) refers to the process of creating electricity using the wind, or air flows that occur naturally in the earth’s atmosphere. Modern wind turbines are used to capture kinetic energy from the wind and generate electricity (American Wind Energy Association). A wind farm or wind park, also called a wind power station or wind power plant, is a group of wind turbines in the same location used to produce electricity. Wind farms vary in size from a small number of turbines to several hundred wind turbines covering an extensive area. Wind farms can be either onshore or offshore.

IMG_9750-300-med.jpgWind turbines work on a simple principle: instead of using electricity to make wind—like a fan—wind turbines use wind to make electricity. Wind turns the propeller-like blades of a turbine around a rotor, which spins a generator, which creates electricity.

Making wind turbines is a great activity for students of all ages to participate in, and materials can be easily found around their homes. There are also many variations of wind turbines that can keep sudents building and comparing designs and collecting data. 



making a wind turbine


The standards and benchmarks for this lesson are outlined in the chart below.

Standards for Technological Literacy

STL 5. The effects of technology on the environment.

STL 6. The role of society in the development and use of technology.

STL 8. The attributes of design.

STL 9. Engineering design.

STL 10. The role of troubleshooting, research and development, invention and innovation, and experimentation in problem solving.

STL 11. To apply the design process.

STL 12. To use and maintain technological products and systems.

IMG_0410-300.jpgCommon Core State Standards for English Language Arts

SL4. Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and organization, development, and style appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

Next Generation Science Standards

4-PS3-2. Make observations to provide evidence that energy can be transferred from place to place by sound, light, heat, and electric currents.

4-ESS3-1. Obtain and combine information to describe that energy and fuels are derived from natural resources, and their uses affect the environment.

Common Core State Standards for Mathematics

4.NF.6. Use decimal notation for fractions with denominators 10 or 100. For example, rewrite 0.62 as 62/100, describe length as 0.62 meters, locate 0.62 on a number line.

4.MD.3. Apply the area and perimeter formulas for rectangles in real-world and mathematical problems.

4.G.1. Draw points, lines, line segments, rays, angles (right, acute, obtuse), and perpendicular and parallel lines. Identify these in two-dimensional figures.


Pencil, compass, ruler, protractor or cup (to trace), string, straw, washers (or coins), tape, cardstock, scissors, and a fan.


1.     Using a compass, ruler, and protractor, measure and draw a 10-cm-diameter circle with a pencil on your card stock. If compass, ruler, and protractor are not available, trace a cup. Cut out the circle.

2.     Fold the circle in half, then fourths, then eighths. Open the circle back up. Each angle should measure 45 ̊.

3.     Place a quarter-sized object in the center of the circle and trace it. This will be the guideline for where to cut the blades. Cut 8 blades by cutting along the 8 fold lines, to within 2 cm of the center. Make sure not to cut all the way to the center. When finished cutting, use the point of a sharp pencil to poke a small hole in the center.

4.     Bend each blade gently up on one side so that all blades are curved up in the same direction. Don’t over-bend the blades. Just bend them to give them a curve or twist. You may need to make adjustments to the blades when you use your turbine.

5.     Set up the turbine system by sliding the blade on the wooden skewer about 4–5 centimeters from the blunt end and taping it in place. Tape may be needed on both sides of the blade to securely attach it to the wooden skewer.

6.     Slide a straw over the wooden skewer.

7.     Attach a string to the end of the skewer and tie a small washer (or tape a coin) at the other end of the string.

8.     Use tape or other materials to create a system that allows the string to roll up on the end of the skewer causing the washer (or coin) to wind up.

9.     Hold the wind turbine in front of a fan so that the turbine will spin and roll up the string, lifting the washer.


Ask students: What is the input of the energy system, what is the process, and what is the output? (The input is the wind, the process is the wind turning the turbine, the output is the energy being transferred to the string to wind up the washer or coin).

Students can discuss and record the terms turbine, system, source, fossil fuels, kinetic energy, and potential energy.


Once the 1 washer (or coin) is lifted, add more coins to see how many can be lifted. 

Create a new version (or versions) of a wind turbine to compare.

Explore wind turbines in your area for further discussion (practicing safe social distancing).

This is a fun and informative activity that keeps students engaged. This activity could lead to conversations about how other turbines work. Students can research other ideas on how “simple” wind turbines could be made with materials found around their home. If materials are available, students could possibly look further into small motorized turbines and how they work. 

If you have any questions, comments or have additional ideas, please contact the author at the email address below.

IMG_0436-300-crop.jpg IMG_9171-300-med.jpg


Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy 
Forrestal Building 
1000 Independence Avenue, SW 
Washington, DC 20585

American Wind Energy Association 
1501 M St. NW, Suite 900 
Washington, DC 20005

Engineering byDesign™ 
International Technology and Engineering Educators Association 
1914 Association Drive, Suite 201 
Reston, VA 20191


Tracy Young is the STEAM Specialist at Benton Hall Academy in Little Falls, NY. She is the Engineering byDesign™ instructor for students in kindergarten through grade five. Tracy is also the secretary of ITEEA's Elementary STEM Council. She can be reached at