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One of the important things that needs to be done is that students
need to have a good analogy to be able to make sense of energy. The
basic one which is used in Modeling is the spring or rubber band. So
going from this to make sense of where E_p is located is to say it is
in the connection which acts like a funny rubber band. The system
approach is also used, but the connecting rubber band is a good
analogy, and is a lot less nebulous. In the case of some forces you
can readily see a strengthening of the field which makes one
comfortable with locating the energy in the field. However in the
case of gravitational the "field" decreases with increasing energy.
In either case putting the energy in the field makes a good
visualization of "where" it is located.