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The Big Energy Gamble
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/teachers/activities/3519_energy.html

Jeff Lockwood, NOVA Teachers

Students conduct an energy audit to determine how much carbon dioxide their family is releasing into the atmosphere and then make recommendations for minimizing their family's carbon footprint. Students are specifically asked to understand the units of power and energy to determine the cost of running various household appliances. Finding the amount of carbon dioxide emitted for different types of energy and determining ways of reducing carbon dioxide output is the outcome of the lesson.

Activity takes 2-3 class periods. Technology to show a video is necessary.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Activity supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 2 Cross Cutting Concepts, 5 Science and Engineering Practices
High School: 1 Performance Expectation, 2 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 4 Cross Cutting Concepts, 7 Science and Engineering Practices

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

About Teaching the Guiding Principle
Other materials addressing GPe
Humans can take action
About Teaching Climate Literacy
Other materials addressing Humans can take action

Energy Literacy

Environmental quality is impacted by energy choices.
Other materials addressing:
7.3 Environmental quality.
Many different units are used to quantify energy.
Other materials addressing:
1.7 Units of energy.
One way to manage energy resources is through conservation.
Other materials addressing:
6.2 Conserving energy.
Amount of energy used can be calculated and monitored.
Other materials addressing:
6.8 Calculating and monitoring energy use.

Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.4 Environment and Society:A) Human/environment interactions
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A) Human/environment interactions.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.4 Environment and Society:C) Resources
Other materials addressing:
C) Resources.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.4 Environment and Society:D) Technology
Other materials addressing:
D) Technology.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.4 Environment and Society:E) Environmental Issues
Other materials addressing:
E) Environmental Issues.
3. Skills for Understanding and Addressing Environmental Issues:3.1 Skills for Analyzing and Investigating Environmental Issues:A) Identifying and investigating issues
Other materials addressing:
A) Identifying and investigating issues.
3. Skills for Understanding and Addressing Environmental Issues:3.1 Skills for Analyzing and Investigating Environmental Issues:B) Sorting out the consequences of issues
Other materials addressing:
B) Sorting out the consequences of issues.
3. Skills for Understanding and Addressing Environmental Issues:3.1 Skills for Analyzing and Investigating Environmental Issues:C) Identifying and evaluation alternative solutions and courses of action
Other materials addressing:
C) Identifying and evaluation alternative solutions and courses of action.
3. Skills for Understanding and Addressing Environmental Issues:3.2 Decision-Making and Citizenship Skills:B) Evaluating the need for citizen action
Other materials addressing:
B) Evaluating the need for citizen action.

Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • Clarification - sentence in the foreword: "Some scientists believe that this increase is due to greenhouse gases produced through human activities” is incorrect, because "based on data, scientists have concluded that human activities have caused increases in greenhouse gases."
  • Since consumption is based on formulas with units of power and energy, the educator may have to help students with their calculations.
  • The educator is asked to set up a blog for student research purposes. Technical help to set that up in advance may be necessary.
  • The extension activity for a school audit is very highly recommended, including a guided discussion on what energy use means for the school would be really helpful.
  • To avoid issues of equity, use sample bill (rather than students' using their own homes).
  • The website link to Your Energy Audit is not correct but is currently http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/teachers/activities/pdf/3519_energy_01.pdf.

About the Science

  • Students understand the units of power and energy to determine the cost of running various household appliances.
  • Students determine ways of reducing carbon dioxide output and learn about the amount of carbon dioxide emitted for different types of energy.
  • Good background material is given for students and educators.
  • Good links for energy conservation are included with activity.
  • Great that carbon calculations are laid out - unlike carbon footprint calculators that are black boxes.
  • Comment from Expert Scientist: Each kWh should cost 10 cents not 12 cents to be consistent with the calculation: If a 200-Watt TV were left on 12 hours and each kWh costs 10 CENTS the cost to run the run the TV for all night for one month would be $7.20 (200 Watts for 12 Hours = 2.4 Kilowatt-Hours; 2.4 Kilowatt-Hours x $0.10 per Kilowatt-Hour = $0.24; $0.24 x 30 days = $7.20).

About the Pedagogy

  • Engaging data sheets are included.
  • Activity is very relevant to students' lives.
  • Students uncover answers for themselves in a project-based format.
  • A rubric is included for assessing student work.
  • Great links with fun game, and tips for saving energy are part of the lesson.
  • The activity integrates a good NOVA video clip (4m 33s) from The Big Energy Gamble.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Activity is well organized and laid out, better than black box online calculators.

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Activity supports:

Middle School

Cross Cutting Concepts: 2

Energy and Matter

MS-C5.3:Energy may take different forms (e.g. energy in fields, thermal energy, energy of motion).

MS-C5.4:The transfer of energy can be tracked as energy flows through a designed or natural system.

Science and Engineering Practices: 5

Planning and Carrying Out Investigations, Analyzing and Interpreting Data, Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions, Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

MS-P3.5:Collect data about the performance of a proposed object, tool, process or system under a range of conditions.

MS-P4.4:Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for phenomena.

MS-P4.8:Analyze data to define an optimal operational range for a proposed object, tool, process or system that best meets criteria for success.

MS-P6.4:Apply scientific ideas, principles, and/or evidence to construct, revise and/or use an explanation for real- world phenomena, examples, or events.

MS-P8.5:Communicate scientific and/or technical information (e.g. about a proposed object, tool, process, system) in writing and/or through oral presentations.

High School

Performance Expectations: 1

HS-ESS3-2: Evaluate competing design solutions for developing, managing, and utilizing energy and mineral resources based on cost-benefit ratios.

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 2

HS-ESS3.A2:All forms of energy production and other resource extraction have associated economic, social, environmental, and geopolitical costs and risks as well as benefits. New technologies and social regulations can change the balance of these factors.

HS-ESS3.C2:Scientists and engineers can make major contributions by developing technologies that produce less pollution and waste and that preclude ecosystem degradation.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 4

Energy and Matter, Structure and Function, Stability and Change

HS-C5.2:Changes of energy and matter in a system can be described in terms of energy and matter flows into, out of, and within that system.

HS-C5.3:Energy cannot be created or destroyed—only moves between one place and another place, between objects and/or fields, or between systems.

HS-C6.1:Investigating or designing new systems or structures requires a detailed examination of the properties of different materials, the structures of different components, and connections of components to reveal its function and/or solve a problem.

HS-C7.1:Much of science deals with constructing explanations of how things change and how they remain stable.

Science and Engineering Practices: 7

Planning and Carrying Out Investigations, Analyzing and Interpreting Data, Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions, Engaging in Argument from Evidence, Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

HS-P3.6:Manipulate variables and collect data about a complex model of a proposed process or system to identify failure points or improve performance relative to criteria for success or other variables.

HS-P4.2:Apply concepts of statistics and probability (including determining function fits to data, slope, intercept, and correlation coefficient for linear fits) to scientific and engineering questions and problems, using digital tools when feasible.

HS-P4.6: Analyze data to identify design features or characteristics of the components of a proposed process or system to optimize it relative to criteria for success.

HS-P6.3:Apply scientific ideas, principles, and/or evidence to provide an explanation of phenomena and solve design problems, taking into account possible unanticipated effects.

HS-P6.5:Design, evaluate, and/or refine a solution to a complex real-world problem, based on scientific knowledge, student-generated sources of evidence, prioritized criteria, and tradeoff considerations.

HS-P7.5:Make and defend a claim based on evidence about the natural world or the effectiveness of a design solution that reflects scientific knowledge and student-generated evidence.

HS-P8.5:Communicate scientific and/or technical information or ideas (e.g. about phenomena and/or the process of development and the design and performance of a proposed process or system) in multiple formats (i.e., orally, graphically, textually, mathematically).


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