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Zero-Energy Housing

Jonathan MacNeil, Malinda Schaefer Zarske, Denise W. Carlson, TeachEngineering by the Integrated Teaching and Learning Program

Students investigate passive solar building design with a focus on heating. Insulation, window placement, thermal mass, surface colors, and site orientation are addressed in the background materials and design preparation. Students test their projects for thermal gains and losses during a simulated day and night then compare designs with other teams for suggestions for improvements.

Activity takes multiple (six to seven) 50-minute class periods. Additional materials are necessary.

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Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

About Teaching the Guiding Principle
Other materials addressing GPe
About Teaching the Guiding Principle
Other materials addressing GPg
Sunlight warms the planet
About Teaching Principle 1
Other materials addressing 1a

Energy Literacy

Humans transfer and transform energy from the environment into forms useful for human endeavors.
Other materials addressing:
4.1 Humans transfer and transform energy.
One way to manage energy resources is through conservation.
Other materials addressing:
6.2 Conserving energy.
Behavior and design affect the amount of energy used by human society.
Other materials addressing:
6.6 Behavior and design.

Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:B) Designing investigations
Other materials addressing:
B) Designing investigations.
1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:C) Collecting information
Other materials addressing:
C) Collecting information.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.4 Environment and Society:D) Technology
Other materials addressing:
D) Technology.

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

  • Students may use materials they find instead of purchasing listed materials.
  • Hardware stores will likely provide the necessary materials for free when used in an educational environment.

About the Science

  • Comments from expert scientist: The resource integrates engineering and math concepts, together with a broad sustainability-oriented introduction, in a hands-on activity.
  • Activity shows three examples of model homes that were built for solar efficiency (cliff homes, caves, and mound homes) and shows set-up for clarity.
  • Activity addresses engineering, mathematics, and solar energy science concepts.
  • Excellent background material provided.

About the Pedagogy

  • Open-ended inquiry based activity that uses teamwork, class discussions and a hands-on project that will address diverse learning styles.
  • Opportunity for creative and divergent thinking students to excel.
  • Appropriate for kinesthetic learners.
  • Worksheets and data sheet are excellent.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Large amount of materials must be gathered ahead of time, but options for substituting items abound.

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