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There's a Thief in My Kitchen (energy efficiency of different lightbulbs)

Connecticut Energy Education

In this activity, students calculate the cost of the energy used to operate a common three-bulb light fixture, and compare the costs and amount of CO2 produced for similar incandescent and compact fluorescent light bulbs.

Activity takes one to two class periods. Lamps and access to sockets necessary.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Activity supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 4 Cross Cutting Concepts, 4 Science and Engineering Practices
High School: 3 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 1 Cross Cutting Concept, 6 Science and Engineering Practices

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

About Teaching the Guiding Principle
Other materials addressing GPe
About Teaching the Guiding Principle
Other materials addressing GPg

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.
Energy is a physical quantity that follows precise natural laws.
Other materials addressing:
Energy is a physical quantity.
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:D) Technology
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D) Technology.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.4 Environment and Society:E) Environmental Issues
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E) Environmental 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
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C) Identifying and evaluation alternative solutions and courses of 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

  • Educators should add short answer questions for a final assessment.
  • An interesting graphic that summarizes energy usage can be found at http://needtoknow.nas.edu/energy/interactive/our-energy-system/.
  • For best results, place the light bulbs close to the thermometers (10 - 20 cm).
  • Educators should stress that the personal change in energy has to go beyond changing light bulbs, but it is a good start.
  • Educators may want to include LED bulbs in the investigation part of the activity.

About the Science

  • Simple, yet effective, activity that has students investigate differences in energy expenditure between regular incandescent and compact fluorescent light bulbs. LED bulbs are mentioned in passing, but they are not part of the energy expenditure investigation.

About the Pedagogy

  • There are opportunities for data collection, written responses, data sharing and whole class discussion, which will address different types of learners.
  • The hands-on activity is a nifty way for students to understand why compact fluorescent light bulbs are so efficient and how much less energy loss (heat) there is with them.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Registration is required to access the materials, but it is free.
  • Very clear and well-illustrated directions for students and educators.
  • Hands-on part of the activity requires lamps and access to electric outlets.

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Activity supports:

Middle School

Cross Cutting Concepts: 4

Energy and Matter, Patterns, Scale, Proportion and Quantity

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.

MS-C1.4:Graphs, charts, and images can be used to identify patterns in data.

MS-C3.3: Proportional relationships (e.g., speed as the ratio of distance traveled to time taken) among different types of quantities provide information about the magnitude of properties and processes.

Science and Engineering Practices: 4

Planning and Carrying Out Investigations, Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking, Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions, Engaging in Argument from Evidence

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

MS-P5.5:Use digital tools and/or mathematical concepts and arguments to test and compare proposed solutions to an engineering design problem.

MS-P6.6:Apply scientific ideas or principles to design, construct, and/or test a design of an object, tool, process or system.

MS-P7.5:Evaluate competing design solutions based on jointly developed and agreed-upon design criteria.

High School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 3

HS-PS3.A1:Energy is a quantitative property of a system that depends on the motion and interactions of matter and radiation within that system. That there is a single quantity called energy is due to the fact that a system’s total energy is conserved, even as, within the system, energy is continually transferred from one object to another and between its various possible forms.

HS-PS3.A2:At the macroscopic scale, energy manifests itself in multiple ways, such as in motion, sound, light, and thermal energy.

HS-PS3.B1:Conservation of energy means that the total change of energy in any system is always equal to the total energy transferred into or out of the system.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 1

Energy and Matter

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.

Science and Engineering Practices: 6

Planning and Carrying Out Investigations, Analyzing and Interpreting Data, Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking, Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions, Engaging in Argument from Evidence

HS-P3.1:Plan an investigation or test a design individually and collaboratively to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence as part of building and revising models, supporting explanations for phenomena, or testing solutions to problems. Consider possible confounding variables or effects and evaluate the investigation’s design to ensure variables are controlled.

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-P5.5:Apply ratios, rates, percentages, and unit conversions in the context of complicated measurement problems involving quantities with derived or compound units (such as mg/mL, kg/m3, acre-feet, etc.).

HS-P6.4:Apply scientific reasoning, theory, and/or models to link evidence to the claims to assess the extent to which the reasoning and data support the explanation or conclusion.

HS-P7.1:Compare and evaluate competing arguments or design solutions in light of currently accepted explanations, new evidence, limitations (e.g., trade-offs), constraints, and ethical issues

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.

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