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Where does your energy come from? Analyzing your energy bill
http://serc.carleton.edu/acm_face/sustainability/activities/46128.html

Mary Savina, Faculty Career Enhancement Project at ACM Associated Colleges of the Midwest

In this activity students trace the sources of their electricity, heating and cooling, and other components of their energy use though the use of their family's utility bills and information from utility and government websites.

Activity is done mainly out of class, so assigned project time can vary.

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Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

Energy Literacy

Many different units are used to quantify energy.
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1.7 Units of energy.
Energy is a physical quantity that follows precise natural laws.
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Energy is a physical quantity.
Humans transfer and transform energy from the environment into forms useful for human endeavors.
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4.1 Humans transfer and transform energy.
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Various sources of energy are used to power human activities .
Amount of energy used can be calculated and monitored.
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6.8 Calculating and monitoring energy use.
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Human use of energy.

Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:G) Drawing conclusions and developing explanations
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G) Drawing conclusions and developing explanations.
1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:C) Collecting information
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C) Collecting information.
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
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C) Resources.
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:A) Identifying and investigating issues
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A) Identifying and investigating issues.

Benchmarks for Science Literacy
Learn more about the Benchmarks

Industrialization brings an increased demand for and use of energy. Such usage contributes to having many more goods and services in the industrially developing nations but also leads to more rapid depletion of the earth's energy resources and to environmental risks associated with some energy resources.
Explore the map of concepts related to this benchmark

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 must contact their families to get a copy of a recent energy bill. Since this could take several weeks, it is best that this task gets assigned at the beginning of the semester, far in advance of doing this activity.
  • As an alternative, students may be able to access energy consumption from their school through facilities management.
  • A common source of confusion comes from the variety of energy sources used for electricity, heating and cooling. Some students will come from households where climate control - as well as lights, etc. - is all electric. Others will have energy bills that are split between electric units (such as kWH) and thermal units (such as BTU). Ask students to convert everything into kWh.

About the Science

  • Data on energy sources from different states and countries (represented by where students are from) form the basis for discussions about energy sources, including their environmental, societal and economic advantages and disadvantages.
  • For undergraduate students who do not have access to their family's energy bills, analysis of their college's or university's energy consumption in aggregate or per building may be accessible.
  • Confronts the misconceptions that electricity generation and cost across the US and world is "the same."
  • Passed initial science review - expert science review pending.

About the Pedagogy

  • Personalized to each student, this activity engages them in using quantitative skills and research to explore energy consumption.
  • Can be used as a stand-alone assignment for a unit or be used as part of a final exam for a course.
  • As written, this is a college level activity; however, using local data and not requiring energy unit conversions, this activity could be adapted for middle and high school students.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Necessary documents are available and could be easily modified and edited to meet your specific course needs.
  • Instructor must compile class data that can be shared among all students for analysis - instructions for this are provided.

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