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

Jeff Lockwood, NOVA Teachers

In this activity, 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.

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

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»


Climate Literacy

This Activity builds on the following concepts of Climate Literacy.

Click a topic below for supporting information, teaching ideas, and sample activities.

Energy Literacy

This Activity builds on the following concepts of Energy Literacy.

Click a topic below for supporting information, teaching ideas, and sample activities.

Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.4 Environment and Society:A) Human/environment interactions
Other materials addressing:
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 a sample bill (rather than students' using their own homes).

About the Science

  • Activity addresses ways of reducing carbon dioxide output and the amount of carbon dioxide emitted for different types of energy.
  • 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.
  • Good background material is given for students and educators.
  • Good links for energy conservation are included with activity.
  • 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.
  • Note that NSTAR is now Eversource, and that the sample NSTAR electric bill referred to in Step 3 is no longer available.
  • Video clip from NOVA's The Big Energy Gamble was not accessible as of October 2016.

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