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Power Source

Steven Semken, SERC - On the Cutting Edge Collection

In this short activity, students or groups are tasked to make concept sketches that track the source of electrical power as far back as they can conceive. The concept sketches reveal students' prior conceptions of the power grid and energy mix, and lead naturally into a lesson or discussion about energy resources and power production.

Activity takes only part of a class period.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Activity supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 3 Cross Cutting Concepts, 1 Science and Engineering Practice
High School: 1 Disciplinary Core Idea, 2 Cross Cutting Concepts, 1 Science and Engineering Practice

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.
Humans transport energy from place to place.
Other materials addressing:
4.4 Humans transport energy.

Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

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.

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

  • This activity is a short introduction, taking only part of a class period. The educator needs to follow this with information about where energy comes from both locally and in the larger scheme of things.
  • Helpful slides on power sources are attached for use by the educator.
  • Electricity generation has shifted since this activity was written. Educators are advised to look up the current electricity sources for their area. A 2016 map, a 2015 interactive map, or the EPA Power Profiler are all helpful ways to learn about your specific energy supplies.
  • Could be linked with a gallery walk so that groups can observe each others' posters.
  • Students can use this activity to investigate further into the particular source/type of energy where they live.

About the Science

  • Engaging and creative way to introduce the complexities of residential energy supply.
  • A great lead-in that can be used to introduce many different topics.
  • Useful for identifying misconceptions about energy sources.
  • Comment from expert scientist: It seems critical to follow up this discussion with an accurate presentation of the national sources of electricity as well as distinguishing between overall energy usage including transportation and electrical usage. Integrated information may be found at https://flowcharts.llnl.gov.

About the Pedagogy

  • Gets students to think about where their energy comes from.
  • Concept sketching allows students to unleash their creativity to show a flow of concepts.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • A simple, fun, and powerful activity.
  • Activity is widely adaptable.

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Activity supports:

Middle School

Cross Cutting Concepts: 3

Systems and System Models, Energy and Matter

MS-C4.2: Models can be used to represent systems and their interactions—such as inputs, processes and outputs—and energy, matter, and information flows within systems.

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: 1

Developing and Using Models

MS-P2.5:Develop and/or use a model to predict and/or describe phenomena.

High School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 1

HS-PS3.B2:Energy cannot be created or destroyed, but it can be transported from one place to another and transferred between systems

Cross Cutting Concepts: 2

Energy and Matter

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.

Science and Engineering Practices: 1

Developing and Using Models

HS-P2.3:Develop, revise, and/or use a model based on evidence to illustrate and/or predict the relationships between systems or between components of a system

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