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A guide to the energy of the Earth

Joshua M. Sneideman, TED-ED

This animated video outlines Earth's energy. The video presents a progression from identifying the different energy systems to the differences between external and internal energy sources and how that energy is cycled and used.

Video length is 4:43 min.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Video supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 8 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 1 Cross Cutting Concept
High School: 14 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 1 Cross Cutting Concept

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Sun is primary energy
About Teaching Climate Literacy
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Energy Literacy

The quality of life of individuals and societies is affected by energy choices.
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Energy affects quality of life .
Energy is a physical quantity that follows precise natural laws.
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Energy is a physical quantity.
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Various sources of energy are used to power human activities .
Decisions concerning the use of energy resources are made at many levels.
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5.1 Energy decisions are made at many levels.
Earth is constantly changing as energy flows through the system.
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2.1 Changes in energy flow over time.
Energy available to do useful work decreases as it is transferred from organism to organism.
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3.3 Continual input of energy is needed.
Energy flows through food webs in one direction, from producers to consumers and decomposers.
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3.4 Energy flows through food webs.

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

  • Recommend viewing this video several times as it covers content in under five minutes. There is a progression from identifying the different energy systems to the difference between external and internal energy sources and how that energy is cycled and used.
  • Students may have to have some prior knowledge of energy before watching this video as many terms are mentioned in passing (such as Earth's systems, geothermal and rotational energy, combustion and respiration, primary and secondary consumers, etc).

About the Science

  • Provides a basic overview of energy from global energy sources to end-user consumption.
  • Provides overview of how energy is cycled through Earth systems (atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere and biosphere).
  • Animations throughout the video provide a good foundation for understanding the underlying science.
  • Comments from expert scientist:
    Scientific strengths: The video broke down a very complex topic -- energy flow chains on earth -- into a short, digestible video that could be understood, for the most part, by someone without a science background. The animations coupled nicely with the narration to help visually explain the concepts being discussed (e.g. the picture of the lithosphere explained what it is, without the narrator having to).
    - Some terminology could be defined and explained better. (6 Joules of energy is pretty arbitrary, for example, and may confuse some people.)
    - Similarly, not everyone knows what convection is, and in this case the animation did not explain it well at all.
    - Greenhouse gases "trapping" longwave radiation isn't quite right, but is perhaps the best, simple metaphor for what they do.
    - Suggest clarifying the bit regarding the efficiency of primary vs. secondary consumers. The video makes it sound as though animals should just all eat plants to be more efficient; in reality, certain animals are specifically herbivores or carnivores; their bodies lack the ability to process certain foods.

About the Pedagogy

  • Video does a nice job of tying science to societal impacts.
  • Resource includes watch, think, dig deeper, and discuss supplementary online links that accompany the video to support additional resources for user to explore.
  • Provides 10 multiple choice and short-answer questions in the THINK menu for further discussion and a review of the main points of the video.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Video supports:

Middle School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 8

MS-ESS2.A1:All Earth processes are the result of energy flowing and matter cycling within and among the planet’s systems. This energy is derived from the sun and Earth’s hot interior. The energy that flows and matter that cycles produce chemical and physical changes in Earth’s materials and living organisms.

MS-ESS2.C3:Global movements of water and its changes in form are propelled by sunlight and gravity.

MS-ESS2.D1:Weather and climate are influenced by interactions involving sunlight, the ocean, the atmosphere, ice, landforms, and living things. These interactions vary with latitude, altitude, and local and regional geography, all of which can affect oceanic and atmospheric flow patterns.

MS-ESS2.D3:The ocean exerts a major influence on weather and climate by absorbing energy from the sun, releasing it over time, and globally redistributing it through ocean currents.

MS-LS2.B1:Food webs are models that demonstrate how matter and energy is transferred between producers, consumers, and decomposers as the three groups interact within an ecosystem. Transfers of matter into and out of the physical environment occur at every level. Decomposers recycle nutrients from dead plant or animal matter back to the soil in terrestrial environments or to the water in aquatic environments. The atoms that make up the organisms in an ecosystem are cycled repeatedly between the living and nonliving parts of the ecosystem.

MS-PS3.B2:The amount of energy transfer needed to change the temperature of a matter sample by a given amount depends on the nature of the matter, the size of the sample, and the environment.

MS-PS3.D1:The chemical reaction by which plants produce complex food molecules (sugars) requires an energy input (i.e., from sunlight) to occur. In this reaction, carbon dioxide and water combine to form carbon-based organic molecules and release oxygen.

MS-PS3.D2:Cellular respiration in plants and animals involve chemical reactions with oxygen that release stored energy. In these processes, complex molecules containing carbon react with oxygen to produce carbon dioxide and other materials.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 1

Energy and Matter

MS-C5: Energy and Matter

High School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 14

HS-ESS2.A1:Earth’s systems, being dynamic and interacting, cause feedback effects that can increase or decrease the original changes.

HS-ESS2.A2:Evidence from deep probes and seismic waves, reconstructions of historical changes in Earth’s surface and its magnetic field, and an understanding of physical and chemical processes lead to a model of Earth with a hot but solid inner core, a liquid outer core, a solid mantle and crust. Motions of the mantle and its plates occur primarily through thermal convection, which involves the cycling of matter due to the outward flow of energy from Earth’s interior and gravitational movement of denser materials toward the interior.

HS-ESS2.B1:The radioactive decay of unstable isotopes continually generates new energy within Earth’s crust and mantle, providing the primary source of the heat that drives mantle convection. Plate tectonics can be viewed as the surface expression of mantle convection.

HS-ESS2.C1:The abundance of liquid water on Earth’s surface and its unique combination of physical and chemical properties are central to the planet’s dynamics. These properties include water’s exceptional capacity to absorb, store, and release large amounts of energy, transmit sunlight, expand upon freezing, dissolve and transport materials, and lower the viscosities and melting points of rocks.

HS-ESS2.D1:The foundation for Earth’s global climate systems is the electromagnetic radiation from the sun, as well as its reflection, absorption, storage, and redistribution among the atmosphere, ocean, and land systems, and this energy’s re-radiation into space.

HS-LS2.B2:Plants or algae form the lowest level of the food web. At each link upward in a food web, only a small fraction of the matter consumed at the lower level is transferred upward, to produce growth and release energy in cellular respiration at the higher level. Given this inefficiency, there are generally fewer organisms at higher levels of a food web. Some matter reacts to release energy for life functions, some matter is stored in newly made structures, and much is discarded. The chemical elements that make up the molecules of organisms pass through food webs and into and out of the atmosphere and soil, and they are combined and recombined in different ways. At each link in an ecosystem, matter and energy are conserved.

HS-LS2.B3:Photosynthesis and cellular respiration are important components of the carbon cycle, in which carbon is exchanged among the biosphere, atmosphere, oceans, and geosphere through chemical, physical, geological, and biological processes.

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.A3:These relationships are better understood at the microscopic scale, at which all of the different manifestations of energy can be modeled as a combination of energy associated with the motion of particles and energy associated with the configuration (relative position of the particles). In some cases the relative position energy can be thought of as stored in fields (which mediate interactions between particles). This last concept includes radiation, a phenomenon in which energy stored in fields moves across space.

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.

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

HS-PS3.B4:The availability of energy limits what can occur in any system.

HS-PS3.D2:The main way that solar energy is captured and stored on Earth is through the complex chemical process known as photosynthesis.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 1

Energy and Matter

HS-C5: Energy and Matter

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