Jump to this Activity »
Energy Lab

Annenberg Learner, Annenberg Foundation

This activity challenges students to try and meet the world's projected energy demand over the next century, decade by decade, by manipulating a menu of available energy sources in the online Energy lab simulator all while keeping atmospheric CO2 under a target 550ppm.

Activity takes about one to two 45-min. lesson periods.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Activity supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
High School: 2 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 1 Science and Engineering Practice

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

  • Educator should be sure students utilize the information in the HELP section to understand how to use the simulator effectively.
  • Consider doing the Carbon Lab referred to in this activity as a precursor to this lab.

About the Science

  • Using the online Energy lab simulator, a portfolio of different energy sources is used to meet the demand for rising energy needs due to increasing populations and growing economies.
  • Since there is no perfectly clean, safe, and inexpensive source of energy, the composition of the energy simulator portfolio involves tradeoffs of safety, cost, and -- of increasing concern -- emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2.
  • Data sources for projected energy demand and related CO2 concentrations are not provided.
  • Comments from expert scientist:
    Scientific strengths:
    This resource promoted critical thinking and individual analysis of findings from the lab. Moreover, it pushed students to evaluate their results not only under a scientific lens, but under an implementation lens, as well. This type of solutions-based approach helps to develop interdisciplinary thinking, which is a great strength.
    The lab was developed by scientists working at Harvard, Stanford, and NREL, and the entire Habitable Planet module was awarded an AAAS Science Award for excellence in online education.
    Elaboration on the risks associated with climate change (or at least a link to another module explaining them) would be useful to put the lab into context. The lab provides very little background information, which is nice because it keeps things streamlined, but more links to relevant information would be nice.

About the Pedagogy

  • Activity includes two lessons: 1) Managing (energy) Resources to control atmospheric CO2 concentrations, and 2) Energy Efficiency to help control atmospheric CO2 concentrations. Each lesson poses a challenge and uses an interactive "simulator" and a series of guided questions as a platform for students to respond to the challenge.
  • A downloadable data sheet is available to record results from the two lessons. Full explanations and guidance on completing each lesson are provided.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Activity is well laid out and easy to follow. It is interactive and easy to use once students understand the detail and assumptions behind it.
  • The simulator is easy to use, but students will need to consult the HELP button in the menu bar to understand the functionality and assumptions behind the simulator.

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Activity supports:

High School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 2

HS-ESS3.A2:All forms of energy production and other resource extraction have associated economic, social, environmental, and geopolitical costs and risks as well as benefits. New technologies and social regulations can change the balance of these factors.

HS-ETS1.B2:Both physical models and computers can be used in various ways to aid in the engineering design process. Computers are useful for a variety of purposes, such as running simulations to test different ways of solving a problem or to see which one is most efficient or economical; and in making a persuasive presentation to a client about how a given design will meet his or her needs.

Science and Engineering Practices: 1

Developing and Using Models

HS-P2.6:Develop and/or use a model (including mathematical and computational) to generate data to support explanations, predict phenomena, analyze systems, and/or solve problems.

Jump to this Activity »