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Sustainability Lesson Clearinghouse

Energy in Today's Global Society

Lesson Description:
Energy is an abstract concept that is very familiar to students from personal experiences with household appliances, transportation, and their own bodies. However, the nature of energy, energy transformations, and energy conservation are poorly understood, even by most adults. The geopolitical and environmental issues associated with energy and its consumption in today’s global society are important for every citizen to appreciate in order to make informed decisions about the future. Without a deep understanding that energy is finite and that energy transformations are what give modern society its high standard of living, Students today will not be prepared to make the tough personal and political decisions that await us as fossil fuel resources dwindle.

To this end, this unit strives to incorporate the science behind current and future energy technologies within an inquiry and application based framework. It builds on the mastery of ct standards 9.1: energy can not be created or destroyed; however, energy can be converted from one form to another, and 9.2: the electrical force is a universal force that exists between any two charged objects. Through the use of innovative resource cards that students create themselves, students will learn that all fossil fuel-based energy provides many benefits for those that can take advantage of the power, but comes at a high environmental cost. one of these is the enhancement of global climate change by increasing anthropogenic carbon dioxide and methane emissions. Students will weigh these costs and benefits against those of other energy sources. Electricity alternatives include nuclear, hydro, biomass, solar, geothermal, hydrogen fuel cells, and wind. Heating alternatives include geothermal, biomass and solar. Transportation alternatives include biofuels such as ethanol and biodiesel, hydrogen fuel cells, and electric/hybrid engines. It is important that the teacher remind students as the unit progresses that all societies across the globe need access to reliable fuel for electricity, transportation, and business/domestic uses in order to develop and maintain a high standard of living.

All of these energy sources will be compared and analyzed for the final project. Students will research an energy source and present it to their classmates. They will then use the information, plus all the content from class lectures and activities, to design a “planned community”. This community must have power supplied to it 24/7. It also must be an affordable and eco-friendly place to live, so students must account for the costs and benefits of energy production and consumption. In the end, students will have a deep understanding of not only the conceptual science of energy, but also of the technical and societal issues as well.

Learning Objectives:
By the end of this unit, students will know and understand that:
  • D 7. Explain how is heat used to generate electricity.
  • D 8. Describe the availability, current uses and environmental issues related to the use of fossil and nuclear fuels to produce electricity.
  • D9. Describe the availability, current uses and environmental issues related to the use of hydrogen fuel cells, wind and solar energy to produce electricity.

Lesson Type:
  • Project

Sustainability Topic:
  • Energy
  • Other

GEF Program Category:
  • Green Energy Challenge

Standards Addressed:
Science as Inquiry Standard A:
  • Use appropriate tools and techniques to gather, analyze, and interpret data; develop descriptions, explanations, predictions, and models using evidence; think critically and logically to make the relationships between evidence and explanations.

Physical Science Standard B:
  • Transfer of energy energy is a property of many substances and is associated with heat, light, and electricity. energy is transferred in many ways.

Science and Technology Standard E:
  • Identify a problem or design an opportunity - students should be able to identify new problems or needs and to change and improve current technological designs.
  • Propose designs and choose between alternative solutions - students should demonstrate thoughtful planning for a piece of technology or technique. students should be introduced to the roles of models and simulations in these processes.
  • Implement a proposed solution - a variety of skills can be needed in proposing a solution depending on the type of technology that is involved. the construction of artifacts can require the skills of cutting, shaping, treating, and joining common materials--such as wood, metal, plastics, and textiles. solutions can also be implemented using computer software.

Materials Needed:
Class/laboratory materials:
  • Energy cards
  • Index cards, 3x5 and 5x8
  • Rulers
  • Colored pencils
  • Heat transmission lab
  • Nuclear Decay Lab, Biodiesel Lab, Solar Cooker Lab  

School or Group:
Contact Email:
Located in: Science

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