Lesson Overview: Students will learn about the cost of utilities at home. Students will discover where their home energy comes from and make a comparison of cost and use.
Time: Activity 1, 30-50 minutes; Activity 2, 30 minutes per day over a week
Materials: One sheet cardstock per student, graph paper, old magazines for collage artwork, glue sticks, promotional materials for utilities in your area
Vocabulary: utility, bill, organize, kWh, power generation
We use energy for everything and could not make it through a single day without it. But we rarely even think about how much we use, what kinds of energy there are, the cost, or the pollution consequences. The place to start is by adding up our own household energy use and comparing it to the national average.
A simple utility organizer will help show what sources of power you are using to produce your electricity, the cost of natural gas over time, and how much energy you are using.
Household and transportation energy costs are over $3,317 per year for an average American family. The average American family spends $1,340 on household energy, or $111.67 per month, and spends $1,977 for vehicle fuel expenditures per household, or $164.75 per month.
Ask students to search through magazines to find pictures of items that symbolically or literally represent energy. Encourage students to get creative; energy really is all around us. Have some students explain their choices. Ask if any students know the name of their energy company. Ask if any know the source of the power generation that makes up that energy.
Have students find and cut out pictures in magazines of things that they associate with energy. It could be pictures of appliances, electric wires, light bulbs, waterfalls, pollution, etc. Students then glue their pictures to both sides of the cardstock forming a collage. Allow to dry over night before continuing.
To add an extra layer to this collage, ask students to use one side of their cardstock for pictures of energy consumers and another side for pictures of energy producers. For example, one side could be a flowing river, waves, wind turbines, and power plants. The other side is electric appliances, mobile phones, and light bulbs.
Give students packets of information from the electricity companies that they may be using at home. This information can be found on the Electricity Facts Label for each utility. The Texas Power to Choose website allows you to put your local zip code in and will provide you with the companies and fact labels for your area. Have your students find the resources used to generate power for their chosen electric company (hopefully the one they use at home). Draw, and decorate a pie chart describing the resources used and attach this to the collage under the heading Electricity.
Make a line graph using natural gas prices over the last year. The Department of Energy website has average pricing for the state for the last few years listed. Cut out the line graph (be sure all the axes are labeled and there is a title) and attach this to the collage under the heading Gas.
Create a bar graph to be filled out by the students each month based on their home energy use. This will allow the student to track the energy use in their own home. You may want to show them a filled out graph and have them discuss why peaks happen when they do. Attach this to the collage under the heading My Energy Use.
Invite a representative from a local utility to come speak about the power used to generate electricity in your area. Write a persuasive letter to your parents explaining why they should change (or keep) the electric company they have.