Part of the activity Energy Resources: Primary vs. Secondary originated with Chapter 3 of Energy 101: Energy Technology and Policy, which introduces the difference between primary and secondary sources of energy. Access to Energy 101 for public school students and teachers in Texas is provided by the generous support of the State Energy Conservation Office (SECO) as part of the Watt Watchers of Texas program.

Energy 101 is a comprehensive reference text covering the resources, technology, and policies of the energy sector today. It was developed from a massive open online course developed at the University of Texas at Austin. As such, it’s most appropriate for a high school audience, and all of the appropriate material has been labeled with the appropriate Texas standards. You can request access for your class or school by emailing contact@watt-watchers.com.

One of the obstacles to becoming an energy expert is that the energy sector uses specialized vocabulary. Becoming fluent in energy requires mastering the terminology and its nuances. There are many different background terms, units, and phrases that need to be mastered on the way toward fluency.

For example, understanding the difference between primary and secondary energy is key to understanding many technical and policy discussions around energy at the global and local levels.

Watt Watchers features an interactive lesson designed specifically for this purpose, available as part of the suite of new materials designed for the launch of Watt Watchers of Texas. Energy Resources: Primary vs. Secondary is aligned to sixth grade Texas standards. The activity includes a handy infographic and a drag-and-drop activity to jump start your journey toward energy literacy.

Activity Overview: This activity uses published statistics from the global population monitors as the input for a variety of mathematical equations.

Problem Statement:

Calculate and explain, from given data, the values of crude birth rate, crude death rate, fertility, doubling time and natural increase rate.

Project Deliverables:

Students should use technology to research various population parameters in order to calculate the following population classifiers:

  • Birth Rate
  • Death Rate
  • Natural Increase Rate
  • Doubling Time
  • Total Fertility Rate

Resources:

The United Nations Statistical Division collects a variety of demographic and social statistics from civil registries worldwide and publishes these data in annual Demographic Yearbooks and also in more specific occasional reports such as the World Fertility Report 2009.

TEKS

WGS.7C

Activity Overview: The key underlying demographic trends that strain energy and water resources are population growth and economic growth. Other key trends are the impacts of global climate change and policy choices, whereby policy makers push for more water-intensive energy and more energy-intensive water.

As the population increases, more people demand more energy and water. However, because of economic growth, which happens in parallel, the demand for energy and water increases faster than the population.1 This phenomenon occurs because economically affluent populations tend to consume more energy and water per person than poorer populations.

Problem Statement:

Describe the nature of exponential growth in human populations.

Project Deliverables:

Students should use technology to research global historical estimates and population records. They should then create a mathematical model based on the data. Many population curves exist online, but students should not copy and paste them for the purpose of this assignment.

After creating their models, students should compare them with the widely accepted population curves to see how well they have modeled historical population trends. Historical data will not allow for the creation of predictions of the future, but many of the population curves will contain future predictions based on possible trajectories for population growth.

Resources:

Exponential population growth can be represented using a simple J curve, but reality is more complex and limited, and could be represented using an S curve.

The United Nations Population Division produces official United Nations population estimates and projections.

The United States Census Bureau has collated many different resources into a comprehensive historical estimate of world population.

TEKS

WGS.7A, WGS.7C


  1. Jill Boberg, Liquid Assets: How Demographic Changes and Water Management Policies Affect Freshwater Resources (Santa Monica: RAND Corporation, 2005); Peter H. Gleick, ed., Water in Crisis: A Guide to the World’s Fresh Water Resources (New York: Oxford, 1993); reports and data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration; and reports from the International Energy Agency.

Activity Overview: Where does electricity come from? Electricity comes from energy that is created from a source or a fuel. Wind is one energy source. Kinetic energy, the energy of things in motion, can be found in air’s movement around the world. Humans harness that energy through wind turbines, which convert the kinetic energy of wind into electricity.

Wind is a very powerful source. Think about the strongest winds that you have ever been in, how much did it make things move around you? Have you ever seen wind from a hurricane or tornado move trees, cars, or houses? Wind is a powerful source of energy. So if wind is so powerful, why don’t we use it for all of our energy? There are challenges with harnessing wind energy. Wind is unpredictable, so we can’t control when it happens or how strongly it happens. However, wind is a renewable resource, which means that the resource replenishes itself faster than humans can use it. As long as the sun is still shining, wind will always be blowing somewhere on Earth.

Materials:

  • square piece of paper
  • thin dowel or pencil with eraser
  • push pin
  • scissors
  • beads (optional)

Procedure:

Students build and color a paper kite. The class takes a few moments outside to see if the wind is strong enough to move their pinwheels. Alternatively, students can use the power from their breath to rotate their pinwheels. If the wheel doesn't spin, explain that the air does not contain enough kinetic energy to move any other objects. Similarly a still day is not sufficient enough to move a wind turbine.

  1. Fold the square corner to corner then unfold. Repeat for the other pair of corners. The square should have two diagonal folds across it.
  2. Make a pencil mark on the folded lines about 1/3 from the center.
  3. Cut along the fold lines from the corner of the paper to the mark.
  4. Pull every other point into the center. Stick the push pin through all four corners of the paper. Make sure the pin pokes through the exact center of the back of the pinwheel. The pin becomes the hub of the pinwheel.
  5. Stick the pin into the thin dowel or into the eraser at the end of a pencil. Optional: You can separate the pinwheel from its handle by inserting the pin through a small bead before inserting it into the dowel or eraser.

TEKS

ART.1.2A, ART.1.2C, SCI.1.8D

Adapted from: Pinwheel Instructions

If you're looking for a resource related to complex, multidisciplinary issues in the energy sector, look no further than Energy 101: Energy Technology & PolicyThe State Energy Conservation Office (SECO) provides access to Energy 101 for zero cost to students and teachers at public schools in the state of Texas through the Watt Watchers of Texas program.

If you are interested in obtaining subsidized access for students or teachers in your district reach out to contact@watt-watchers.com. Several of the chapters from Energy 101 are linked as external resources to activities and project-based learning opportunities created as part of Watt Watchers of Texas. You can see all of these projects online under the High School Activities section of this website.

The following table includes the standards alignment of different sections of Energy 101, which you can use to address a specific standard or to determine the Texas-specific instructional objectives of integrating Energy 101.

ChapterTEKS
3: Energy LiteracyIPC.3B, IPC.3C, PHYS.3B, IPC.3C, IPC.5H
4: Energy BasicsIPC.5D, PHYS.6D, PHYS.6E, CHEM.11A, IPC.5A, IPC.5B, PHYS.6B
5: Energy UsesPHYS.3C, IPC.3F
7: CoalIPC.5I
8: Natural GasIPC.5I
9: PetroleumIPC.5I
10: Unconventional Fossil FuelsIPC.5I
12: HydroelectricIPC.5I, PHYS.6C
13: WindIPC.5I, PHYS.6C
14: SolarIPC.5I
15: GeothermalIPC.5I
16: BioenergyIPC.5I
17: NuclearIPC.5I, IPC.7E, CHEM.12B, PHYS.8D
28: Energy and the EnvironmentIPC.3A, PHYS.3A, IPC.6A, IPC.7F
29: Energy and Climate ChangeIPC.3A, PHYS.3A
30: Energy and WaterIPC.7F

Activity Overview: Food takes energy to grow, store, and prepare. Food is also an important resource. When you think of produce, fruits, and vegetables, what do you think of? Close your eyes and picture a carrot. Do you picture a slim, orange vegetable? Not all carrots are orange and not all carrots are sleek. Many carrots grow crooked or curved. This can happen for many reasons, including when there is a rock in the ground or extreme weather changes.

Carrots are only one example of what is known as ugly produce. Ugly produce is the name of the fruits and vegetables that grow this way. Farms sort out most if not all of their ugly produce and do not send them to grocery stores. Grocery stores don’t think the ugly produce sells, so they don’t buy it, meaning farmers have to get rid of it. Approximately 20% of all U.S. produce never enters the market but ends up left in the field or transported to landfills.¹ This food waste also wastes food and energy.

In reality, there is nothing wrong with the ugly produce. It tastes the same and has all of the same benefits as conventional produce.

So what can you do?

  • Eat ugly produce. When you go to the store and see ugly produce, buy it!
  • Seek new stores. If your stores do not offer ugly produce, you may be able to find some direct from the farms at a farmers’ market or through some vendors who source ugly produce directly from the farms.
  • Educate your school. As a class, create materials and a plan to educate your fellow classmates at school on what ugly produce is and how it’s just the same as conventional produce.

Procedure:

Print and copy the outlines of the fruit and vegetables on the two coloring pages linked here. Ask students to use an ink pen or pencil to redraw the outlines of the fruits based on the description above of the “ugly carrot.” Then use any color combinations that would make these fruits stand out in the grocery store. For example, fruits can take a non-standard color or feature freckles, fruits, or blemishes. Compare different ugly fruits between classmates to see some of the different impressions and look online for examples from the farm.

Ugly Fruit

Ugly Vegetables

TEKS

ART.K.2A, ART.1.2A, ART.2.2A, ART.3.2A, ART.K.2C, ART.1.2C, ART.2.2C, ART.3.2C


  1. https://www.imperfectproduce.com/how-grocery-delivery-service-works

Activity Overview: How often do you eat pre-packaged food? Some of the containers for pre-packaged food are made of plastic that cannot be recycled and only end up in a landfill. So what can you do to reduce your plastic waste?

  • Think about what you buy. Does the food you buy come in non-recyclable plastic? Ask yourself if you could get the same food without wasting plastic. For example, instead of buying individually wrapped frozen food, you could make a bulk meal and store it in reusable individual containers.
  • Buy in bulk. Can the food you buy in pre-packaged containers be bought in bulk and stored in reusable containers?

There are real, easy ways to reduce the waste that you generate on a daily basis. Plastic takes energy to create and to dispose of. When you are intentional about how to reduce your waste, it helps you to reduce energy as well.

Procedure

As a class or in small groups, make a list of foods that come in lots of packaging (outside box, inside bag, individual wrappers, lids and bases, etc.). Then brainstorm ways to reduce landfill-destined packaging either by switching the food itself or by changing the packaging. Encourage creativity with these ideas. Even if the idea is unfeasible or still requires packaging, thinking through packaging in the food sector is an important step in reducing overall energy consumption and waste.

For example, one can purchase yogurt at the grocery store in a cup with a lid in a multipack of many tethered together in another box or wrapper. Alternatively, one can make a batch of yogurt at home or purchase a large store-bought container of yogurt. This can create multiple single-servings of yogurt in bowls at home or portioned into school lunches by dividing into smaller plastic or glass containers that can be washed and reused.

TEKS

SCI.6.1B, SCI.7.1B, SCI.8.1B

Activity Overview: Where does electricity come from? Electricity comes from energy that is created from a source or a fuel. Wind is one energy source. Kinetic energy, the energy of things in motion, can be found in air’s movement around the world. Humans harness that energy through wind turbines, which convert the kinetic energy of wind into electricity.

Wind is a very powerful source. Think about the strongest winds that you have ever been in, how much did it make things move around you? Have you ever seen wind from a hurricane or tornado move trees, cars, or houses? Wind is a powerful source of energy. So if wind is so powerful, why don’t we use it for all of our energy? There are challenges with harnessing wind energy. Wind is unpredictable, so we can’t control when it happens or how strongly it happens. However, wind is a renewable resource, which means that the resource replenishes itself faster than humans can use it. As long as the sun is still shining, wind will always be blowing somewhere on Earth.

Materials:

  • 8.5”x11” piece of paper
  • wooden skewer or drinking straw
  • kite string
  • ribbon (optional)
  • scissors
  • hole punch (optional)
  • tape

Procedure:

Students build and color a paper kite. The class takes a few moments outside to see if the wind is strong enough to move their kites. It’s better to explore this on a windy day, as a still day will not provide enough energy to take the kite on the wind. If it’s a still day, explain that the wind does not contain enough kinetic energy to move any other objects. Similarly a still day is not sufficient enough to move a wind turbine.

  1. Fold the piece of paper in half width-wise (hamburger style).
  2. Draw a line from the top about 1 inch from the folded edge to the bottom about 1 inch from the open edge.
  3. Fold the paper along the line just created.
  4. Flip the paper over and repeat steps 2 and 3.
  5. Open the back flap and tape the two sides together along the crevasse.
  6. Cut the skewer or straw in place. Lay it across the width of the kite tape it down.
  7. Flip the kite onto the reinforced side and straighten the spine edge of the kite.
  8. Place a piece of tape around 1/3 of the way down the spine and about 1 inch from the bottom folded edge to reinforce the spine.
  9. Cut or punch a hole in the reinforcement tape.
  10. Tie the string through this hole with a strong knot.
  11. (Optional) Decorate your kite with different crayons, markers, or pencils. Tape a length of ribbon to the bottom end of the kite.

TEKS

ART.1.2A, ART.1.2C, SCI.1.8D

Adapted from: Instructables Easy Paper Kite for Kids

Activity Overview: The Sun is the ultimate source of energy for almost all processes on Earth, from weather and climate to fossil fuels to the energy students need to get out of bed or run around the track. The only non-solar energy sources are the moon, which provides the forces for tidal energy, and uranium, which provides the raw material for nuclear energy. This activity relies on deep questions and critical thought to trace the ultimate source of energy on Earth to the sun.

Start with those primary energy sources that are obviously solar; photovoltaic panels convert light from the sun into electrical energy. Similarly, concentrated solar power facilities concentrate the sun's heat for industrial processes or thermoelectric energy production.

Lead students from light and heat in the traditional sense of industrial energy production to the more abstract concept of climate and weather, recalling your class's progress through weather and climate science. The sun causes the difference in surface temperature that cause winds, which in turn can generate electricity if harnessed appropriately. Further, the sun's energy powers the global water cycle, which lifts water from it's stores on Earth's surface to condense in the atmosphere and then fall elsewhere, where it can be retained in a reservoir and leveraged for generating hydroelectric power.

Take a step further from precipitation, and consider the sun's role in photosynthesis. The sun provides the energy required to grow all biomass, and therefore also for fossil fuels. Ancient algae and other organisms converted energy from the same sun into their energy to live, and after they died, that energy became oil and natural gas through thousands of years of compression and other forces.

Time: 20 minutes

Write each of the forms of primary energy on the board or project them on the overhead projector. Use structured questions to determine as a class which sources gain their ultimate source of energy from the sun.

Hydroelectric: "What moved water so high that it might have a strong potential energy before flowing through a dam?"

Wind: "Winds are caused by grand scale disparity in surface temperatures. What causes these differences?"

Biomass: "From where do plants receive the energy they need to live and grow?"

Tidal: "What causes the tides?" - This one is answered by the moon.

Fossil Fuels: "What is the ancient raw material for fossil fuels and what living organisms do these most resemble?"

Resources:

The Bradbury Science Museum operated by Los Alamos National Laboratory produced a short one-page regarding the source of nuclear material when they made a statement generalizing that all energy came from the sun.

TEKS

SCI.8.10A

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