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

Activity Overview: Texas has many dams, which create many reservoirs for sources of drinking water and water for irrigation.

Students can work individually or in groups to research one of the many dams in Texas. Students should use a variety of relevant print and digital resources to investigate their assigned dam. The investigation should include a brief history, including reason for construction, current status of the structure, and how the dam changed the surface water in the region.

To expand this activity, students could deliver a short presentation to the class, incorporating visual elements.

Time: 20-30 minutes

Resources:

Chapter 12: Hydroelectric Energy from Energy 101: Energy Technology & Policy provides an introduction to the physics and history of hydropower. Access to Energy 101 for Texas students and teachers is provided for free by the State Energy Conservation Office as part of the Watt Watchers of Texas program.

Students should identify additional print and digital resources and evaluate them for relevance, validity, and reliability.

TEKS

SS.6.7C, SCI.7.8C, ELA.6.22B, ELA.6.23A, ELA.6.23C, ELA.6.24B, ELA.7.22B, ELA.7.23A, ELA.7.23C, ELA.7.24B, ELA.6.17A.i, ELA.6.17A.iv, ELA.6.17A.ii, ELA.6.17A.iii, ELA.7.17A.i, ELA.7.17A.v, ELA.7.17A.ii, ELA.7.17A.iii, ELA.7.17A.iv

Activity Overview: Despite advances, today the global economy consumes most of its energy through only four technologies: the steam turbine, gas turbine, gasoline engine and diesel engine. The most popular conversion device is the steam turbine. More than 30 quads of primary energy are converted by steam turbines each year to produce electricity. Combustion turbines consume another 9 quads for electricity and transportation. The spark-ignition engine, also known as the gasoline engine, and the compression-ignition engine, also known as the diesel engine, round out the suite of technologies. These four devices are responsible for well over 60% of all our energy conversions, but all four devices were invented in the 1800s or earlier. Therefore, old-fashioned technology drives the modern energy economy. Even the newest conversion devices, like solar photovoltaic cells, were invented in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Today, solar use is growing in number and in popularity. The presence of wind turbines, invented in the late 1800s, is growing as well. Although the energy matrix has changed rapidly since the 1970s, the underlying conversion technologies of the industry are slow to change.

Individually, in groups, or as a class, make a timeline that shows the invention dates of the major energy conversion devices. Ensure the timeline also includes the present day to demonstrate the age of the major technologies. Can your class extrapolate from this timeline that the energy technology landscape is slow to change?

Time: 20-30 minutes

Resources:

The introduction for this activity was reprinted in part from Chapter 5: Energy Uses from Energy 101: Energy Technology & Policy, which provides a history of energy sources, end uses, consumption patterns, and transitions between them. Access to Energy 101 for Texas students and teachers is provided for free by the State Energy Conservation Office as part of the Watt Watchers of Texas program.

Students should identify additional print and digital resources and evaluate them for relevance, validity, and reliability.

TEKS

SCI.6.3D, SCI.7.3D, SCI.8.3D, SS.8.27A, SS.7.20A, M.6.2D, M.6.2C, M.6.2A, M.8.2D

Activity Overview: Primary energy consists of unconverted or original fuels. Secondary energy includes resources that have been converted or stored. For example, primary energy sources include petroleum, natural gas, coal, biomass, flowing water, wind, and solar radiation. Those are the fuels that can be mined, reaped, extracted, harvested, or harnessed directly. Secondary energy cannot be harnessed directly from nature; rather, secondary energy is energy that has already been converted. For example, electricity cannot be mined or harvested, though it is available in quick bursts on occasion from lightning. It is generated as a secondary form from primary fuels, like natural gas.

After researching and discussing each of the different individual energy resources, use time to discuss the difference between primary and energy resources and then to classify each of the following resources into one of two categories. Do this activity in small groups or as a whole class on the board.

You can also project the Primary Resource or Secondary Energy Interactive element from Chapter 3 of Energy 101. For the purposes of this activity and the discussion, resource and energy are used mostly interchangeably. The key difference between primary and secondary is the conversion process.

Time: 20-30 minutes

Primary Resource or Secondary Energy?

PrimarySecondary
Oil
Natural Gas
Coal
Uranium
Blowing Wind
Flowing Water
Biomass
Sunlight
Gasoline
Liquid Fuel Oil
Biofuels
Electricity
Hydrogen
Heat

Resources:

The introduction for this activity was reprinted in part from Chapter 3: Energy Literacy from Energy 101: Energy Technology & Policy, which provides an introduction to the difference between primary and secondary sources of energy. Access to Energy 101 for Texas students and teachers is provided for free by the State Energy Conservation Office as part of the Watt Watchers of Texas program.

Students should identify additional print and digital resources and evaluate them for relevance, validity, and reliability.

TEKS

SCI.6.7A, ELA.6.22B, ELA.6.23A, ELA.6.24B, ELA.6.25A

Activity Overview: Research is a crucial part of the scientific process, and mastery of which is a turning point between passive learning and active learning. The purpose of this activity is to research and discuss the benefits and drawbacks of different primary energy resources. Primary energy resources include all unconverted or original fuels.

Time: 45 minutes, consider reserving time in the library to leverage print and digital resources in your school’s collection

Students should use a variety of resources to research the primary energy resource solar and use the information to fill out the following chart of advantages and disadvantages.

Solar

AdvantagesDisadvantages

list the pros here

list the cons here

Evaluating the advantages and disadvantages is the first step in analyzing the tradeoffs of different energy resources.

Students can work individually or in groups to research and fill in the chart. However, they should be prepared to discuss their findings either with their groups or in front of the class.

Resources:

Chapter 14: Solar Energy from Energy 101: Energy Technology & Policy provides an introduction to the different types of coal and the technologies used to leverage the resource in the energy sector. Access to Energy 101 for Texas students and teachers is provided for free by the State Energy Conservation Office as part of the Watt Watchers of Texas program.

Students should identify additional print and digital resources and evaluate them for relevance, validity, and reliability.

TEKS

SCI.6.7A, ELA.6.22B, ELA.6.23A, ELA.6.24B, ELA.6.25A

Activity Overview: Research is a crucial part of the scientific process, and mastery of which is a turning point between passive learning and active learning. The purpose of this activity is to research and discuss the benefits and drawbacks of different primary energy resources. Primary energy resources include all unconverted or original fuels.

Time: 45 minutes, consider reserving time in the library to leverage print and digital resources in your school’s collection

Students should use a variety of resources to research the primary energy resource geothermal energy and use the information to fill out the following chart of advantages and disadvantages.

Geothermal

AdvantagesDisadvantages

list the pros here

list the cons here

Evaluating the advantages and disadvantages is the first step in analyzing the tradeoffs of different energy resources.

Students can work individually or in groups to research and fill in the chart. However, they should be prepared to discuss their findings either with their groups or in front of the class.

Resources:

Chapter 15: Geothermal Energy from Energy 101: Energy Technology & Policy provides an introduction to the different types of coal and the technologies used to leverage the resource in the energy sector. Access to Energy 101 for Texas students and teachers is provided for free by the State Energy Conservation Office as part of the Watt Watchers of Texas program.

Students should identify additional print and digital resources and evaluate them for relevance, validity, and reliability.

TEKS

SCI.6.7A, ELA.6.22B, ELA.6.23A, ELA.6.24B, ELA.6.25A

Activity Overview: Research is a crucial part of the scientific process, and mastery of which is a turning point between passive learning and active learning. The purpose of this activity is to research and discuss the benefits and drawbacks of different primary energy resources. Primary energy resources include all unconverted or original fuels.

Time: 45 minutes, consider reserving time in the library to leverage print and digital resources in your school’s collection

Students should use a variety of resources to research the primary energy resource hydropower and use the information to fill out the following chart of advantages and disadvantages.

Hydropower

AdvantagesDisadvantages

list the pros here

list the cons here

Evaluating the advantages and disadvantages is the first step in analyzing the tradeoffs of different energy resources.

Students can work individually or in groups to research and fill in the chart. However, they should be prepared to discuss their findings either with their groups or in front of the class.

Resources:

Chapter 12: Hydroelectric Energy from Energy 101: Energy Technology & Policy provides an introduction to the different types of coal and the technologies used to leverage the resource in the energy sector. Access to Energy 101 for Texas students and teachers is provided for free by the State Energy Conservation Office as part of the Watt Watchers of Texas program.

Students should identify additional print and digital resources and evaluate them for relevance, validity, and reliability.

TEKS

SCI.6.7A, ELA.6.22B, ELA.6.23A, ELA.6.24B, ELA.6.25A

Activity Overview: Research is a crucial part of the scientific process, and mastery of which is a turning point between passive learning and active learning. The purpose of this activity is to research and discuss the benefits and drawbacks of different primary energy resources. Primary energy resources include all unconverted or original fuels.

Time: 45 minutes, consider reserving time in the library to leverage print and digital resources in your school’s collection

Students should use a variety of resources to research the primary energy resource wind and use the information to fill out the following chart of advantages and disadvantages.

Wind

AdvantagesDisadvantages

list the pros here

list the cons here

Evaluating the advantages and disadvantages is the first step in analyzing the tradeoffs of different energy resources.

Students can work individually or in groups to research and fill in the chart. However, they should be prepared to discuss their findings either with their groups or in front of the class.

Resources:

Chapter 13: Wind Energy from Energy 101: Energy Technology & Policy provides an introduction to the different types of coal and the technologies used to leverage the resource in the energy sector. Access to Energy 101 for Texas students and teachers is provided for free by the State Energy Conservation Office as part of the Watt Watchers of Texas program.

Students should identify additional print and digital resources and evaluate them for relevance, validity, and reliability.

TEKS

SCI.6.7A, ELA.6.22B, ELA.6.23A, ELA.6.24B, ELA.6.25A

Activity Overview: Research is a crucial part of the scientific process, and mastery of which is a turning point between passive learning and active learning. The purpose of this activity is to research and discuss the benefits and drawbacks of different primary energy resources. Primary energy resources include all unconverted or original fuels.

Time: 45 minutes, consider reserving time in the library to leverage print and digital resources in your school’s collection

Students should use a variety of resources to research the primary energy resource biomass and use the information to fill out the following chart of advantages and disadvantages.

Biomass

AdvantagesDisadvantages

list the pros here

list the cons here

Evaluating the advantages and disadvantages is the first step in analyzing the tradeoffs of different energy resources.

Students can work individually or in groups to research and fill in the chart. However, they should be prepared to discuss their findings either with their groups or in front of the class.

Resources:

Chapter 16: Bioenergy from Energy 101: Energy Technology & Policy provides an introduction to the different types of coal and the technologies used to leverage the resource in the energy sector. Access to Energy 101 for Texas students and teachers is provided for free by the State Energy Conservation Office as part of the Watt Watchers of Texas program.

Students should identify additional print and digital resources and evaluate them for relevance, validity, and reliability.

TEKS

SCI.6.7A, ELA.6.22B, ELA.6.23A, ELA.6.24B, ELA.6.25A

Activity Overview: Research is a crucial part of the scientific process, and mastery of which is a turning point between passive learning and active learning. The purpose of this activity is to research and discuss the benefits and drawbacks of different primary energy resources. Primary energy resources include all unconverted or original fuels.

Time: 45 minutes, consider reserving time in the library to leverage print and digital resources in your school’s collection

Students should use a variety of resources to research the primary energy resource nuclear and use the information to fill out the following chart of advantages and disadvantages.

Nuclear

AdvantagesDisadvantages

list the pros here

list the cons here

Evaluating the advantages and disadvantages is the first step in analyzing the tradeoffs of different energy resources.

Students can work individually or in groups to research and fill in the chart. However, they should be prepared to discuss their findings either with their groups or in front of the class.

Resources:

Chapter 17: Nuclear Energy from Energy 101: Energy Technology & Policy provides an introduction to the different types of coal and the technologies used to leverage the resource in the energy sector. Access to Energy 101 for Texas students and teachers is provided for free by the State Energy Conservation Office as part of the Watt Watchers of Texas program.

Students should identify additional print and digital resources and evaluate them for relevance, validity, and reliability.

TEKS

SCI.6.7A, ELA.6.22B, ELA.6.23A, ELA.6.24B, ELA.6.25A

Activity Overview: Research is a crucial part of the scientific process, and mastery of it is a turning point between passive learning and active learning. The purpose of this activity is to research and discuss the benefits and drawbacks of different primary energy resources. Primary energy resources include all unconverted or original fuels.

Time: 45 minutes, consider reserving time in the library to leverage print and digital resources in your school’s collection

Students should use a variety of resources to research the primary energy resource natural gas and use the information to fill out the following chart of advantages and disadvantages.

Natural Gas

AdvantagesDisadvantages

list the pros here

list the cons here

Evaluating the advantages and disadvantages is the first step in analyzing the tradeoffs of different energy resources.

Students can work individually or in groups to research and fill in the chart. However, they should be prepared to discuss their findings either with their groups or in front of the class.

Resources:

Chapter 8: Natural Gas from Energy 101: Energy Technology & Policy provides an introduction to the different types of coal and the technologies used to leverage the resource in the energy sector. Access to Energy 101 for Texas students and teachers is provided for free by the State Energy Conservation Office as part of the Watt Watchers of Texas program.

Students should identify additional print and digital resources and evaluate them for relevance, validity, and reliability.

TEKS

SCI.6.7A, ELA.6.22B, ELA.6.23A, ELA.6.24B, ELA.6.25A

Activity Overview: Research is a crucial part of the scientific process, and mastery of which is a turning point between passive learning and active learning. The purpose of this activity is to research and discuss the benefits and drawbacks of different primary energy resources. Primary energy resources include all unconverted or original fuels.

Time: 45 minutes, consider reserving time in the library to leverage print and digital resources in your school’s collection

Students should use a variety of resources to research the primary energy resource oil and use the information to fill out the following chart of advantages and disadvantages.

Oil

AdvantagesDisadvantages

list the pros here

list the cons here

Evaluating the advantages and disadvantages is the first step in analyzing the tradeoffs of different energy resources.

Students can work individually or in groups to research and fill in the chart. However, they should be prepared to discuss their findings either with their groups or in front of the class.

Resources:

Chapter 9: Petroleum from Energy 101: Energy Technology & Policy provides an introduction to the different types of coal and the technologies used to leverage the resource in the energy sector. Access to Energy 101 for Texas students and teachers is provided for free by the State Energy Conservation Office as part of the Watt Watchers of Texas program.

Students should identify additional print and digital resources and evaluate them for relevance, validity, and reliability.

TEKS

SCI.6.7A, ELA.6.22B, ELA.6.23A, ELA.6.24B, ELA.6.25A

Activity Overview: Research is a crucial part of the scientific process, and mastery of which is a turning point between passive learning and active learning. The purpose of this activity is to research and discuss the benefits and drawbacks of different primary energy resources. Primary energy resources include all unconverted or original fuels.

Time: 45 minutes. Consider reserving time in the library to leverage print and digital resources in your school’s collection

Students should use a variety of resources to research the primary energy resource coal and use the information to fill out the following chart of advantages and disadvantages.

Coal

AdvantagesDisadvantages

list the pros here

list the cons here

Evaluating the advantages and disadvantages is the first step in analyzing the tradeoffs of different energy resources.

Students can work individually or in groups to research and fill in the chart. However, they should be prepared to discuss their findings either with their groups or in front of the class.

Resources:

Chapter 7: Coal from Energy 101: Energy Technology & Policy provides an introduction to the different types of coal and the technologies used to leverage the resource in the energy sector. Access to Energy 101 for Texas students and teachers is provided for free by the State Energy Conservation Office as part of the Watt Watchers of Texas program.

Students should identify additional print and digital resources and evaluate them for relevance, validity, and reliability.

TEKS

SCI.6.7A, ELA.6.22B, ELA.6.23A, ELA.6.24B, ELA.6.25A

Activity Overview:Some schools and utility operators estimate that cooling K-12 schools claims roughly 35% of those buildings’ overall electricity consumption, by and large the greatest percentage of any end use. These costs mount, but cutting them cuts the quality of life for students and teachers. Fortunately, air conditioning powered by electricity is not the only way to keep cool in school.

Many other technical solutions exist to keep students and teachers cool during the hot months, but each one has a cost, both to install and to maintain month after month. The crux of this project is evaluating the costs and benefits associated with different cooling strategies.

Time: This activity is appropriate for project-based learning. As defined by the Buck Institute for Education, project-based learning (PBL) invites students to “work on a project over an extended period of time – from a week up to a semester – that engages them in solving a real-world problem or answering a complex question. They demonstrate their knowledge and skills by developing a public product or presentation for a real audience.” You could consider scheduling this activity at the beginning of a unit on energy, the environment, or engineering to challenge students to start thinking about different interdisciplinary issues. Alternatively, you could schedule this project as a “final examination” to assess students’ grasp of the material and engagement with the interdisciplinary process. For a different approach, consider scheduling a semester- or year-long project, with routine iterations and presentations. Students’ ideas and engineering designs will improve over the scheduled time as they learn more about the concepts and processes involved.

Resources:

Chapter 24: The Built Environment from Energy 101: Energy Technology & Policy provides an introduction to heating and cooling and other energy uses within the built environment, both residential and commercial, and how building design and other technologies affect energy consumption. Access to Energy 101 for Texas students and teachers is provided for free by the State Energy Conservation Office as part of the Watt Watchers of Texas program.

The Orlando Utility Commission compiled a comprehensive resource for K-12 schools including “quick fixes” and “longer-term solutions” for evaluating energy consumption within schools.

The Hawaiʻi Department of Education has commissioned a statewide heat abatement program in order to combat decreasing tradewinds and increasing ocean temperatures. Their approach to cooling schools includes many non-air conditioning options that students could evaluate.

The University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture has compiled an interdisciplinary report on the types, applicability, and impact of different geothermal options for the temperature regulation of the built environment. The report contains a case study including installation and cost information for the geothermal system installed at Austin Independent School District (AISD).

Birdville Independent School District (BISD) evaluated a variety of different factors in selecting criteria for their indoor air quality program, which also leveraged the geothermal resource.

Problem Statement:

Evaluate competing design solutions for developing, managing, and utilizing energy resources based on cost-benefit ratios.

Project Deliverables:

Students or groups of students should select a school or building and identify and evaluate different solutions for regulating indoor air temperature. Solutions should be evaluated for their benefits for the students and teachers and for their cost to the relevant stakeholders. The evaluation should take the form of a robust report, with sources appropriately assessed and referenced.

Evaluation:

Evaluate students’ projects according to the following criteria. Excellent project performance for each phase is defined below.

Select a Structure: Students should select a school or other building and describe the cooling requirements of the space for the occupants within. The requirements should be reasonable and classified according to both temperature and time of day.

Identify Solutions: Students should identify a range of technical and non-technical solutions to manage indoor temperature along the requirements defined above.

Evaluate Costs: Using a combination of digital, traditional, journalistic, and corporate resources, evaluate the costs of different solutions identified. Excellent work will use contemporary pricing information from different sources.

Judge the Benefit: Analyzing the costs and benefits of different solutions, students should rank which solutions are more and less ideal for the building selected. Excellent work will explore the tradeoffs of different solutions.

Share the Results: Students’ reports should be composed with an appropriate persuasive style and voice with few to zero errors in grammar, spelling, or citations.

Alternative: Pitch Day

To further expand on this project, organize a “pitch day” on which students can present their analysis to their fellow students, other teachers, or even individuals in the community. Consider reaching out to the school district’s energy managers; officials from your local electricity, gas, or water utility; university or community college professors; or business-people to join the audience and to provide feedback.

Evaluation:

Use the modified assessment criteria articulated below:

Select a Structure: Students should select a school or other building and describe the cooling requirements of the space for the occupants within. The requirements should be reasonable and classified according to both temperature and time of day.

Identify Solutions: Students should identify a range of technical and non-technical solutions to manage indoor temperature along the requirements defined above.

Evaluate Costs: Using a combination of digital, traditional, journalistic, and corporate resources, evaluate the costs of different solutions identified. Excellent work will use contemporary pricing information from different sources.

Judge the Benefit: Analyzing the costs and benefits of different solutions, students should rank which solutions are more and less ideal for the building selected. Excellent work will explore the tradeoffs of different solutions.

Communicate the Results: Students should create a short but succinct presentation, which outlines the costs and benefits of the solutions identified. They should also compose a short “executive summary” with more information and their sources, composed with few to zero errors in grammar, spelling, or citations.

Provide Feedback: Students should compose feedback for other students’ presentations, which provides thoughtful and meaningful criticism of others’ solutions. The feedback should highlight both strengths and weaknesses in proposed solutions in a constructive and non-biased way.

NGSS

HS-ESS3-2, RST.11-12.1, RST.11-12.8, MP.2

TEKS

WGS.8A, IPC3.C, IPC5.I
ELA.9.13A, ELA.10.13A, ELA.11.13A, ELA.12.13A, ELA.9.13B, ELA.10.13B, ELA.11.13B, ELA.12.13B, ELA.9.13C, ELA.10.13C, ELA.11.13C, ELA.12.13C, ELA.9.13D, ELA.10.13D, ELA.11.13D, ELA.12.13D, ELA.9.13E, ELA.10.13E, ELA.11.13E, ELA.12.13E, ELA.10.15A.vi, ELA.11.15A.vi, ELA.12.15A.vi, ELA.9.16A, ELA.10.16A, ELA.11.16A, ELA.12.16A, ELA.9.16B, ELA.10.16B, ELA.11.16B, ELA.12.16B, ELA.9.16C, ELA.10.16C, ELA.11.16D, ELA.12.16D, ELA.9.16D, ELA.10.16D, ELA.11.16C, ELA.12.16C, ELA.9.16E, ELA.10.16E, ELA.11.16E, ELA.12.16E, ELA.10.16F, ELA.11.16F, ELA.12.16F, ELA.12.16G

Activity Overview: Richard Smalley presented a list of problems in order of importance to society, beginning with energy and moving through water, food, environment, poverty, terrorism and war, disease, education, democracy, and finally population. Smalley carefully considered the order of the problems on his list. From Smalley’s perspective, securing and managing energy and water provide the ability to solve each successive problem and enable all other aspects of society. For example, because representative democracy struggles without an educated populace, education eclipses democracy. Resource constraints and poverty often trigger war and terrorism. Although solving challenges will not immediately bring peace to Earth, tackling these problems removes some contributing factors to global strife and unrest.

This introduction has been reprinted from Resourcefulness: An Introduction to the Energy-Water Nexus. Access to the full text is provided by the generous support of Itron, Inc.

Analyzing the grand challenges on this list and other interdisciplinary challenges in science, engineering, and resource management is a great way to develop the kind of interdisciplinary problem solving required for the twenty-first century workforce. Looking at the analysis as a project allows for ample opportunity to assess students’ engagement with and mastery of many topics.

Time: This activity is appropriate for project-based learning. As defined by the Buck Institute for Education, project-based learning (PBL) invites students to “work on a project over an extended period of time – from a week up to a semester – that engages them in solving a real-world problem or answering a complex question. They demonstrate their knowledge and skills by developing a public product or presentation for a real audience.” You could consider scheduling this activity at the beginning of a unit on energy, the environment, or engineering to challenge students to start thinking about different interdisciplinary issues. Alternatively, you could schedule this project as a “final examination” to assess students’ grasp of the material and engagement with the interdisciplinary process. For a different approach, consider scheduling a semester- or year-long project with routine presentations.

Resources:

Resourcefulness: An Introduction to the Energy-Water Nexus contains an entire section on the diverse water resources, technologies, and issues.

The United Nations and many other international organizations have identified water as a major global issue and compiled an in-depth overview of water related issues.

Project Statement: Analyze a major global challenge to specify qualitative and quantitative criteria and constraints for solutions that account for societal needs and wants.

Project Deliverables: Students or groups of students should create a robust report investigating and analyzing one of the major global issues identified above or another relevant issue of the students’ choosing. For added value, a summary of issues, criteria, and constraints could be presented to the class.

Evaluation:

Evaluate students’ projects according to the following criteria. Excellent project performance for each phase is defined below.

Identifying a Challenge: Students’ challenge should sit at the intersection of societal needs and wants. There should be sufficient trade offs for a multidisciplinary analysis.

Assessing Resources: Many global issues are political, invoking agenda setting and bias in research, review, and reporting. Students should integrate and evaluate a wide range of sources noting their provenance, relevant bias or agenda. Excellent work will explore the connection between source (funding, author/agency, political party, etc.) and bias.

Specifying Criteria: Students should identify a wide range of both qualitative and quantitative criteria for solutions in the sector of their selected challenge. Solutions should be informed by and supported by background research.

Communicate the Solution: Students’ reports should include well-reasoned criteria for solutions to their selected global problems with all of their sources and their analysis thereof. Excellent work will include few to zero errors in grammar, spelling, or citations.

Alternative: Designing Solutions to Grand Challenges

Rather than simply identifying criteria for a solution, this project can be expanded into an engineering design challenge, in which students design or create solutions to meet the criteria identified. Students can work individually or in groups. Encourage students to evaluate what works and what doesn’t in the current global ecosystem and to explore solutions either technology-based, policy-based, or based on some interdisciplinary approach. For more information on the engineering design process, you can consult the background in Energy Engineering Design.

Evaluation:

Use the modified assessment criteria articulated below:

Identifying a Challenge: Students’ challenge should sit at the intersection of societal needs and wants. There should be sufficient trade offs for a multidisciplinary analysis.

Assessing Resources: Many global issues are political, invoking agenda setting and bias in research, review, and reporting. Students should integrate and evaluate a wide range of sources noting their provenance, relevant bias or agenda. Excellent work will explore the connection between source (funding, author/agency, political party, etc.) and bias.

Specifying Criteria: Students should identify a wide range of both qualitative and quantitative criteria for solutions in the sector of their selected challenge. Solutions should be informed by and supported by background research.

Develop a Prototype: The prototype solution should address both qualitative and quantitative criteria specified, and all of the features and their relationship to the project requirements should be well documented.

Refine the Solution: Students can proceed through as many iterations as appropriate and should be evaluated whether the changes are documented clearly and completely; it is not necessary for the solution to meet all of the project specifications, as long as this is documented and explained.

Communicate the Results: Students should compile the engineering equivalent of a laboratory notebook, which details the process completely (assessed through criteria listed above), as well as a final summary, which explains how well the final solution fits the functional requirements, where further improvements could be made by another team, and any other relevant project information, composed with few to zero errors in grammar, spelling, or citations.

Alternative: Pitch Day

To further expand on this project, organize a “pitch day” on which students can present their solutions to their fellow students, other teachers, or even individuals in the community. Consider reaching out to the school district’s energy managers; officials from your local electricity, gas, or water utility; university or community college professors; or business-people to join the audience and to provide feedback.

Evaluation:

Use the modified assessment criteria articulated below:

Identifying a Challenge: Students’ challenge should sit at the intersection of societal needs and wants. There should be sufficient trade offs for a multidisciplinary analysis.

Assessing Resources: Many global issues are political, invoking agenda setting and bias in research, review, and reporting. Students should integrate and evaluate a wide range of sources noting their provenance, relevant bias or agenda. Excellent work will explore the connection between source (funding, author/agency, political party, etc.) and bias.

Specifying Criteria: Students should identify a wide range of both qualitative and quantitative criteria for solutions in the sector of their selected challenge. Solutions should be informed by and supported by background research.

Develop a Prototype: The prototype solution should address both qualitative and quantitative criteria specified, and all of the features and their relationship to the project requirements should be well documented.

Refine the Solution: Students can proceed through as many iterations as appropriate and should be evaluated whether the changes are documented clearly and completely; it is not necessary for the solution to meet all of the project specifications, as long as this is documented and explained.

Communicate the Results: Students should create a short but succinct presentation, which outlines the challenge, criteria, and solution proposed. They should also compose a short “executive summary” with more information and their sources, composed with few to zero errors in grammar, spelling, or citations.

Provide Feedback: Students should compose feedback for other students’ presentations, which provides thoughtful and meaningful criticism of others’ solutions. The feedback should highlight both strengths and weaknesses in proposed solutions in a constructive and non-biased way.

NGSS

HS-ETS1-1, RST.11-12.7, RST.11-12.8, RST.11-12.9, MP.2, MP.4

TEKS

IPC.2B, CHEM.2E, PHYS.2D, WGS.8A
ELA.9.13A, ELA.10.13A, ELA.11.13A, ELA.12.13A, ELA.9.13B, ELA.10.13B, ELA.11.13B, ELA.12.13B, ELA.9.13C, ELA.10.13C, ELA.11.13C, ELA.12.13C, ELA.9.13D, ELA.10.13D, ELA.11.13D, ELA.12.13D, ELA.9.13E, ELA.10.13E, ELA.11.13E, ELA.12.13E, ELA.10.15A.vi, ELA.11.15A.vi, ELA.12.15A.vi, ELA.9.16A, ELA.10.16A, ELA.11.16A, ELA.12.16A, ELA.9.16B, ELA.10.16B, ELA.11.16B, ELA.12.16B, ELA.9.16C, ELA.10.16C, ELA.11.16D, ELA.12.16D, ELA.9.16D, ELA.10.16D, ELA.11.16C, ELA.12.16C, ELA.9.16E, ELA.10.16E, ELA.11.16E, ELA.12.16E, ELA.10.16F, ELA.11.16F, ELA.12.16F, ELA.12.16G

Activity Overview: The engineering design process is an iterative series of steps to ideate, implement, test, and improve ideas and their physical manifestations. Professional engineers follow this process developing projects and products, but the steps are simple enough to be applied across a wide range of concepts and industries, even in high school. In fact, the engineering design process is an adaptation of the scientific method. Evaluate the diagram on this page which demonstrates the difference between the traditional scientific method and the engineering design process, or engineering method.

The engineering design process does not have a universally accepted series of steps. Different groups and different individuals will take a slightly altered approach to the process. However, at the beginning there is a problem, and at the end the solution is communicated. This project is appropriate for individuals and for groups.

Time: This activity is appropriate for project-based learning. As defined by the Buck Institute for Education, project-based learning (PBL) invites students to “work on a project over an extended period of time – from a week up to a semester – that engages them in solving a real-world problem or answering a complex question. They demonstrate their knowledge and skills by developing a public product or presentation for a real audience.”¹ You could consider scheduling this activity at the beginning of a unit on energy, the environment, or engineering to challenge students to start thinking about different interdisciplinary issues. Alternatively, you could schedule this project as a “final examination” to assess students’ grasp of the material and engagement with the interdisciplinary process. For a different approach, consider scheduling a semester- or year-long project, with routine iterations and presentations. Students’ ideas and engineering designs will improve over the scheduled time as they learn more about the concepts and processes involved.

Resources:

Chapter 4: Energy Basics from Energy 101: Energy Technology & Policy provides a comprehensive introduction to the different forms of energy and the laws of thermodynamics, which govern the conversions thereof. Access to Energy 101 for Texas students and teachers is provided for free by the State Energy Conservation Office as part of the Watt Watchers of Texas program.

The first law of thermodynamics, also known as the law of conservation of energy, states that matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed in a closed system. The second law of thermodynamics, also known as the law of entropy, states that entropy in a system always increases. Entropy in thermodynamic systems manifests in the loss of efficiency in energy conversions. Students project design parameters (and project outcomes) should take these laws of thermodynamics into consideration. You may direct students to evaluate Energy 101’s Energy Efficiency Calculator, which provides several preset conversions and also provides a stage for students to investigate their own planned conversions.

The efficiency of many different energy conversions is well documented online, and students should use reputable online and other resources to determine the efficiency of their planned conversions.

Project Statement:

Design, build, and refine a device that works within given constraints to convert one form of energy into another form of energy.

Project Procedure:

Introduce the project statement to students along with an overview of the engineering design process. Explain that students will need to decide on a problem relating to the the project statement and a solution thereto. Students will also define the constraints as appropriate to their problem, and the testing procedures therefore. Finally, students will communicate their project to their peers for evaluation. Each stage of the process can be assessed independently, or the entire project can be assessed holistically.

Evaluation:

Evaluate students’ projects according to the following criteria. Excellent project performance for each phase is defined below.

Define a Problem: Student fully understands the project statement and identifies a problem with a measurable solution related to energy conversions.

Do Background Research: Student identifies a succinct list of reputable sources that document the background and context of their identified problem and produces a well composed summary of the problem with few to zero errors in grammar, spelling, or citations.

Specify Requirements: Project specifications should be relevant to the problem and within realistic parameters depending on the context based on researched and documented real efficiencies.

Develop a Prototype: The prototype solution should convert one form of energy to another taking into consideration the project specifications, and all of the features and their relationship to the project requirements should be well documented.

Test the Solution: The prototype, real or theoretical, should be tested to see how it meets project requirements through repeatable, verifiable testing methodologies, which are well documented.

Refine the Solution: Students can proceed through as many iterations as appropriate and should be evaluated whether the changes and repeat tests are documented clearly and completely; it is not necessary for the solution to meet all of the project specifications, as long as this is documented and explained.

Communicate the Results: Students should compile the engineering equivalent of a laboratory notebook, which details the process completely (assessed through criteria listed above), as well as a final summary, which explains how well the final solution fits the functional requirements, where further improvements could be made by another team, and any other relevant project information, composed with few to zero errors in grammar, spelling, or citations.

Alternative: Energy Engineering Evaluation

If your instructional approach does not include creating new knowledge as per the project outlined above, this project may be adapted to evaluate existing knowledge by reconfiguring the project statement. This adaptation of the project may be applicable to some students in upper middle school.

Rather than presenting students with the project statement to “design, build, and refine” a new device, assign a well known energy conversion device to each student or groups of students. Examples include but are not limited to wind turbines, internal combustion engines, and electrical motors. Chapter 4 of Energy Technology and Policy provides many real examples from which to choose. Access to Energy 101 for Texas students and teachers is provided for free by the State Energy Conservation Office as part of the Watt Watchers of Texas program.

The adapted assessment criteria are as follows:

Do Background Research: Student identifies a succinct list of reputable sources that document the background, context, and history of their conversion device and produces a well composed summary of the device with few to zero errors in grammar, spelling, or citations.

Evaluate the Solution: Students should be able to extrapolate from their research what problem their device was intended to solve and the functional requirements thereof. Students should evaluate the device’s function, efficiency, and other qualities against both historical and modern requirements.

Communicate the Results: Students should compile a short report or presentation to their peers, which details the background, context, and history of their conversion device and their own evaluation of it, composed with few to zero errors in grammar, spelling, or citations.


  1. https://www.bie.org/about/what_pbl

TEKS

IPC.3F, CHEM.3F, SCI.8.3D, PHYS.2D, IPC.5D, PHYS.6D, CHEM.11B, CHEM.11A, PHYS.6E, PHYS.6B
ELA.9.13A, ELA.10.13A, ELA.11.13A, ELA.12.13A, ELA.9.13B, ELA.10.13B, ELA.11.13B, ELA.12.13B, ELA.9.13C, ELA.10.13C, ELA.11.13C, ELA.12.13C, ELA.9.13D, ELA.10.13D, ELA.11.13D, ELA.12.13D, ELA.9.13E, ELA.10.13E, ELA.11.13E, ELA.12.13E, ELA.10.15A.vi, ELA.11.15A.vi, ELA.12.15A.vi, ELA.9.16A, ELA.10.16A, ELA.11.16A, ELA.12.16A, ELA.9.16B, ELA.10.16B, ELA.11.16B, ELA.12.16B, ELA.9.16C, ELA.10.16C, ELA.11.16D, ELA.12.16D, ELA.9.16D, ELA.10.16D, ELA.11.16C, ELA.12.16C, ELA.9.16E, ELA.10.16E, ELA.11.16E, ELA.12.16E, ELA.10.16F, ELA.11.16F, ELA.12.16F, ELA.12.16G

NGSS

HS-PS3-3, PS3.A, PS3.D, ETS1.A, WHST.9-12.7, MP.2, MP.4, HSN.Q.A.1, HSN.Q.A.2, HSN.Q.A.3

Activity Overview: The water cycle is a global, natural example of the energy-water nexus, the integral relationship between the two resources. But you don’t need the whole world to see an example of this continually moving cycle. Putting the water cycle in a sealed plastic bottle is a tiny but illustrative example of many of the phases and also demonstrates how the Sun keeps the cycle going.

Materials:

  • sealable plastic bottle
  • water
  • food dye (optional)

Procedure:

Pour a small amount of water (about ¼ c) into a clear plastic bottle and add a drop of food coloring if desired. Seal the bottle and place it on the window sill in the sun. Observe how the sides and top of the bottle begin to form a layer of water droplets. When the droplets are heavy enough, they drip down the sides and join the pool of liquid water at the bottom of the bottle.

Observe:

Ask students to compare what they observed in the plastic bottle to the phases of the water cycle, and transformations of water that you have discussed in class. Which water movement is most similar to rain? What part of the bottle model represents the oceans and lakes?

What is the source of energy for the transformations happening inside this bottle?

Expand:

The mini water cycle inside the sealed water bottle is a good model for the water cycle on Earth. With the cap screwed on, no water goes in and no water comes out. Make the connection for the students that just like the water in the bottle, Earth’s water is limited. Discuss what happens if the water in the bottle is dirty? What does this mean for pollution in Earth’s water?

Activity Overview: The Sun is a major source of energy on earth. In fact the Sun is the ultimate source of all energy on Earth (except the tides, which come from the effects of the Moon, and nuclear energy). Therefore, the Sun drives one of the most important global processes, the water cycle. In this activity, students will work together to investigate different forms of water, how it moves through the cycle, and the ultimate source of energy for all of the different phases.

Time: 45 minutes of class discussion and demonstrations

Procedure:

First, have students suggest different forms of water in the natural world. Oceans, rivers, lakes, and streams are all made of water. Clouds, steam, and humidity in the atmosphere are also made of water. Ice cubes, glaciers, and ice caps are also made of water. See how many different examples students can observe and fill in the gaps by looking at specific examples online or in books, magazines, or encyclopedias. Illustrate the different examples of water on the board or on a digital canvas.

Then look at some of water’s state transitions that you can produce in your classroom or lab. Allow ice to melt under a warm lamp or in the window. Boil water on a burner or warm it in the microwave to inspire some steam. Catch some steam on a plate, or other tool to show how the water vapor condenses back into liquid water. After illustrating and defining each of these processes, inspire the class to brainstorm about where these processes appear in the wider world. Add these state changes to the illustration

Students should identify that water vapor evaporates from the oceans and then condenses into liquid water again in the atmosphere. Students can also identify that snow and ice from mountains melts to liquid water and then flows down Earth’s terrain back to the oceans. Expand this train of thought to include the different ways water moves around the world: in clouds blown by the wind, in rivers flowing downhill, as ocean currents.

After completing the illustration, bring in the role of the Sun in the water cycle. In the classroom, students could see the source of the heat for evaporation. Ask them what is the source of heat for evaporating the ocean. What about for melting snow and ice? The Sun will shine through as the source of energy for all of these interactions.

Enforce the activity by encouraging students to recreate this diagram in their own notes. You can also find blank versions of the water cycle online for printing or to display on the projector.

TEKS

SCI.4.8B, SCI.5.8B

Activity Overview: Humans have used dams since ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilizations restricted the flow of rivers and the extent of floods with earth and mason structures. Either simple or complex, the purpose of the dam is to control the flow of water. In modern times, dams play an important role in the energy landscape too. Texas has many dams, which create many reservoirs for sources of drinking water and water for irrigation.

In this activity, students work in groups to control the flow of water with man-made constructions. Instead of using large-scale masonry and cement, you can complete this activity with your students using interlocking building blocks, such as LEGO®.

Due to the risk of spills, you may want to considering completing this activity outside.

Time: 30 minutes

Materials:

  • Base plate
  • 2x2 bricks
  • 4x2 bricks
  • tray or shallow bin
  • water

Procedure:

Students will use building blocks to create reservoirs, channels, canals, and other structures to control the flow of water. Ideas include building a channel to steer water around a “building” or building a dam with an “irrigation channel” to direct water toward a particular area. Students should build their creations on the base plate. Ask students to visualize how water will flow through their creation.

Once the structures have been completed, incline the base plate to allow the water to flow. You can do this with more blocks built vertically in the tray or with another waterproof material. When the plate is inclined, students can pour water from a cup or bottle over the plate. Does the water behave as they imagined it would? What happens if they increase the flow by pouring more water? Less water?

Extension:

Ask students to describe what environmental conditions would create conditions similar to those they created by pouring water. Ask students to describe what kind of landscapes they have created? Would they like to live in such a place? Why or why not?

Students should revise their original design for the same purpose. Is it more or less effective for what they are trying to accomplish? Can they create an entire new design for a different purpose based on what they learned during this investigation.

TEKS

SCI.K.2E, SCI.1.2E, SCI.2.2E, SCI.3.2F, SCI.4.2F, SCI.5.2F
SCI.3.3B, SCI.4.3B, SCI.5.3B
SCI.2.9B, SCI.3.9C

Activity Overview: Even in places where it is easy to recycle because of school-wide or community-wide initiatives, many people are confused about what and where to recycle. Students can help other students by creating instructive visual signage for waste collection areas. This activity is a bonus if the materials for the posters or signs are reused. For example, flip an old poster advertising a school dance or work session and use the back to create a recycling sign. Or reuse cardboard from shipping boxes.

Time: 30 minutes

Procedure:

Students create different posters and signs to show students, teachers, and other school guests what is appropriate for recycling. Make sure students clearly label the posters as Trash or Recycling and then provide visual examples of elements appropriate for the respective bins. Does your school have a composting program? Ensure these containers are clearly visually labeled also.

Work with your schools maintenance team to use appropriate materials for affixing these posters to the walls in waste areas or around the school to serve as a constant reminder to reduce, reuse, and recycle.

Extension:

Work in Mixed Media

With sturdier poster boards or cardboard, students can attach actual items appropriate for either trash or recycling to their respective boards. Working with food for composting may not be feasible for a long-term advertising situation, but cans, cardboard boxes, paper, plastic wrappers, utensils, and other waste items is an immediate source of reuse, which keeps these items out of the waste stream.

TEKS

SCI.K.1A, SCI.1.1A, SCI.2.1A, SCI.3.1A, SCI.4.1A, SCI.5.1A, SCI.6.1A, SCI.7.1A, SCI.8.1A
SCI.K.1B, SCI.1.1B, SCI.2.1B, SCI.3.1B, SCI.4.1B, SCI.5.1B, SCI.6.1B, SCI.7.1B, SCI.8.1B
SCI.K.2A, SCI.1.2A, SCI.2.2A, SCI.3.2A, SCI.4.2A, SCI.5.2A, SCI.6.2A, SCI.7.2A, SCI.8.2A
ART.1.2A, ART.2.2A, ART.3.2A, ART.4.2A, ART.5.2A, ART.1.2B, ART.2.2B, ART.3.2B, ART.4.2B, ART.5.2B, MS1.2A, MS2.2A, MS3.2A, MS1.2B, MS2.2B, MS3.2B, MS1.2C, MS2.2C, MS3.2C

Activity Overview: Students bring their lunch to school for lots of reasons, dislike of school food, special diet, to fit in with other kids, etc. Many times at home, parents have the greatest of intentions when making or purchasing the food that goes into those lunches. Yes, large containers of applesauce are cheaper and better for the environment (less packaging), but those single serving cups are easy. And at 6:00 a.m. when you are packing that lunch, easy often trumps environmentally friendly.

Materials:

  • Lunch box containing:
    • thermos of drink
    • a piece of fruit such as an apple, pear or plum
    • a sandwich in a reusable container
    • chips and/or carrots and celery sticks in a reusable plastic container
    • napkin
  • A lunch in a paper bag containing
    • juice box
    • sandwich wrapped in plastic wrap
    • bag of chips
    • Twinkie or fruit pie
    • carrots or celery sticks wrapped in a baggie
    • pudding cup
    • napkin
    • spoon

Objective:

Students will consider actions that generate lunch trash and examine ways to generate less.

Setting the Stage:

Show the students a reusable lunch box and a paper sack. Ask for a show of hands on how many use each one. Ask them which they think is better for the environment. Ask the students to give some examples of what might be inside each lunch kit. List the examples on the board and ask if there is anything left when they are finished eating (packaging, for example) and if it can be reused or recycled.

Procedure:

This activity can be done as a class or as small groups. Examine the contents of each lunch, including any packaging, edible items and non- edible items. Discuss and estimate the amount of trash that will be generated by each lunch, then weigh and record the items from the lunchbox in grams (including any packaging that was used for that item). After eating the edible portions of the lunch, weigh the non- recyclable, recyclable, reusable, and compostable waste from each lunch and record those results.

Discussion:

  1. Which lunch produced the least amount of trash?
  2. Why did one lunch produce more trash than the other?
  3. Why would students not bring the “less trash- producing” lunches to school?
  4. How might you alter your lunch so that it produces less trash?

Extensions:

Create a poster campaign for the cafeteria encouraging students to cut back on the waste in their lunches. Write an article to be placed in the parent newsletter that explains your campaign and gives parents examples of a “trash- less” lunch.

Adapted from: Waste Not, Want Not from the Los Angeles Educational Partnership

TEKS

SCI.K.1A, SCI.1.1A, SCI.2.1A, SCI.3.1A, SCI.4.1A, SCI.5.1A, SCI.6.1A, SCI.7.1A, SCI.8.1A
SCI.K.1B, SCI.1.1B, SCI.2.1B, SCI.3.1B, SCI.4.1B, SCI.5.1B, SCI.6.1B, SCI.7.1B, SCI.8.1B
SCI.K.2A, SCI.1.2A, SCI.2.2A, SCI.3.2A, SCI.4.2A, SCI.5.2A, SCI.6.2A, SCI.7.2A, SCI.8.2A
SS.K.15A, SS.1.18A, SS.2.19A, SS.3.18A, SS.4.22C, SS.5.25C, SS.6.22C
SS.K.15B, SS.1.18B, SS.2.19B, SS.3.18B, SS.4.22D, SS.5.25D, SS.6.22D, SS.7.22D, SS.8.30D

Activity Overview: Students will discuss the meaning of garbage, waste and trash. They will then investigate their classroom trash to learn about the variety and amount of trash they produce. This will lead to a discussion on recycling and the feasibility of starting a recycling project at their school.

Time:

Setting the Stage: 30 minutes
Activity One: 15 minutes + one day to accumulate trash
Activity Two: 1 hour

Materials:

  • rubber gloves
  • two trash cans
  • several sheets of used newspaper to use as a floor covering
  • class trash accumulated over one day

Setting the Stage:

Place the words “Garbage, Waste, and Trash” on the board. Ask students to jot down the first three things that they think about when they see these words. Then ask students to share their thoughts and record them on the list for Activity Two. Then divide the class into small groups of three or four. Ask each group to brainstorm a list of all the kinds of garbage, trash, and waste they throw away in their classroom each day.

Ask students: “Look at our list. How can we determine if our class really throws away this amount and these types of waste?” (Students will propose collecting the trash for a period of time, then examining it.) With the class, develop an investigative process for doing this, then set aside the next day to implement the investigation.

Activity One: Day One - Investigating Our Classroom Trash

NOTE: Prior to doing this activity, make arrangements with your custodians to leave the trash in the classroom until the end of the next day.

Mark two trash cans, one for food waste, used tissue, and other unsanitary items, and one for all other trash.

Place the two trash cans and a scale in front of the class at the beginning of the day. Explain that one can is for unsanitary waste and that the other is for all other trash. Show examples of kinds of trash to put in each. Ask students to use the appropriate containers throughout the day.

Weigh the cans and record their weight while they are still empty. Ask the students to predict how much each can will weigh at the end of the day and record their predictions.

Activity Two: Day Two - What is in our trash?

(Caution: Wear rubber gloves when handling the trash.)

Bring the class together in a circle near the trashcans. Place their chart of “Trash in Our Class” from the starter activity on the board. Place newspaper on the floor in the middle of the circle and set the two cans and the scale on the paper.

Put on a pair of rubber gloves. Through questions and answers, help students understand the safety and health procedure you took by wearing gloves. Explain that people in the waste disposal business would use such items as well.

Show the class the can with the food waste and other unsanitary trash. Discuss why these items need to be separated from the other trash. Point out that in a recycling program, items such as these would contaminate the recyclables. Discuss the word “contaminate” and why it would be a problem. Weigh this can and compare it to the weight of the can when empty. Discuss any differences. Also compare the weight with the students’ predictions. Set this can aside for pickup by the custodians.

Have a student weigh the second can of trash and compare it to the weight of the empty can and with the students’ predictions.

Scatter the contents of this trash can on the newspaper so students can see what they threw away and categorize it. Ask questions such as:

  1. Are there any items here that surprise you? What?
  2. Why did you throw away some of these items?
  3. How does this pile of trash compare to the original list? (Make adjustments to this list as students discuss this question.)
  4. What feelings do you have about the waste our class has thrown away?
  5. How could we record data about this trash on a visual organizer, such as a graph?
  6. What should we do with this trash? (As a student proposes an idea, follow through on them.)

Discussion Questions

Have the students answer these questions in journals or as a small group discussion.

  1. Does our class have a trash problem?
  2. Why do I need to be concerned about the trash I throw away?
  3. What kinds of activities did I do that generated the most trash?
  4. What can I do to reduce the trash in the classroom?

Extension

Create a recycling program at your school based on the answers to discussion question 4. This could start as an awareness campaign about the amount and variety of trash your school has and turn into a full-scale paper, aluminum, and plastic recycling campaign. Or, it could be anything in between.

TEKS

SCI.K.1A, SCI.1.1A, SCI.2.1A, SCI.3.1A, SCI.4.1A, SCI.5.1A, SCI.6.1A, SCI.7.1A, SCI.8.1A
SCI.K.1B, SCI.1.1B, SCI.2.1B, SCI.3.1B, SCI.4.1B, SCI.5.1B, SCI.6.1B, SCI.7.1B, SCI.8.1B
SCI.K.2A, SCI.1.2A, SCI.2.2A, SCI.3.2A, SCI.4.2A, SCI.5.2A, SCI.6.2A, SCI.7.2A, SCI.8.2A
SS.K.15A, SS.1.18A, SS.2.19A, SS.3.18A, SS.4.22C, SS.5.25C, SS.6.22C
SS.K.15B, SS.1.18B, SS.2.19B, SS.3.18B, SS.4.22D, SS.5.25D, SS.6.22D, SS.7.22D, SS.8.30D

Activity Overview: This activity focuses on the concept of a source reduction. Also known as waste prevention, source reduction decreases the amount of material entering the waste stream. Some examples of source reduction include buying longer lasting light bulbs to reduce the frequency of burnouts and therefore the number thrown away. Another example is refilling plastic water bottles. Even disposable bottles can be refilled from the tap, which reduces the number entering the waste stream, even for recycling.

Materials:

  • Clean receptacle for paper
  • scale
  • method of recording data (analog or electronic)

Procedure:

  1. Ask the students how the class could find out the total amount of paper it throws away in a week. Most likely they will suggest having a separate container just for paper. Discuss what kinds of paper to keep. For the purpose of this activity, copy paper or notebook paper should be kept. Explain why some kinds of paper are not readily recyclable.
  2. Have each student write down his estimate of how much paper, by weight, is thrown away each week.
  3.  At the end of the five-day period, weigh the paper in the paper box. Have the students sort the waste paper into two categories:
    1. paper they could still use in the classroom (example, they could write on the blank side), and
    2. paper that has no additional classroom use (example, already written on both sides). Weigh the amount of paper in each category.
  4. Use paper from category A for scratch paper and notes. Put the reused paper in a separate container for recycling. Weigh the container at the end of 5 days.
  5. Relate the classroom experience to the idea of a source reduction.

Discuss how students can use less paper. Think of ways the whole school could cut down on paper use. Plan to share the results of this demonstration with the school.

Extension:

Compare results across classrooms on your hall or in your department. Use tables, graphs, and other tools to analyze results. Are there correlations with between class sizes, subject matter, or any other parameters?

Adapted from Away with Waste, Washington Department of Ecology.

TEKS

SCI.K.1A, SCI.1.1A, SCI.2.1A, SCI.3.1A, SCI.4.1A, SCI.5.1A, SCI.K.1B, SCI.1.1B, SCI.2.1B, SCI.3.1B, SCI.4.1B, SCI.5.1B, SCI.K.2A, SCI.1.2A, SCI.2.2A, SCI.3.2A, SCI.4.2A, SCI.5.2A
SCI.K.2C, SCI.1.2C, SCI.2.2C, SCI.3.2B, SCI.4.2B, SCI.5.2C
SCI.K.2D, SCI.1.2D, SCI.2.2D, SCI.3.2C, SCI.4.2C, SCI.5.2G
SCI.K.2E, SCI.1.2E, SCI.2.2E,  SCI.3.2D, SCI.4.2D, SCI.5.2D

Activity Overview: This activity focuses on the “reuse” theme of reduce-reuse-recycle. Students collect waste materials (paper, bottles, cans, cardboard tubes, fabric, etc) and find other uses for them either practically, for a school project, or as art objects. Cutting utensils or sharp objects may not be suitable for younger students, but otherwise this is an activity for students of all ages.

Activity 1: Recycled Puppets

Materials:

  • empty salt boxes
  • serrated knife
  • colored markers
  • fabric scissors (old)
  • fabric (clothing, sheets, curtains)
  • stapler
  • ribbons or lace scraps

Procedure:

  1. Cut the tops off the saltboxes for students. Then have the students draw faces on the tops.
  2. Cut the fabric into 8 inch by 8 inch pieces. Help students staple the cloth around the rim of the box top. Staple the open seam together.
  3. Have students staple ribbon or lace around the cloth edges. To make the puppet talk, students move the spout back and forth.

Reuse puppets in a play or use as an environmental message.

Activity taken from Integrated Thematic Units, Copyright © 1992  Scholastic, Inc. TES course 1994

Activity 2: Diorama

Materials:

  • steel and aluminum cans
  • paper and newspaper
  • rags and old clothes
  • well-loved or out-of-use school supplies
  • cardboard boxes
  • crates
  • shoeboxes

Procedure:

Students work individually or in groups to decide a scene from a book either read in class or at home to illustrate. Using the shoebox as a “stage,” students should recreate the scene or setting reusing as many materials as necessary to tell the story. Pencils too short to write can become a fence, and small cardboard boxes can serve as buildings in the setting. Creativity counts, and the more materials used again rather than on first use, the better.

Extension:

Students can create an original scene or setting and then write a story to accompany it. Encourage students to employ a conservationist or environmental theme when composing their original works of literature.

TEKS


SCI.K.1A, SCI.1.1A, SCI.2.1A, SCI.3.1A, SCI.4.1A, SCI.5.1A, SCI.6.1A, SCI.7.1A, SCI.8.1A

SCI.K.1B, SCI.1.1B, SCI.2.1B, SCI.3.1B, SCI.4.1B, SCI.5.1B, SCI.6.1B, SCI.7.1B, SCI.8.1B

SCI.K.2A, SCI.1.2A, SCI.2.2A, SCI.3.2A, SCI.4.2A, SCI.5.2A, SCI.6.2A, SCI.7.2A, SCI.8.2A

ELA.K.14A, ELA.1.18A, ELA.2.18A, ELA.3.18A, ELA.4.16A, ELA.5.16A, ELA.6.15A, ELA.7.15A, ELA.8.15

ELA.K.6A

ART.1.2A, ART.2.2A, ART.3.2A, ART.4.2A, ART.5.2A, ART.1.2B, ART.2.2B, ART.3.2B, ART.4.2B, ART.5.2B, MS1.2A, MS2.2A, MS3.2A, MS1.2B, MS2.2B, MS3.2B, MS1.2C, MS2.2C, MS3.2C

Activity Overview: In your own classroom, you can show a small example of what happens to all of that recycled paper produced by the school. Students have the opportunity to become part of the “recycle” process by breaking down used paper and recreating a new, usable product from the waste. This activity can be messy, as students produce paper pulp and then dry it to new sheets of paper. The instructions recommend to dry paper outside for the best results.

Materials: 

  • old papers – shredded if possible (do not use newspapers because of black ink)
  • screen
  • old towels
  • hand beaters, electric beaters or blenders
  • rolling pins or large glass jars
  • large plastic buckets

Time: 2x 45 minute class periods

Day 1:

  1. Students work in groups and tear paper into small pieces.
  2. Place torn paper in buckets.
  3. Add hot water to cover.
  4. Stir and then beat paper and water. (Small amounts can be removed to smaller containers so more students can be involved in the beating process.)
  5. Observe any changes in pulp and record.

Later Day 1 or Day 2:

  1. Drain water and add hot water. Beat pulp and observe and record any changes.
  2. Take buckets of pulp, screen, towels, and rolling pins outside.
  3. Lay a towel on the cement and the screen on the towel.
  4. Students put handfuls of pulp on screen.
  5. Use rolling pins to spread pulp out over screen like cookie dough (not too thin or it will tear).
  6. Place a dry towel on top of screen.
  7. Turn over the top towel and screen together carefully so the screen is now on top.
  8. Remove screen and allow paper to dry on towel (drying time depends on weather and temperature).
  9. Repeat until all pulp in is on drying towels.

Additional Options

  • Dry wildflowers or leaves and mount on recycled paper.
  • Crumble potpourri into buckets of pulp before you put it onto the screens for more texture in your paper.

TEKS

SCI.K.1A, SCI.1.1A, SCI.2.1A, SCI.3.1A, SCI.4.1A, SCI.5.1A, SCI.K.1B, SCI.1.1B, SCI.2.1B, SCI.3.1B, SCI.4.1B, SCI.5.1B, SCI.K.2A, SCI.1.2A, SCI.2.2A, SCI.3.2A, SCI.4.2A, SCI.5.2A

Activity Overview: Students may watch the garbage people come by and think that their waste magically disappears. Some may have been to the dump with a parent and some may have a compost pile or “dump” of their own on their land.

Organic products like food waste, cotton clothing, and paper break down quickly (usually within one year). Highly processed organic products such as processed timbers and leather may take several decades, but will still break down since they are made from basic natural compounds.

Aluminum cans can take up to 500 years to break down in a landfill, but are easily recycled and are collected in many towns. Glass can also be easily recycled in 8-10 weeks, but will take millions of years to break down and requires physical crushing to do so. Plastic bottles and foam plastic cups take millions of years to break down. These are made from polymers and petroleum products.

Time: 30 minutes for Activity One; 1 day research, plus 45 minutes to discuss Activity Two

Materials:

  • Computer access or library books

Setting the stage:

Using a map of the area, show the students the location of your local landfill. Ask if anyone has ever been there and have someone share his or her experience with the class. Using the map again show them the location of the recycling center. Solicit stories or feelings about use of this location or curbside pickup.

Next, show the students a selection of products from the list below and have them talk about how the items are used and misused. Feel free to substitute other items in each category that your students may be in contact with each day.

Activity 1: Take a Guess

Fill out the chart by making educated guesses on how long it takes for these items to completely break down when buried. This can be done as a group activity on the board or as an individual activity.

 How Many Years to Disappear Worksheet

Object0–1 Year2–100 Years100–500 Years500–1,000 Years1,000–1,000,000 Years
Aluminum Soda Can
Apple Core
Cotton T-Shirt
Plastic Water Bottle
Cardboard Cereal Box
Leather Sandal
Wooden Toy Train
Glass Jar
Disposable Diaper
Foam Plastic Cup

Activity 2: Do Your Research

Have the students split into 10 small groups or pairs and have each group choose one item from the list to research. Using the websites listed in the resource section or books from your library, have them answer the discussion questions below. Have the students share their findings with the group and discuss ways they can throw away less of the materials that take longest to break down.

Discussion:

  1. How long does your item take to break down?
  2. What factors are necessary for the decomposition of the item?
  3. Is your item recyclable?
  4. Is it easily recycled in our area?
  5. What percentage of this item is recycled each year?
  6. List some ways your family can throw away less of this item each year.

TEKS

SCI.K.1A, SCI.1.1A, SCI.2.1A, SCI.3.1A, SCI.4.1A, SCI.5.1A, SCI.6.1A, SCI.7.1A, SCI.8.1A
SCI.K.1B, SCI.1.1B, SCI.2.1B, SCI.3.1B, SCI.4.1B, SCI.5.1B, SCI.6.1B, SCI.7.1B, SCI.8.1B
SCI.K.2A, SCI.1.2A, SCI.2.2A, SCI.3.2A, SCI.4.2A, SCI.5.2A, SCI.6.2A, SCI.7.2A, SCI.8.2A
SS.K.15A, SS.1.18A, SS.2.19A, SS.3.18A, SS.4.22C, SS.5.25C, SS.6.22C
SS.K.15B, SS.1.18B, SS.2.19B, SS.3.18B, SS.4.22D, SS.5.25D, SS.6.22D, SS.7.22D, SS.8.30D

Activity Overview: For most people, water is all around us. Open the faucet and water flows into the sink immediately. This activity is about widening the view of where water comes from by looking at sources of water outside of the built environment.

Time: 30 minutes

Materials:

  • maps
  • atlases
  • digital maps (printed or projected)
  • rulers
  • paper
  • writing utensils

Procedure:

Ask students if they see any bodies of water in their natural environment. Do they pass a river or lake on the way to school? Do they have a stream running through their backyard? Do they go to a lake or the beach on vacation? Or do they live in a dry place with very few or no bodies of water?

Use maps, atlases, or digital tools like Google Maps to find your school. Zoom out or examine the map until you find a body of water. How far is it from your school? Is it freshwater or saltwater?

Pick another place, such as a big global city or a small town you or one of your students knows. Repeat the mapping exercise to find that place’s closest source of water. Which place is closer to water? Which one is farther?

Extend:

Ask students to create a map of one of the places they know. Is it their neighborhood? The school? The home of a family member? Or a place they know from visiting on vacation? Ask them to include any bodies of water on their maps.

 

Lesson Overview: The students will learn how to evaluate energy related purchases in terms of cost effectiveness.

Time: 2-3 class periods

Vocabulary: simple payback, cost benefit analysis, rate of return, life cycle costing

Materials: one copy of Cost Effective Buying per person, energy rating labels from different appliances, calculators

Cost-Effective Buying

Background Information:

When we feel compelled to buy a more fashionable garment or a computer, game console, or boat, we do so with satisfaction in the knowledge that the purchase will enrich our lives. We buy labor-saving appliances because they will minimize our work and give us more time for other activities (e.g. leisure).

Consider the motivational factors for purchasing an “energy-saving” heating or cooling system. One might name convenience, dependability, good servicing support, brand name, low first cost, low cost to operate, and estimated future energy/money savings as factors influencing the decision to purchase. That last factor, estimated future energy/money savings, reflects the consumer’s awareness of the rising cost of energy and his or her determination to reduce energy bills, save money, and as a result, save energy as well.

We expect the heating and cooling system to eventually “pay for itself.” We calculate how much time will pass before the monthly savings offset the purchase price. Simple payback is the quotient of the total installed cost divided by the first year’s dollar savings. If tax credits are available, they should be subtracted from the installed cost. The inverse of simple payback is the first year’s rate of return. An example will help clarify this:

You purchase a high efficiency air-conditioner to replace an older model. It costs $360 installed and is estimated to save you $10 each month it operates, or $40 a year. Simple payback is $360 divided by $40/year, or 9 years. Rate of return for first year is ($40/$360) × 100, or 11.1%.

These cost figures enable us to compare one purchase option against another. A more accurate analysis would take into account factors such as interest, tax, and inflation. Interest, for example, is always a factor because, even if we pay cash, we must consider the interest our capital would have earned had it been otherwise invested. Taxes are a factor because the interest we pay on a loan (finance charge) can be an allowable deduction on our income tax return and the interest which we may receive on our capital, otherwise invested, is taxable. Inflation is a factor because it has been with us a long time and because the limited supply of conventional energy resources will rise.

Setting the Stage:

Ask students about a recent large purchase they or someone in their family made. Ask if it was to replace something that was worn out or just something fun. Ask how much research they put into their purchase.

Activity 1: Cost Effective Buying

Explain simple payback and rate of return and write the equations on the board or overhead. Hand out the cost effective buying worksheet and work through one of the problems together and then allow the students to work the others.

1. Payback:
Insulation A =1.67 yrs • Insulation B = 2.24 yrs
Rate of Return on Your Investment:
Insulation A = 60 % • Insulation B = 45%

2. Payback:
Water Heater A =17.11 yrs • Water Heater B =9.83 yrs
Rate of Return on Your Investment:
Water Heater A = 6% • Water Heater B = 10%

3. Payback:
Air Conditioner A =14.67 yrs • Air Conditioner B = 12.43 yrs
Rate of Return on Your Investment:
Air Conditioner A = 7% • Air Conditioner B = 8%

Activity 2: Energy Rating Labels

Collect the energy rating labels from an appliance store for different appliances. Have your students record the initial cost and expected annual savings to compare different models of the same type of appliance (compare refrigerators to refrigerators). Students then find the payback and rate of return for each and decide which to purchase and why.

Extension:

Based only on operating costs (e.g. ignoring maintenance cost) determine what the payback would be on a new car of your choice.

TEKS

Math: 7.3 (A, B), 7.13 (B, F), 8.1 (B), 8.12 (F)
Science: 7.4 (A), 8.4 (A)
Social Studies: 7.21 (E)

Activity Overview: You can learn how much water your house uses by reading your home meter. The Meter Reading activity will help you learn how to read a meter. In this activity, we are going to learn how to measure how many minutes of water you are using and find ways that you can conserve.

Time: This activity will take place over the course of two weeks. The first week, you will measure your consumption. In the second week you'll compare your consumption to week 1.

Use this worksheet for this activity:

How Much Water Do You Use Worksheet

Resources

Austin Water Water Use Calculator

TEKS

VI.C.4, SCI.K.1B, SCI.2.1B

Objective: Students connect the contributions of scientists in the field of electricity to the concepts learned in class.

Time: One class period for research, one class period for the rest of the project

Materials: One sheet of computer paper per student, scissors, map pencils, computer access, or research materials

Vocabulary: scientist, contribution

Background Information:

All students know about the contributions of Thomas Edison and Benjamin Franklin to the study of electricity. What about the contributions of Louis Howard Latimer? Students use watt, volt, and amp when studying electricity, but do not know about the contributions of James Watt, Alessandro Volta and André-Marie Ampere. This lesson will allow your students to do some further research into the people that contributed to the field of electricity.

Setting the Stage:

Gather some biographies of people you plan to study and find pictures of these scientists. Show the students a picture of Benjamin Franklin and ask the students who it is and what his contribution to science is. Do this again with Thomas Edison. Then continue with some of the more obscure people on the list. When the students cannot tell you who it is, or what he/she contributed, do not tell them the answer. Tell them, “That is what we are going to find out today.”

Activity 1: Who’s Who Research

Research the people that were instrumental in discovering and refining electricity. Using books, websites, and encyclopedias, find out the who, what, when and where of some of these scientists. If you are unable to use a computer lab or a library for your research, print the biographies and extra pictures for your students prior to class. Some of the information you may want your students to find in their research may include: date of birth, place of birth, date of death, cause of death, education, obstacles in receiving an education, economic background, physical or learning abilities, prejudice or persecution due to gender, religion, race, or philosophical beliefs, major contributions, awards won, other interesting facts or stories.

The following is a list of scientists who were instrumental in the field of electricity:

  • André-Marie Ampere
  • Amadeo Avogadro
  • Niels Bohr
  • Charles de Coulomb
  • Thomas Edison
  • Michael Faraday
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • William Gilbert
  • Joseph Henry
  • Heinrich Hertz
  • James Joule
  • Louis Howard Latimer
  • James Clerk Maxwell
  • Samuel Finley Morse
  • Leopold Nobili
  • Hans Christian Oersted
  • Georg Ohm
  • Charles Parson
  • Gaston Plante’
  • Joseph Priestly
  • Charles Steinmetz
  • Sir Joseph Wilson Swan
  • Nikola Tesla
  • Joseph Johnson Thomas
  • Robert Van De Graff
  • Alessandro Volta
  • James Watt

Activity 2: Who’s Who Foldables

Hold a sheet of computer paper horizontally (landscape); fold both of the sides in so they meet in the center (shutter fold). Crease these folds. Fold the top half down to the bottom, crease the fold, then unfold. Cut crease in the center of the right and left flaps to the vertical crease. You now have a 5 1/2 by 8 1/2 inch sheet of paper with four flaps.

Label the flaps WhoWhatWhen and Where. Have students find or draw pictures to place on the front of these flaps. Information about the scientists should be placed under the appropriate flap.

Activity 3: Timeline

Make a timeline starting with the earliest birth date of one of the scientists and go through to the present. Hang the timeline all the way across a wall in your room. Have the students place their project on the wall with a string connecting it to the approximate date of their scientist. As the student places his or her project have them tell the class the name and major contribution of their scientist.

Discussion:

After all students have placed their projects on the timeline, ask the students if they see any patterns. Do they notice the clustering in one small timeframe of many of these discoveries? Why is that so?

Many of these scientists have had something named after them (volt, watt, amp). What would the students want named after them and what would it be called?

Extensions: Map Them

Using a world map, have the students place a pin in the country of origin of each scientist. Notice the clustering. Have the students discuss why that clustering may have occurred. What is going on in the world at the time? Are other discoveries occurring in other areas of the world?

Adapted from: Dinah Zike’s Big Book of Projects

TEKS

SCI.3.3C, SCI.4.3C, SCI.5.3C, SCI.5.3C, SCI.6.3D, SCI.7.3D, SCI.8.3D

RE.6.5A, RE.7.5A, RE.8.5A

SS.3.17C, SS.4.21B, SS.5.24B, SS.3.17E, SS.4.21C, SS.5.24C, SS.4.20B, SS.3.16A, SS.4.20A, SS.5.23A, SS.5.23B, SS.4.20B, SS.5.23C, SS.6.20A, SS.7.20C, SS.8.27B, SS.6.21C, SS.7.21C, SS.8.29C

ELA.3.13A, ELA.4.11A, ELA.5.11A, ELA.3.13B, ELA.4.11B, ELA.5.11B, ELA.5.11E, ELA.6.10A, ELA.7.10A, ELA.8.10A, ELA.6.10B, ELA.7.10B, ELA.8.10B

Activity Overview: In the U.S. 30-40 percent of food ends up wasted, instead of eaten. That is almost half the food in the U.S. Whether it’s expired food that doesn’t get eaten or leftovers that go to waste, there are many ways that food ends up being wasted. Growing and storing food takes money, and fuel, so when it’s wasted it not only wastes food, which is an important resource, but so are the fuel, energy, and money that it takes to produce the food. There are some easy things you can do to reduce the amount of food you waste.

Materials: Food waste receptacle, black trash bag, and scale.

Measure Your Food Waste: Activity Directions

Week 1

Place an empty black bag in your designated food waste receptacle and place it on your scale. Record the weight. Let everyone in your house know to dump any unused food in this trash can for the next week. You don’t have to include unusable parts of food, such as cores of fruit, as long as you have used all of the edible parts of the food, but for disposable purposes, you may include them.

Be sure to clean out your fridge at the end of the week, disposing of any wasted leftovers and spoiled groceries into the designated food waste receptacle. It’s important to include the waste you have from excess shopping as well as what is wasted from being on your plate, as both are considered food waste.

At the end of the week weigh the filled designated food waste receptacle. Calculate the weight of your household food waste by subtracting the weight of the empty container that you recorded at the beginning of the week. 

Week 2

Do the same activity for the second week with the goal of wasting less food. Here are some strategies to reduce waste:

  • Make less food. Pay attention to the recipes you make at home and the amount that it makes. If the recipes are larger than you and your family will eat in a week, half or quarter the recipe to make less. 
  • Buy less food. Consider buying in bulk instead of prepackaged materials. This allows you to reduce packaging waste, as well as not waste of food that you don’t need. Don’t automatically buy the biggest size container, pay attention to expiration dates and how much you will use in that time.
  • Plant a Garden. Plant a garden at your house or outside with foods that grow well in your climate and that you eat frequently. You can harvest them when they are ready, or when you need them. You can preserve the extra harvest yield through canning or freezing. Or you can donate it to people who need it or share with neighbors. Be intentional about how much you plant, based on how much you consume.
  • Make a Plan. Plan out your meals for the next week or two, reusing the same ingredients as much as you can. This will help you make use of all the perishable food that you buy.

At the end of the week, weigh the food designated food receptacle again. Remember to subtract the weight of the empty trash can.

Compare the weights for the two weeks. Did you create less food waste during the second week? What did you do to reduce your food waste and how can you continue those strategies?

TEKS

SCI.K.2C, SCI.1.2C, SCI.2.2C, SCI.3.2B, SCI.4.2B, SCI.5.2C, SCI.3.4A, SCI.4.4A, SCI.5.4A, SCI.3.2A, SCI.4.2A, SCI.5.2A, SCI.5.2B

MATH.1.3E, MATH.2.4B, MATH.3.4A, MATH.4.4A, MATH.5.3K

Activity Overview: This project will teach students how to upcycle and reuse containers to start a garden. Teach kids ways to reuse food by having a discussion about planting leftover food to start plants.

Time: 20-25 minutes to make the recycled planters. 1 hour or more to plant the classroom garden.

Materials: Tin cans (one per student), hammer, nails, and metal file (optional). Have students bring in recycled cans from their own homes.

Directions for Making Recycled Planters

Make sure the tin cans have the top lid fully removed and are empty, washed, and dried. If there are remaining metal fragments where the lid used to be, use the metal file to file it down for safety. Use the nails and hammer to make drainage holes in the bottom of the can. Optional: remove the labels from the cans and have students decorate the outsides with paint.

Make sure you have a place to keep the students plants in sunlight until they are ready to take them home. You can also make a larger planter to move them into on school grounds.

Plant a Classroom Garden

Teach students how to seed and reuse plants by having them plant their own individual garden from store bought seeds. Follow the directions on the seed packet. Have them use their individual planters to start seedlings and transplant them into a larger pot or garden area.

TEKS

SCI.4.7A, SCI.2.9A, SCI.K.1B, SCI.1.1B, SCI.2.1B, SCI.3.1B, SCI.4.1B, SCI.5.1B

Activity Overview: Saving water at home is easier than you think. By making small, intentional changes, you can save water at home.

Time: Varies based on the selected activity.

Did you know it takes energy to run water? Water is a precious resource and wasting it not only wastes water but energy too. Reducing water waste saves water, energy, and money. Did you know, heating water alone counts for an average of 15% of total household energy use? 

Conservation is the careful utilization of a natural resource in order to prevent depletion. When we conserve water, are careful about how we use it, we decrease water and energy waste.

Try one or more of these easy steps to reduce your water waste!

  • Skip the bath, take a shower.
    • A bath takes at least 15 gallons of hot water; most baths use between 35 and 50 gallons. Taking a shower instead can reduce the amount of water and energy you use. The average shower runs at 2.1 gallons per minute (gpm) and lasts only eight minutes, using a total of 17.2 gallons.
  • Take shorter showers.
    • Long showers can use just as much energy and water as a bath. If you reduce your shower from eight to five minutes, you can save an average of 6.3 gallons a day. That’s almost 2,300 gallons a year!
  • Turn the water off while you brush your teeth.
    • The average bathroom faucet uses 0.5-1.5 gpm. If you brush your teeth for two minutes, that wastes between 1-3 gallons of water every time you brush your teeth. It may not seem like a lot, but brushing your teeth even once a day wastes between 365 to 1,095 gallons a year per person. Turning the water off while you brush your teeth saves a lot of water!
  • Be intentional about your laundry.
    • Laundry is the second largest drain of water in your home. Being intentional about washing your clothes right: using cool water and making sure you don’t wash small loads. If you are intentional about washing clothes in the right loads, it can reduce the amount of water you use for laundry.
  • Don’t let the water run.
    • Do you do the dishes by hand at home? The average kitchen sink uses 2.2 gpm. Filling the sink up with hot, soapy water and rinsing the dishes all at once will help reduce the amount of water you use.
  • Reduce your outdoor water consumption
    • Learn what plants and flowers grow best in your climate. Planting something that needs a lot of water when you live somewhere with only a little rain means using more water.

Activities

  • Measure your water family water use
    • Have your family count the number of loads of laundry they do, times they flush the toilet, use the dishwasher, how long they take showers and how many baths in one week. Set a goal for the following week to reduce each of those measurements.
  • Don’t discard water.
    • Have unused water that you haven’t drink? Instead of dumping it out, use it to water indoor plants.

Resources

Austin Water Water Use Calculator

TEKS

SCI.K.1B, SCI.1.1B, SCI.2.1B, SCI.3.1B, SCI.4.1B, SCI.5.1B, SCI.K.2B, SCI.1.2B, SCI.2.2B, SCI.3.2A, SCI.4.2A, SCI.5.2A, SCI.5.2B, SCI.K.2C, SCI.1.2C, SCI.2.2C, SCI.3.2B, SCI.4.2B, SCI.5.2C, SCI.K.2D, SCI.1.2D, SCI.2.2D, SCI.K.2E, SCI.1.2E, SCI.2.2E, SCI.3.2F, SCI.4.2F, SCI.5.2F

Activity Overview: Recycling, means to make a material ready for reuse. Many materials can be recycled and turned into materials for reuse. Common recyclable materials are paper, plastic and metal. So how can you be the best recycler?

Time: 45 minutes for the first lesson. 5 minutes per day per week.

Know What You Can Recycle

Paper and cardboard are examples of materials that are always recyclable, as long as they aren’t soiled with food. If they are soiled you should place them in a compost bin.

Learn The Recycling Symbol

This symbol means that a material is recyclable. This symbol is often found on the bottom of recyclable containers.

Clean Your Recycling

Aluminum cans and plastic food containers are commonly recyclable items, but make sure you clean any food or residue off them before placing them in the recycling bin.

Learn What You Can Recycle at Your Home

Do you have a curbside recycling bin at your home? Some bins have what you can recycle listed on the bin, in images or lists. When checking the bin, be sure to consider how old your bin is. Your recycling center may have added recyclable items since your bin was issued. The easiest way to get a list of what you can recycle at your home is to go to your local county or municipality’s website. They will have a list of what you can recycle curbside, as well as what other objects can be recycled and where. Just because you cannot recycle it at home, does not mean it cannot be recycled. Batteries, electronics, and hazardous materials are all examples of items that you cannot recycle at home but you can still recycle.

Recycling Electronics

There are many ways to recycle old electronics. If your device still works, consider donating it to a local school or nonprofit organization to be refurbished, or check to see if your community has an upcoming electronic recycling event. Many electronic companies also have recycling programs, with some even offering discounts on purchases when you turn in old electronics.

Learning to Reuse

Reusing materials can reduce your cost for new materials, reduce the amount of waste you produce and reduce the energy needed to produce new materials. Here is a list of suggestions for things that you can easily reuse in your home.

Ways to Reuse

  • Save shoe boxes and similar sized boxes for wrapping presents and storage.
  • Ribbons and bows aren’t recyclable but you can save them and reuse them in the future.
  • Glass jars and coffee canisters can be used for bulk storage in your pantry, bathroom or office.
  • Old sheets, towels, and t-shirts can be used to create wash rags and cleaning materials for your home.

Can you think of additional ways to reuse materials in your home or classroom?

ACTIVITIES

  • Recycling symbol color sheet
  • Recycling Ranger color sheet
  • Recycling Matching worksheet
    • Instruct students to visit their recycling center site and learn where they can recycle what. Then have a list of: Aluminum cans, paper, batteries, electronics, etc. and they classify each one with where they can recycle it: home, recycling center, special recycling event.
  • Start A Recycling Program in Your Class
    • Get a separate bin for your class and designate it for recycling materials only
    • Do your research and learn what you can recycle at your school. If you don’t have a recycling program at your school, work with teachers and administration to start one.
  • Start A Reuse Program in Your Class
    • Collect old tissue box containers and other receptacles that are often discarded and work with your students to find a new use for them.

TEKS

SCI.K.1B, SCI.1.1B, SCI.2.1B. SCI.3.1B, SCI.4.1B, SCI.5.1B

Activity Overview: Start a recycling program in your classroom or school.

Time: 15 minutes for the first lesson; 10 minutes per day over one week or more.

What is Recycling?

Recycling is when you convert waste into a reusable material. The recycled material is processed and transformed into material that can be reused. It’s old material, but good as new!

Why Recycle?

Recycling is an important way to reduce waste, conserve resources and decrease costs. By reusing materials to create new materials and the amount of waste that we generate. In addition, recycling doesn’t just prevent waste, it helps save energy. For example, recycling steel and tin cans saves 74% of the energy used to produce them.

Important Things to Remember When Recycling

Clean Food Containers. Rinse out aluminum cans, soda bottles and plastic containers that once held food before placing them in your recycling bin. It may seem insignificant, but food and the residue it leaves behind can prevent entire loads of recyclable materials from being recycled.

Do Your Research. Make sure you are only recycling items that can be recycled where you are. Just because an item can be recycled doesn’t mean it can be everywhere, and placing an unrecyclable item in a recycling container can prevent the rest of the load from being properly recycled.

Know Before You Throw. Pizza boxes, paper towels, napkins, and food-soiled cardboard or paper are not recyclable, but they can be placed in a compost bin or container. Many other items can be recycled but only in certain locations. If you aren’t sure what can be recycled or where, check your local county or municipality’s website.

Activity 1

Work in groups or as a class as appropriate. Looking at common classroom items, make a plan for what to do when no longer using them.

  • Paper
  • Folders
  • Whiteboard
  • Markers
  • Plastic bottles

Which items are reused as they are? Are they cleaned first? Which items are thrown away? Could you find another use for these items or others? Which items need to go somewhere else to be reused?

Activity 2

How many uses can different groups find for the same item? Who can find the most uses? Are they realistic? Brainstorm the maximum number of uses from one item.

TEKS

SCI.K.1(B), SCI.1.1(B), SCI.2.1(B). SCI.3.1(B), SCI.4.1(B), SCI.5.1(B)

Activity Overview: Recycling is making a material ready for reuse in a new form. Reusing is when you find another purpose for an already existing object. For example, when you use an empty glass jar as a drinking glass, that is reuse.

Time: Varies based on activity.

Plastic is everywhere. It is the cup that we drink out of, the straw in our drink and the chair that you sit on. Plastic can be very useful and important but it comes in many forms. Some of those forms are used often and for many years, while others are used only once and disposed of.

Many types of plastic are recyclable, while other soft forms of plastic are not. 

Some forms of plastic are used temporarily and disposed of after only one use. While most of these are not recyclable, there are strategies to be resourceful with how you use these items.

  • When you order a drink, ask for it without a straw or bring your own reusable straw with you.
  • Avoid using plastic or paper grocery bags at the store. Instead, bring your own reusable bags with you. Keeping your reusable bags in your vehicle with you will help you have them available when you need them.
  • Instead of using a disposable water bottle, bring your own reusable water bottle. If you do use a disposable water bottle, make sure that you recycle it when you are done.
  • Putting your lunch in reusable containers or bags, instead of one-use plastic bags, can help decrease the amount of plastic waste that you produce.

Where Does Plastic End Up?

More than three-quarters of all plastic ends up in landfills, where it can take between decades and hundreds of years to degrade. When plastic is littered, instead of being discarded correctly, it can also end up in the ocean, affecting marine life. When plastic is recycled it can be reused, saving materials, energy, money and the environment.

Activities:

  • Make Your Own Reusable Shopping Bag
  • Decorate A Reusable Shopping Bag

TEKS

VI.C.4, SCI.K.1B, SCI.1.1B, SCI.2.1B. SCI.3.1B, SCI.4.1B, SCI.5.1B

Activity Overview: Can you beat your family by producing the least amount of waste in your household?

Time: 10 minutes for the first lesson; 15 minutes per day over two weeks.

Materials Needed: Trash bags, masking tape, a marker, and a weight scale.

The average American produces 4.4 pounds of waste daily, including recyclable and compostable material. Waste comes from uneaten food, packaging, broken materials and more. So, how much waste do you produce?

Setting the Stage

Give each member of your household a trash bag for their trash. You can place the bags in individual trash cans for additional security. Give each person a piece of masking tape and have them write their names. Have everyone place the masking tape on their trash bag.

Activity Directions

For the next week have each member of your household place their waste in their own individual trash bags. Any material that you recycle or compost properly can be left out of the trash bags. At the end of the week, weigh the bags individually to see what each one weighs. Do the same thing for week two. See who has decreased their waste by the largest percentage.

TEKS

VI.C.4, SCI.K.1B, SCI.1.1B, SCI.2.1B. SCI.3.1B, SCI.4.1B, SCI.5.1B

Activity Overview: Students will use a tire pressure gauge to determine if the tires are properly inflated. Students will learn how under inflated tires effect gas mileage for a vehicle.

Time: 1 hour

Materials: tire pressure gauge, clipboards, ribbons, pens, copies of Tire Pressure Worksheet

 Tire Pressure Worksheet

Vocabulary: under-inflated, tire pressure gauge, psi, mpg

Background Information:

America is driving around on under-inflated tires, according to a recent survey. Under-inflated tires lower gas mileage, wasting millions of dollars each year. Under-inflated tires are also a major safety hazard. Thousands of accidents each year may be caused by poor handling due to under inflated tires.

Interesting Facts:

  • One out of three light trucks and one out of four cars now on the road has a tire that’s significantly under-inflated according to a recent NHSTA survey.
  • You can improve your gas mileage by 3.3 percent by keeping your tires inflated to the proper pressure. Under-inflated tires can lower gas mileage by 0.4 percent for every 1 psi drop in pressure of all four tires. Properly inflated tires are safer and last longer.
  • Six percent of light trucks (sport utility vehicles, vans and pickup trucks) are driven with all four of their tires under-inflated by 8 or more psi, compared with 3 percent of passenger cars. Twenty percent of light trucks have two or more tires under -inflated by 8 or more psi, compared with 13 percent of passenger cars.
  • NHTSA estimates that 49 to 79 deaths and 6,585 to 10,635 injuries could be prevented annually if all vehicles were equipped with tire pressure monitoring systems. In addition, vehicle owners would benefit from better vehicle handling, increased tire life and better fuel economy.

Setting the stage:

Ask your students if they have ever used a tire gauge, seen their parents add air to a tire, or if they have ever had a flat tire. Discuss gas mileage and factors that may affect it, and reasons why you want better gas mileage (less gas used, less energy usage, less money)

Activity 1: So, when was the last time you checked your tire pressure?

Take the students out to the parking lot and show them how to check the tire pressure on a car. You may want to ask your high school auto mechanics class to bring a car over and show the students. Have the students fill out the tire pressure chart.

Send a tire pressure gauge (about $2 at an auto parts store) home with your students if their parents do not have one. Include the Tire Pressure Worksheet. Have the student research the proper tire pressure for their particular car and record it on the pressure chart. Then they should record the actual tire pressure for each of the tires on the car they researched. In class, total the number of under-inflated tires.

Activity 2: Teacher Tire Check

Have the class survey the school parking lot. Students give ribbons and information to teachers the day before the tire check. If teachers want their tire pressures checked they put the ribbon on their dash or rearview mirrors. The class then checks all the marked cars in the lot and leaves a note card under the windshield wiper with the pressures for each tire recorded.

Extension:

For upper grades or as a club project you may provide an option to the tire check, an “Air Station” you set up after school to get under-inflated tires pumped up. (This will require some air compressors, hose, etc.) Or this could be coordinated with a nearby service station that would permit students to help people get their tires inflated.

Handing out driving tips, recommended maintenance tips and mile per gallon calculators at the same time is a good idea.

TEKS

Science: 6.1 (A), 6.2 (A, B, C, D, E), 6.4 (A), 7.1 (A), 7.2 (A, B, C, D, E), 7.4 (A), 8.1 (A), 8.2 (A, B, C, D, E), 8.4 (A)

Objective: Students will calculate fuel mileage of a family car and a school bus to determine which is a more efficient way to get to school.

Time: One to two class periods

Materials: One map of your area with a key per student, bus route maps showing number of students picked up, rulers, map pencils

Vocabulary: mpg, energy, efficiency 

Background Information:

More students today ride to school with an adult or on the bus than ever before. This leads to fuel usage that previously was saved, as students were able and willing to walk to school. By calculating exactly what it costs for each child to get to school, better decisions can be made.

Bus costs vary greatly depending on what kind of busses you have. Contact your school’s transportation department (bus barn) to find out what kind of busses your district uses, what type of fuel they use, the fuel cost (hopefully in gallons) and the mpg.

Setting the Stage:

Recruit a helper or two and greet each child upon entering the class with a sticker signifying how they got to school: green dots for walking/riding a bike, blue dots for a personal vehicle, yellow dots for a school bus. At the start of the class have the students group themselves by colored dot and discuss why they come to school the way they do. Have a few students share their thoughts with the class.

Activity 1: Mapping

Give each personal vehicle and walking/riding student a map of the area and have him or her trace his or her route to school. Give each bus riding student a map of the area and a bus route list (something with the addresses/ corners where a particular bus stops along with information on how many students ride that bus). Have the students plot the bus route and color it with a light colored map pencil. Then have each student examine the route they take and see if it is the most efficient route that could be taken. Color the route they choose with a darker color map pencil. Have the student determine the distance to school in miles using the key and a ruler. When finding miles driven for the bus, don’t forget the miles back to the bus barn, and when finding miles driven by personal vehicles, you have to double the trip—that person has to get home.

PERSONAL VEHICLE: Record this distance for a day/week (multiply by 5); /month (multiply by 20); and a school year (multiply by 180). Determine fuel used for each of those distances using some general statistics or the actual fuel mileage of the parent’s vehicle. Have students share their original distance information with others who do not get to school by personal vehicle.

BUS: Determine mileage for the day/week/month and school year using information from your bus barn. Then determine the gallons of fuel used for the same time frames. Have students share their original distance information with others who do not get to school by bus.

TOTALS: Divide the gallons of fuel used by the number of students riding that mode of transportation. For example, if there were two students in a personal vehicle we would divide the total fuel usage by 2. If there were 30 kids on the bus, we would divide the bus’s total fuel usage by 30. Now use the average daily price of gasoline in your area and the fuel costs you received from your transportation department, to determine how much it cost those students to get to school. Remember that this information is only for getting to school.

Discussion:

What is the most energy efficient way to get to school? How can you make riding the school bus to school more efficient? (Change of route, fewer stops, more kids, new busses, busses that run on alternative fuels, etc.) How can you make riding in a personal vehicle to school more efficient? (Change of route, more kids, etc)

How can we encourage more students to get to school without using a fuel-powered vehicle (riding bike, walking)?

Extensions:

Have your transportation department manager speak to the students on how routes are chosen. Have the students show him or her the routes they choose and have them explain the thinking behind them.

Resources:

fueleconomy.gov

TEKS

Math: 6.2 (A, B, C, D), 6.3 (A, B, C), 6.8 (A, B, D), 6.10 (D), 6.11 (A, B), 6.12 (A, B), 7.1 (B), 7.2 (A, B, D), 7.3 (A, B), 7.13 (A, B, D), 7.14 (A), 8.1 (A, B), 8.2 (A, B, C), 8.14 (A, B, D), 8.15 (A, B)
Science: 6.2 (A, B, C, D, E), 6.3 (A, C, D), 6.4 (A, B), 7.2 (A, B, C, D, E), 7.3 (A, C, D), 7.4 (A, B), 8.2 (A, B, C, D, E), 8.3 (A, C, D), 8.4 (A, B),
Social Studies: 6.3, 6.20 (C), 6.21 (A, B, C, D, F), 6.22 (A, B, C), 6.23 (A, B), 7.20 (C, D, E, F), 7.21 (A, B, C, E, H), 7.22 (A, B, C, D), 7.23 (A, B), 8.10 (B), 8.30 (A, B, C, E, H), 8.31 (A, B, C, D), 8.32 (A, B)
ELA: 6.1 (A), 6.4 (A), 6.15 (A), 6.18 (A), 7.1 (A), 7.4 (A), 7.15 (A), 7.18 (A), 8.1 (A), 8.4 (A), 8.15 (A), 8.18 (A)

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

Background Information:

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.

Setting the Stage:

Ask students to find pictures of items that represent energy. 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.

Activity 1: Utility Organizer–Collage

Have students find pictures in magazines that represent energy use to them. 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.

Activity 2: Utility Organizer–Information

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.

Discussion:

  1. What do the peaks in the natural gas prices signify? What can you do during those times to lower your total bill?
  2. Why do you have a choice in electric companies? Why should you?
  3. What differences were found in the resources used to generate power?
  4. Which company would you chose and why, if given the chance?

Extension:

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.

TEKS

Math: 3.3 (B), 3.14 (A, B, C), 3.15 (A), 3.16 (A, B), 4.13 (C), 4.14 (A), 4.15 (A, B), 5.5 (B), 5.9, 5.13 (A, B, C), 5.14 (A), 5.15 (A, B), 6.4 (A), 6.7, 6.10 (A, C, D), 6.11 (A), 6.12 (A), 7.4 (B), 7.7 (A, B), 7.13 (A), 8.4, 8.5 (A), 8.12 (C), 8.14 (A)
Science: 3.2 (E), 3.3 (B), 4.2 (E), 4.3 (B), 5.2 (E), 5.3 (B), 6.2 (E), 6.3 (B), 6.9 (B, C), 7.2 (E), 7.3 (B), 8.2 (E), 8.3 (B),
Social studies: 3.7 (A, B, C), 3.8 (B, C), 3.16 (E), 3.17 (B), 4.5 (A), 4.14 (B), 4.22 (C, D), 4.23 (D), 5.13 (A), 5.25 (C, D), 5.26 (D), 6.9 (A, B), 6.21 (C, D), 6.22 (D), 7.20 (D), 7.21 (A, B, C, D, E, F, G), 7.22 (C, D), 8.30 (A, B, C, D, E, F, G), 8.31 (C, D)
Art: 3.2 (A, B, C), 4.2 (A, B, C), 5.2 (A, C), 6.2 (A, C), 7.2 (A, C), 8.2 (A, C)

Lesson Overview: Students will use play money to understand the dollar cost of their energy habits.

Time: 20–30 minutes

Materials: 2 envelopes, 1 marked “me” and 1 marked “utility” for each student, $100 Pay Me Game Money per student, copy of The Pay Me Game Questions

 The Pay Me Game Questions

 Pay Me Game Money

Vocabulary: utility, save, spend

Background Information:

Students have a hard time understanding how much energy they are using if it is not tied to dollar amounts. They know how much a candy bar, a pair of shoes or a movie ticket costs. In this lesson they will use play energy money to learn some of the dollar amounts attached to a shower, the refrigerator or their pool. The dollar amounts for this game are based on amount of energy used multiplied by the state average for electricity costs.

Activity 1: The Pay Me Game

  1. Print and cut one Pay Me Game Money page for each student. If working with more than one class of students, consider laminating the money. Select questions from the Pay Me Game to ask students.
  2. Give each student one “me” envelope, one “utility” envelope and $100, made up of 10 $5s and five $10s (one page of pre-cut money).
  3. Tell students that they have just gotten paid $100, and whatever they and their family don’t spend on energy at home, they can use to buy things they want. Read each selected The Pay Me Game question to the group. Depending on their answer, the students will put the required amount of money in either their “me” envelope or in their “utility” envelope. If a student runs out of money before the end of the game he may borrow from his “me” envelope to pay the “utility bill.”
  4. At the end of the game, students discard any money that is still in their hand. Count the money in each envelope to show the students how much their energy habits are costing them.

Note: you may want to delete questions or change them depending on students in your area. If you know no one has a pool at home you may want to omit that question, however if you do ask it, the students will see how much they are saving by not having a pool.

Discussion:

How much the student learns from this depends on you. If you quickly discuss the “why’s” of the questions with the students they will have a better understanding of how to change their energy practices. Stress to the students that this is a game for them to see how much extra energy they really use. So it is best if they answer the questions honestly. If this was real money, and students could use any money that they could save, what would they do?

Extension:

Utility companies produce good pamphlets with energy saving tips. You could get copies for your students to take home as a follow-up to this activity.

TEKS

Math: 3.1 (C), 3.15 (A, D), 4.3 (A), 4.14 (A, B), 5.3 (A), 5.14 (A), 6.11 (A)
Science: 3.3 (C), 4.3 (C), 5.3 (C), 6.3 (C)
Social Studies: 3.6 (A, B), 3.8 (B), 5.13 (A, B)

Objective: The students will discover statistics about public transit and discuss reasons behind those statistics.

Time: One class period

Materials: One Transportation, Population, and You worksheet per student, one Texas map per group, and literature about each town

 Transportation, Population, and You

Vocabulary: ridership, public transit, rank

Background Information:

Ridership is defined as the number of people that ride public transit in a day. Large cities spend lots of dollars and hours to determine ways to increase ridership. Houston and Dallas have put in mass transit trains to better serve their populations. Corpus Christi has increased the areas and neighborhoods the bus goes to and streamlined the use of special service busses. These services are very important to the populations that currently use public transit and will be useful to more residents as the cities grow and traffic becomes heavier.

The following information was put together by visiting the websites of each city’s public transit system and/or from speaking to the transportation director in some of the smaller towns. If your area has a public transit system, call the transportation director of your city and add the information to the chart.

City NameRank in size NationallyPopulation of CityNumber of Riders Each Day% of the population riding public transit
Houston46,892,427248,6763.6%
Dallas91,341,075213,22615.9%
Austin112,115,827102,7124.9%
San Antonio71,511,946116,0107.7%
Corpus Christi59454,72614,7163.2%
El Paso22841,97137,8084.5%
Galveston75850,4971,2722.5%

Setting the Stage:

Ask the students how many have ridden on public transportation (not a school bus). Have them describe where, why and how they felt.

Activity 1:

Make a photocopy of the chart worksheet for each student. Have them fill in the percent column by dividing the total population into the number of riders each day. Have them rank the cities based on their ridership numbers. Which ones have the most riders, which has the least, which ones have the largest percentage of their population using public transit, etc.

Activity 2:

Make a graphic organizer with three columns. In the first column have the students list things they know about each city. Have them work in groups to fill in this column. It can be a bulleted list or a train-of-thought random listing. The next column is things the students want to know about the cities. This would be a good time to have the students share some of the categories of information they have come up with (Austin has several colleges, or Austin is the home of The University of Texas). You could also give examples such as, size, lay-out, colleges, type of jobs there, activities in that town, etc. Then give each group a Texas map and some literature about the cities that they can draw more information from. Place this information in the third column, things they learned about the cities. This is a modified KWL approach. A Sample KWL Chart is included for you.

 Sample KWL Chart

Switch groups and have each child share with the new group. Armed with data and facts about each city, have the students discuss why some cities have better ridership than others and how to increase the ridership in a city. Complete the worksheet.

Discussion:

Who rides the bus? What factors make it easier for people to ride public transit in some cities? How can a city increase ridership?

Extensions:

Write a plan for starting (or increasing) ridership in your town. List major pick-up and drop-off locations and reasons why your town should have public transit. Write a letter to your mayor explaining the project and include a copy of your proposed ridership plan.

Resources:

TEKS

Math: 5.3 (A, C), 5.14 (A, B, D), 5.16 (A, B), 6.2 (C, D), 6.11 (A, B, D), 7.1 (B), 7.2 (A, B), 7.13 (A, B, D), 8.14 (A, B, D)
Science: 5.2 (A, B, C, D), 5.3 (A, B, C), 6.2 (A, B, C, D), 6.3 (A, B, C), 7.2 (A, B, C, D), 7.3 (A, B, C), 8.2 (A, B, C, D), 8.3 (A, B, C)
Social Studies: 5.8 (D), 5.14 (E), 5.25 (A, B, C, D, F), 5.26 (A, C, D), 6.5 (A), 6.21 (A, B, C, D, F), 6.22 (A, C, D), 7.21 (A, B, C, D, H), 7.22 (A, B, D), 8.30 (A, B, C, D, H), 8.31 (A, B, D)
ELA: 5.1 (A, B, C), 5.4 (A), 5.5 (B, F), 5.13 (A, B, C, D, E, G, H), 6.1 (A, B, C), 6.4 (A), 6.5 (B ,F), 6.13 (A, B, C, D, E, G, H), 7.1 (A, B, C), 7.4 (A), 7.5 (B, F), 7.13 (A, B, C, D, E, G, H), 8.1 (A, B, C), 8.4 (A), 8.5 (B, F), 8.13 (A, B, C, D, E, G, H)

Lesson Overview: Students will learn to read utility meters and compute energy use. Students will proceed to monitor the energy used in their homes and keep a daily record. At school the information will be compiled and discussed.

Time: 45 minutes for first lesson; 10 minutes per day over one week or more.

Materials: One Home Meter Reading Worksheet per student, one Sample Meter Reading Worksheet per group, Teacher Meter Sheet.

 Home Meter Reading Worksheet

 Sample Meter Reading Worksheet

 Teacher Meter Sheet

Vocabulary: kilowatts, meter, dials

Background Information:

To read your meter first identify if you have an analog or digital meter. An analog meter will have multiple faces on it, similar to a clock or watch face, while a digital meter will flash numbers, similar to how a phone shows time. Regardless of the type of meter you have, meter reading can be kind of tricky.

How to Read an Analog Meter:

  • Stand directly in front of your meter. Looking at dials from an angle can distort the reading.
  • Read your meter dials from left to right.
  • If the dial hand is between numbers, use the smaller of the two numbers.
  • If the dial hand is positioned exactly on number, look at the dial to the right to determine correct reading. Has the dial to the right recently passed zero?
  • If no, use the smaller number on the dial you’re reading.
  • If yes, use the number the hand is pointing to on the dial you’re reading.

Note: Some meters are marked with a x10 or similar number. This number is called a constant, and the meter readings should be multiplied by the number shown. If your meter has a constant, it will show on the meter in the lower left.

How to Read a Digital Meter:

Your meter cycles through many numbers and letters when operating. Every display starts with a display identification number. Here is what those numbers mean (your meter may not display every item):

  • Your meter will cycle through displays of different modes.
  • At the beginning of each cycle, your meter will display all 8, referred to as the LED segment check.
  • Your total energy use displays as kWh (Kilowatt-Hours)

LED Segment Check

Display Identification: Kilowatt-Hours

Note: Some meters are marked with a x10 or similar number. This number is called a constant, and the meter readings should be multiplied by the number shown. If your meter has a constant, it will show on the meter in the lower left.

Setting the Stage:

Show the students a sample energy bill and how to read it. Ask them how a clock’s hands move. Ask if anyone knows where the meters are at their home or if they have ever seen meters in public.

Activity 1: Sample Meters

Give each student a sample meter reading sheet and display the teacher meter sheet on a screen for the class to follow along. Teach the class how to read their meters, reviewing the rules from the background section with them. Use pointers on your meters. Assign groups of four to practice “round robin” style with one student doing a problem and the rest checking and comparing with him or her. The next student does the next problem and so on.

Activity 2: Personal Meters–School and Home

Remember that electric devices can be dangerous if they are tampered with, so make sure an adult supervises this activity.

Explain to the students how they will be checking their electricity meters at home daily for the next week. They will compute a total for kilowatt-hours of electricity if possible (some students may have only one). If possible, show the students the school’s meters and have each student read one dial.

Each day in class take a few minutes to discuss any problems or questions the students have. At the end of the week, subtract the beginning numbers from the last numbers to find the amount of energy used in that student’s home.

Discussion:

  1. Does your family spend more money on gas or electricity?
  2. Can you think of five ways to use less gas and electricity?
  3. Where do your gas and electricity come from?
  4. How much gas and electricity would the families in the whole class use in a week? A year?
  5. How much gas and electricity would the families of the whole school use?

Extensions:

  1. Do a spelling bee activity with meter reading: set up a few dials on the board and change the arrows for each player.
  2. Chart or graph a year’s worth of your own energy bills and present them to your class. Discuss with the students the possible reasons for the fluctuations.

TEKS

Math: 3.1 (A), 3.3 (A, B), 3.14 (A, C), 3.15 (A), 3.16 (A, B), 4.1 (A, B), 4.3 (A), 4.4 (D), 4.14 (A), 4.15 (B), 5.3 (A, B), 5.12 (A), 5.14 (A), 5.15 (A), 6.11 (A), 6.12 (A), 7.11 (A), 7.13 (A), 8.1 (B), 8.2 (A, B), 8.14 (A), 8.15 (A)
Science: 3.1 (A), 3.2 (A, B, C, D, E), 3.16 (A, B), 4.1 (A), 4.2 (A, B, C, D, E), 4.3 (C), 5.1 (A), 5.2 (A, B, C, D, E), 5.3 (C), 6.1 (A), 6.2 (A, B, C, D, E), 6.3 (C), 6.4 (A), 7.1 (A), 7.2 (A, B, C, D, E), 7.3 (C), 7.4 (A), 8.1 (A), 8.2 (A, B, C, D, E), 8.3 (C), 8.4 (A)

Lesson Overview: This lesson expands upon the awareness of a student’s energy usage learned in the Energy Home Survey lesson. The students will add math to their information to determine which appliances are energy eaters. They will work on utility math problems and a comparison of the results.

Time: 15 minute preparation, one day’s homework, one class

Materials: What is the Cost worksheet, calculators

 What is the Cost

Vocabulary: periodic appliance, incandescent and fluorescent lights

Background Information:

U.S. residents use more energy now than we ever have in the past. There are many reasons for this. As more people populate the country, energy needs rise. Technology advances, such as industrial processes, sophisticated machinery and computers also require increased energy. Our everyday lives are filled with electrical appliances that our grandparents never used.

This activity gives your students a chance to work on some real-life math problems. This activity bases its numbers on cost figures from one utility. Energy figures in your area may be different. Your local energy utility can give you figures that show the average expenditure per household in your community.

Setting the Stage:

Start by asking your students if they have ever heard their parents complain about the cost of energy. Explain that the monthly utility bill is directly related to the amount of energy the household uses, and that this activity will help them find the “energy-eaters” in the house. Show them a sample electricity bill from a local utility company.

Activity 1: What is the Cost?

Distribute the What is the Cost worksheet. Have students fill out the second and third columns (# on am, # on pm) on the front side at home, and the first column of the periodic appliance use chart. The next day, assist them in a few of the math problems and have them complete the charts and questions.

Part two includes appliances that are run periodically. Students fill out information relating to the number of loads they do each week. After reading the second chart, have the students estimate their energy bill. Compare with actual or sample bills.

Discussion:

After they have found out how much it costs to run appliances each day ask them if they found any they could live without (such as an electric can opener), or if there were any they could use less (shutting off lights and stereo when leaving the room).

Extension:

Bring in a speaker from your local utility to talk about ways to change habits to lower home energy costs, or have your school energy manager speak about energy saving techniques in the school.

Lesson Overview: In this lesson, students become more aware of their energy use by conducting a home energy survey. They answer questions to learn about appliances and air leaks in the home. Students will also discuss ways to save energy and develop a plan to start saving energy at home.

Time: Approximately 30 minutes

Materials: One copy of the Home Energy Survey and the Energy Checklist per student

 Home Energy Survey

Energy Checklist

Vocabulary: energy, thermostat, temperature, drafts, appliance, insulated, incandescent 

Background Information:

People use energy without thinking about it all day. They turn on appliances and walk through rooms every day without a thought to where the electricity comes from, or how much they are using. The Home Energy Survey and Energy Checklist are ways to make the students aware of what they are using throughout the day.

Setting the Stage:

Write the question, “Where have you used energy today?” on the board. Have the students make a list of all the energy using devices they have used. You may want to start with energy use since the start of the school day or since lunch for younger students. Prompt them to list more as you go through a typical day.

Activity 1: Home Energy Survey

Send the Home Energy Survey home with the students to fill out with an adult as they go about their day. This will reinforce the starter activity as there may be many more appliances that they had not thought of.

The following day have the students compare their surveys in groups. Have the group brainstorm ways they could use less energy based on their lists. Have each student write an essay on three ways they could change their day to use less energy based on the brainstorming of the group.

Activity 2: Energy Checklist

Send the Energy Checklist home with the students to fill out with an adult. This checklist gives their home an energy score based on items around the house.

The following day discuss ways some of these scores could be easily changed. Some examples of things to do include:

  • Temperature: changing the temperature on the thermostat.
  • Windows: caulking, curtains, draft doggies
  • Water Heater: water heater blankets cost $15-20 and are easy to install
  • Light bulbs: CFL bulbs use less energy and are relatively inexpensive.
  • Leaving lights on: change in habit, reminder notes

Extensions:

Have students do the energy checklist in parts of your school building. Make a presentation to the principal, energy manager and school board about what they found and ways they could make the building more energy efficient.

TEKS

Math: 3.3 (B), 4.3 (A), 5.3 (A), 6.2 (B)
Science: 3.2 (B, C, D), 4.2 (B, C, D), 5.2 (B, C, D), 5.8 (A), 6.2 (B, C, D)
Social Studies: 3.18 (A, B), 4.21 (B, C), 4.24 (A, B), 5.24 (B, C, D, E), 5.27 (A, B), 6.20 (A), 6.23 (A, B)
ELA: 3.2 (A), 3.9 (A), 3.13 (A), 3.14 (A), 4.4 (A), 4.10 (A), 4.14 (A), 4.15 (A), 5.4 (A), 5.10 (A), 5.14 (A), 5.15 (A), 6.4 (A), 6.10 (A), 6.14 (A), 6.15 (A)

Lesson Overview: Students will learn about wasting energy, conserving energy, energy crisis and what to do about this by doing a hands on, minds on, classroom activity throughout the week.

Time: 5 days on going during class periods

Materials: 15 Energy Trip Tickets per student

 Energy Trip Tickets

Vocabulary: conserve, waste, crisis, strategies

Background Information:

Students use energy every day without thinking about where it comes from, how it arrives or even that they are using it. This activity will help to make students aware of their energy usage by making them “pay” for each energy trip they make throughout the day. This activity will also get students thinking about ways they can conserve or eliminate energy use by making them look at their day.

Setting the stage:

Have the students make a list of all their school trips: to the pencil sharpener, the lunchroom, the rest rooms, music class, and so on.

Activity: Energy Trip Ticket Game

Give each student 15 Energy Trip Tickets and announce that for the next five days, every trip will cost one ticket. At the end of each day, record the number of tickets each student has left on a large chart for all to see. Who’s wasting energy? Conserving it? How are they doing it? Discuss energy-saving strategies such as combining several errands on one ticket and “pencil pooling” (rotating the task of pencil sharpening within a small group of students). By the third day, the room will be a-buzz with talk of the impending “energy crisis.”

Discussion:

Ask your students what effect the crisis is having on their standard of living. Now they are ready to devise some real-life conservation strategies. Developing conservation strategies can be fun, especially when your students know the priceless reward of their knowledge of energy conservation.

Extension:

Have students write down their energy trip conservation goals at the end of the week. Have them keep track of their own energy trips for the next week and see how they did and what modifications were necessary to meet those goals.

TEKS

Math: 1.10 (A, B), 1.13, 2.11 (A, B), 2.14, 3.14 (A, B, C), 3.15 (A, B), 4.13 (C), 4.14 (A, B), 5.13 (B), 6.10 (D), 6.11 (A), 7.12 (A), 7.13 (A), 8.12 (C), 8.14 (A)
Science: K.1 (B), K.3 (A, B, C), 1.1 (B), 1.3 (A, B, C), 2.1 (B), 2.3 (A, B, C), 3.1 (B), 3.3 (C), 4.1 (B), 4.3 (C), 5.1 (B), 5.3 (C), 6.1 (B), 6.3 (C), 7.1 (B), 7.3 (C), 8.1 (B), 8.3 (C)
Social Studies: K.13 (A, B), K.14 (A, B), K.17 (A, B), 1.7 (A, B), 1.8 (A, B), 1.16 (A, B, C), 1.19 (A, B), 2.7 (B), 2.8 (A, D), 2.16 (A, B), 2.19 (A, B), 3.7 (A, B, C), 3.11 (A, B), 3.18 (A, B), 4.14 (B), 4.21 (B, C), 4.24 (A, B), 5.13 (A), 5.24 (C, E), 5.27 (A, B), 6.20 (C), 6.23 (A, B), 7.23 (A, B), 8.32 (A, B)
ELA: 1.2 (A), 2.1 (A), 3.2 (A), 4.4 (A), 4.5 (B), 5.4 (A), 6.4 (A), 7.4 (A), 8.4 (A)

Objective: The student will create a definition for energy conservation and energy efficiency based on discussion with classmates and input from teacher.

Time: One class period

Materials: one Energy Conservation vs. Energy Efficiency worksheet per student

 Energy Conservation vs. Energy Efficiency

Vocabulary: energy conservation, energy efficiency 

Background Information:

Energy shortages and gas lines of the 1970’s, wearing sweaters as a kid instead of turning up the heat, and sleeping on the porch where it was cooler are all graphic examples of what most Americans think of when they hear the word energy conservation. Conservation is linked to sacrifice in many minds. The definition we give students in the Watt Watchers glossary is “to keep from being lost, damaged or wasted; saved.” Today’s generation did not have to wait in line for gasoline. And most put on a sweater in the winter because mom said so, not because the president asked us to turn down the heat to conserve the nation’s fuel. Reducing energy usage does not mean going without. Some people think of energy conservation as having to be uncomfortable or suffer to save energy. The truth is: comfort and conservation are completely compatible! Energy conservation usually means being more careful in the way we use energy or improving our habits. Like the definition says; keep from being wasted.

Energy efficiency invokes feelings of control and advancement. Energy efficiency means using state of the art technology to get better services to many people. The definition in the Watt Watchers glossary is “ability to produce a desired effect or product with a minimum of effort, expense, or waste.” This embodies exactly what we want to do, get more performance and productivity with less cost in dollars and energy use.

Setting the Stage:

Write Good and Bad on the board. Read a list of statements and words to the students. Have them decide if the statement should go under the good column or the bad column. If there is a dispute, write it under both. Statements could include pollution, gasoline, compact fluorescent light bulb, turning off lights, leaving the TV on and leaving the room, or temperature settings of 78° in the summer and 68° in the winter. Leave the list up for the duration of the lesson. At the end of the lesson, ask the students if there are any statements they would like to move.

Activity 1: Conservation or Efficiency?

Have the students write what they think the definition of conservation and efficiency is on the Energy Conservation vs. Energy Efficiency worksheet. Then working in groups, have them decide whether each statement represents energy conservation, energy efficiency or both. After completing the worksheet, go over the answers with the students and discuss any that there are disputes over. Read the list that you have defined as energy efficiency and have the kids finalize a definition. Do the same for energy conservation. Do the definitions differ?

Discussion:

Discuss how energy conservation and energy efficiency are similar terms and how they are different. Discuss which statements on the board would fall under the conservation heading and which would fall under the efficiency heading.

Extensions: Dilemma Journals

Have your students keep a journal during your energy unit and give them a dilemma to write about each day. The dilemmas can be easy, such as: should you turn off the lights when the teacher forgets, or complex such as: you are the Superintendent, do you allot money to upgrade the school to an energy saving program this year knowing it will save money in the future or do you spend that money to hire new teachers? Have the students explain their reasoning behind their decision.

TEKS

Science: 5.3 (A, B, C), 6.3 (A, B, C), 7.3 (A, B, C), 8.3 (A, B, C)
Social Studies: 5.25 (A, B, C, F), 5.26 (A, B), 6.22 (A, B, C, E), 6.23 (A, B), 7.21 (A, B, C, D, E, F), 7.22 (A, B), 8.29 (A, B, C, D, E, F), 8.31 (A, B)
ELA: 5.13 (B), 6.12 (B), 7.12 (B), 8.12 (B)

Background Information:

When we feel compelled to buy a more fashionable garment or a computer, game console, or boat, we do so with satisfaction in the knowledge that the purchase will enrich our lives. We buy labor-saving appliances because they will minimize our work and give us more time for other activities (e.g. leisure).

Consider the motivational factors for purchasing an “energy-saving” heating or cooling system. One might name convenience, dependability, good servicing support, brand name, low first cost, low cost to operate, and estimated future energy/money savings as factors influencing the decision to purchase. That last factor, estimated future energy/money savings, reflects the consumer’s awareness of the rising cost of energy and his or her determination to reduce energy bills, save money, and as a result, save energy as well.

We expect the heating and cooling system to eventually “pay for itself.” We calculate how much time will pass before the monthly savings offset the purchase price. Simple payback is the quotient of the total installed cost divided by the first year’s dollar savings. If tax credits are available, they should be subtracted from the installed cost. The inverse of simple payback is the first year’s rate of return. An example will help clarify this:

You purchase a high efficiency air-conditioner to replace an older model. It costs $360 installed and is estimated to save you $10 each month it operates, or $40 a year. Simple payback is $360 divided by $40/year, or 9 years. Rate of return for first year is ($40/$360) × 100, or 11.1%.

These cost figures enable us to compare one purchase option against another. A more accurate analysis would take into account factors such as interest, tax, and inflation. Interest, for example, is always a factor because, even if we pay cash, we must consider the interest our capital would have earned had it been otherwise invested. Taxes are a factor because the interest we pay on a loan (finance charge) can be an allowable deduction on our income tax return and the interest which we may receive on our capital, otherwise invested, is taxable. Inflation is a factor because it has been with us a long time and because the limited supply of conventional energy resources will rise.

Setting the Stage:

Ask students about a recent large purchase they or someone in their family made. Ask if it was to replace something that was worn out or just something fun. Ask how much research they put into their purchase.

Activity 1: Cost Effective Buying

Explain simple payback and rate of return and write the equations on the board or overhead. Hand out the cost effective buying worksheet and work through one of the problems together and then allow the students to work the others.

1. Payback:
Insulation A =1.67 yrs • Insulation B = 2.24 yrs
Rate of Return on Your Investment:
Insulation A = 60 % • Insulation B = 45%

2. Payback:
Water Heater A =17.11 yrs • Water Heater B =9.83 yrs
Rate of Return on Your Investment:
Water Heater A = 6% • Water Heater B = 10%

3. Payback:
Air Conditioner A =14.67 yrs • Air Conditioner B = 12.43 yrs
Rate of Return on Your Investment:
Air Conditioner A = 7% • Air Conditioner B = 8%

Activity 2: Energy Rating Labels

Collect the energy rating labels from an appliance store for different appliances. Have your students record the initial cost and expected annual savings to compare different models of the same type of appliance (compare refrigerators to refrigerators). Students then find the payback and rate of return for each and decide which to purchase and why.

Extension:

Based only on operating costs (e.g. ignoring maintenance cost) determine what the payback would be on a new car of your choice.

Understanding Energy

Staying cool takes energy. There is energy in creating cool air, through electricity. Being unintentional about your energy use is a waste of energy. Not only does this waste money, but it wastes energy, which is made from natural resources.

Natural resources are things that the earth supplies us with, such as rocks, plants, water, soil, etc. But not all natural resources are renewable, meaning they are easily made again.

Some natural resources are nonrenewable, meaning they are either in limited supply, or the amount of time it takes for the earth to make them again is so long that it can’t be used by the same people using the resource now, meaning the earth won’t remake them in our lifetime.

Many forms of energy that we use to make electricity in our homes are made from these non-renewable natural resources. Either way, it’s important to be careful with how we consume, meaning use, natural resources; otherwise, we are wasting them and the money, time and energy it takes to make them and replenish, remake, them.

Natural Strategies for Cooling Your Home

When we cool our homes, we are using energy through electricity. Cooling your home in the Texas heat can be expensive, and if you aren’t intentional about how you do it, it can be wasteful as well. Consider the ways that you can keep your house cool naturally, saving energy and money!

Strategies

  • Consider your temperature! No one wants to be roasting all summer, but your house doesn’t need to be so cool that you need a sweater.
  • Close your curtains and blinds. Making sure your blinds or curtains are shut will help keep direct sunlight out. The sun puts off solar energy, a type of heat energy that can make spaces much warmer.
  • Shut the doors!Shut the doors and windows to the outside, this will make sure that you aren’t just sending cool air outside, resulting in continuously cooling a space that stays warm. Shut the doors to rooms that you aren’t using. Shutting the doors to extra rooms will help keep the airflow circulating in smaller spaces you are actually using, requiring less energy to cool your space.
  • Sleep without ACInstead of running your AC extremely low at night, consider opening your windows to cool off and using fewer blankets. You can also use cooling blankets, pillows or beds to help you stay cool while you sleep.
  • Take cooler showers. Taking a hot shower in the summer not only requires extra energy from your water heater, it heats you up just to make you want to cool down after. That is a waste of energy. Instead, consider taking a cooler shower. 
  • Plant shade. Plant trees to shade your house and yard, but make sure they are placed far enough from your house and call before you dig!

Activity Overview: There are many different types of energy, including light energy and heat energy. Solar energy, meaning from the sun, creates both heat energy and light energy. To demonstrate the types of energy that the sun creates, we are going to make a solar oven.

Time: 20-25 minutes for the solar oven build. 5-10 minutes for ingredients preparation and cooking.

Materials: Marshmallows, Graham Crackers, Chocolate Pieces, Aluminum Foil, Cardboard Box, Piece of Cardboard Larger Than the Box

Preparation: Make sure your cardboard piece can be leaned against the box where a large portion of the top covers the top of the box. Alternatively, you can use a pizza box and cut out a small part of the top of the box to lean open in place of the cardboard piece.

CAUTION: S’mores and ingredients may be hot. Be careful when touching and eating the cooked s’mores.

Directions:

  1. Make a Solar Oven:
    1. Wrap the inside of the box, including the sides, in aluminum foil.
    2. Wrap the larger cardboard piece in aluminum foil.
  2. Place the ingredients for the s’mores in the box:
    1. Break a graham cracker in half, placing one half of the cracker on the bottom of the box.
    2. Place a marshmallow on top of the graham cracker, placing a square of chocolate on top of the marshmallow.
    3. Repeat until you have made as many smores as will fit on the surface of the box.
  3. Place the box of s’mores outside in the sun. Prop the larger cardboard piece against the box, where the top of it leans out over the top of the box, so the sun will reflect into the box.
  4. Once the s’mores have melted, place the second half of the graham cracker on top of the marshmallow and enjoy!

Discussion:

  1. What is happening when you place the uncooked smores in the solar oven?
  2. What kind of energy is being used?
  3. Why place the chocolate on top of the marshmallow?
  4. How does the aluminum foil help?

Discussion Answers:

  1. They are being cooked by the sun.
  2. Solar energy is a type of heat energy, created by the sun.
  3. When the chocolate melts from the light of and heat of the sun, it heats the marshmallow causing it to cook.
  4. Aluminum foil reflects the sunlight, helping the oven to heat quicker. It amplifies the sun’s heat and concentrates it into the oven.

TEKS

VI.A.4, SCI.K.5B

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