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The Impact of Energy

The Impact of Energy

Essential questions: 
What is energy, and why is it important to us?
Where do we get the majority of our energy resources?
What are the pros and cons of using each of the various energy sources?
What are some energy challenges and their potential long-term effects?
What are we doing to address energy challenges locally and globally?
What small actions can we take to conserve energy, starting in our classroom?
How can we capture energy from human movement?
What problems do solar ovens resolve for society?
How can innovative thinking help us resolve energy challenges?

This module contains the following lessons:

Lesson 1: Eco-101: 101 Fundamentals : Energy (Estimated time needed: Two 50-minute class periods)
In this lesson, students explore the topic of energy via two presentations. The first presentation provides an overview of the primary types of traditional and alternative energy resources we currently use. In it, students delve into how each type of energy resource is extracted and processed, as well as the pros and cons of using it. In the second presentation, students consider some of the pressing energy challenges we face today and think critically about what is being done—and what each of us can do personally—to address those challenges.

Lesson 2: Eco-Activity: Classroom Blackout! Mini-Audit (Estimated time needed: One 50-minute class period)
In this lesson, students walk into a dark classroom, where they are encouraged to take note of all the ways in which energy usually lights and powers the room. Then they take on the role of energy consultants who have been hired to conduct an energy mini-audit in the classroom. They investigate how energy is used in the classroom and estimate the impact that energy use has in terms of carbon dioxide emissions. Then they extrapolate to estimate the impact of the entire school’s energy use, making rough calculations to determine the school’s energy carbon footprint. Students brainstorm simple actions they could take to conserve energy, take a look at some suggestions via a presentation, and put together a simple plan for immediate actions they could take to conserve energy in the classroom and beyond.

Lesson 3: Eco-Action: Harnessing Human Power (Estimated time needed: Two 55-minute class periods)
In this lesson, students take what they have learned about energy and apply it to an innovation challenge. First, they explore how kinetic energy can be harnessed in unexpected ways to generate electricity. Then they review how designers from around the world have created innovative new ways to capture energy from human movement. Finally, tapping into that inspiration, they apply design-thinking skills as they work with a team to generate their own concepts for harnessing human power.

Lesson 4: Eco-Activity: The Power of a Solar Oven (Estimated time needed: At least two 55-minute class periods)
In this lesson, students explore the impact of deforestation on the global climate, as well as some of the specific difficulties facing indigenous people living in forested regions. They learn how the UN-REDD program is addressing some of these difficulties by providing sustainable solutions. They then hone in on a simple tool—the solar oven—and explore how it is making a difference for many people living in remote regions of the world. Students take a close look at various solar oven designs and discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each before building their own solar oven and testing its effectiveness.