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Predicted vs. Actual Consumption

Authored by STEMhero

45 minutes
Allocate 1 hour for the incorporation of cross-curricular articles
Primary subjects: 
6, 7, 8
Average: 0 (0 votes)

This activity is designed to hook students by making this water and energy investigation personal, and centered on comparing predicted vs. actual consumption. By students beginning listing their daily water/energy uses and how much is consumed every day, this lesson begins student’s exploration into their personal water/energy consumption and how it can be measured and recorded.

Students then reflect on their own home and predict how their water and energy consumption compares to the “average” usage. After a discussion on their predictions, students utilize leading online water and energy calculators to find out their home’s estimated use. This sets students up to compare their estimated use with their own measurements of their home’s real consumption.

Key objectives for students
The student will identify common ways that water and energy are used in homes
The student will make predictions about their own home’s consumption
The student will use online models to establish an estimated average consumption
Secondary subjects
Mathematics, Science, Technology
Natural Resource Efficiency
Communication skills, Critical Thinking, Systems thinking
Project-Based Learning, Real-World Application, Technology Integration
Background information for teachers

This lesson involves students using an online interactive website to calculate an estimated water/energy consumption rate and answering questions on the STEMhero site.

In order to gather student’s answers, create a login on the STEMhero site and assign a number to each student. However, this step is optional and for teachers wishing to not create an account, direct students to put in ‘other’ in the teacher email field. If a teacher chooses to “opt-out” of students logging into or using the STEMhero site, the critical thinking questions are available under the Assess tab and the link for the water/energy estimator activity is available under the Extend tab.

Previous skills needed

Basic computer skills and communication skills

In Advance

In a week advance, send home with students the STEMhero family letter for parents/guardians.

Teachers wanting to gather the data of student progress on the STEMhero student missions, should assign a number to each student. Students will use that number along with the teacher’s email to ‘login’ to the mission.

Safety information

Advise all students to take precaution and ask their parent or guardian’s accompaniment when reading their home’s meters.

Time Exercise Description
45 minutes Activity 1
  • Option: Assign students a STEMhero student number and record the number for students to use for the remaining lessons and modules.
    Have students sign into the Mission using the student number assigned and the teacher’s email address.
  • Option: Assign students a STEMhero student number and record the number for students to use for the remaining lessons and modules.

1.Introduce the lesson by asking students to list all of the ways they use water/energy in their daily lives. Once they’ve listed their uses of water or energy, ask students to estimate the amount used for each activity in a day (gallons for water and kilowatthour for energy). Note: you may need to provide students a reference to these measurements. For example, holding up a gallon of water jug or explaining that it takes one kwh to run a microwave continuously for an hour. Explain to students that at this point, there are no right answers and students should answer on what they believe is true.

2. “Professional engineers and scientists use tools and models to help them predict phenomena. Today, you will also use some online tools to predict, or estimate, how much water and/or energy your home consumes.”

3. Provide students the link to the Student Mission: Your Estimated Use vs. Your Actual Use. Once students are logged in, instruct students to complete prediction questions on how their home’s water, electricity, and natural gas use compares to the average home.

4. After students have completed the prediction questions, in a small group or as a whole class, discuss their answers to those questions. Key themes to emphasize:

  • What are major uses of water and/or energy in a home?
    • What variables might influence how much water or energy a home consumes? (Potential answers: home size, number of occupants, behaviors of the occupants, types of appliances in the home, regional climate...)
    • What evidence or observations do students cite to explain their predictions?

5. Tell students they will next record their homes’ estimated daily consumption of water and/or electricity and gas consumption. They will later compare this number to the actual daily consumption they will collect from their home utility meters.

6. While students are using the website to record their estimated consumption, they should be answering the questions on the STEMhero Mission site about their estimated daily consumption.

7. After all students are finished, lead a class discussion or have students answer reflection questions independently on a separate sheet of paper.

  • What are at least two observations you can make from those sections about your home's estimated water use?
    • How do you feel about those observations?
    • Do you see any ways you may be able to reduce your energy/water consumption?

Homework: Students should complete the Mission individually as homework if they did not complete it in class.

Reflection Questions
  • Was your calculated estimated water/energy consumption rate higher or lower than what you had predicted?
  • Was there a way you use water/energy that you didn’t think of at the beginning of the class? If yes, what were those ways?
  • Now that you have a comprehensive list of ways you use water/energy daily, do you see any ways you can reduce your energy/water use today?
Assessment Opportunities

Teachers can easily assess student performance through the STEMhero software, which uses Google Docs to record student responses. Here’s how:

  1. Request a log in by emailing .
  2. Assign each student a number (e.g., 1-25)
  3. Students login to with the teacher’s email address and their assigned number.
  4. Students’ responses are recorded
  5. Click on “Student Responses” button and filter by teacher email and viewing only your email address and the responses associated with it.

Assessment Questions
Before the calculation activity, students should answer these questions honestly and individually.
On a scale of 0-10, 0 being way less than “average”, 5 being about average, and 10 being way more than “average”

  1. Do you expect to find that your home's water use is:
  2. Do you expect to find that your home’s electricity use is:
  3. Do you expect to find that your home's natural gas use is:
  4. Explain your answer(s):

After students have completed the calculation activity, have students answer these reflection question based off of their estimated energy/water consumption.

  1. What are at least two observations you can make from those sections about your home's estimated water use?
  2. How do you feel about those observations?
  3. Do you see any ways you may be able to reduce your energy/water consumption?
Standards assessment

The Stage 1: Identify and read real data sources module overall is aligned with the following standards:

  • CCSS ELA-­Literacy.RST (6­8.3-6­8.4); ISTE: (3, 3b, 6, 6a)
Community connections

For students unable to access computer/technology device, allow students to work in groups to calculate their household’s estimated energy/water consumption.

Cross disciplinary connections

Civics and Government

  • Demonstrate understanding of core ideas related to human effects on natural resources. Why patterns of human consumption matter, i.e. the significant and complex issues surrounding human uses of land, energy, mineral and water resources.
  • Sustainable resource management: What responsibility, if an, do users of water and energy have to do their best to use those resources as efficiently as possible? What tradeoffs, timeframes, and perspectives should be considered and balanced as choices are made to take or not take actions to become more efficient users of water and energy? What are other examples of challenges in our community which can be made better or worse based on the relatively small actions of many people? Sometimes these types of challenges are known as “Collective Action Problems.”

Relevant​ ​organizing​ ​concept:​ ​Scarcity​ ​of​ ​resources​ ​/​ ​competing​ ​use

  • Example: Water withdrawals

    • Idea: Compare student/class consumption data and to groundwater and surface water levels
    • Online resource: The U.S. Geological Survey (streamflow, drought, groundwater levels)
    • Online resource: The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “Wisconsin uses over 2 trillion gallons of water a year”
  • Example: The Water/Energy Nexus, i.e using water consumes electricity and using electricity consumes water

    • Core idea: Using less water means less energy is needed to purify it, pump it, store it, distribute it, and treat it before it returns to nature.
    • Supporting fact: "If one out of every 100 American homes were retrofitted with water efficient fixtures, about 100 million kilowatt-hours of electricity could be saved per year – avoiding 80,000 tons of greenhouse-gas emissions” (American Water Works Association,
    • Supporting fact: Most forms of electricity generation require large amounts of water to create steam to drive turbines and for cooling.
    • Online resource: River Network, Community Water-Energy Savings Calculator
    • Handout: Water’s Carbon Footprint

Students will be using technology to calculate an estimated water/energy consumption rate and critical thinking questions. Teachers are advised to try the links and websites on multiple types of devices that the students will use during the lesson. Print versions available.

Professional Development Opportunities

Personalized professional development sessions are available from STEMhero covering how all students can participate, special considerations for students in housing insecurity situations, best practices for starting unit and engaging families, choosing a final assessment. See here for more information on STEMhero professioanl development:

Email for additional details.