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Power Up Your Life: Kickoff Lesson

140 minutes
Primary subjects: 
Career and Technical Education (CTE): Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources, Career and Technical Education (CTE): STEM, Engineering, Environmental Education, Science
9, 10, 11, 12
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Students will discuss the value of electrical energy in their everyday lives. Using a power plant diagram and web-based sources, students will analyze steps to the electrical generation process and research information on renewable (alternative) energy sources.

Key objectives for students
Discuss the value of electrical energy in everyday life
Analyze steps to the electrical generation process
Research information on renewable (alternative) energy sources
Energy, Renewable energy, electrical energy, electrical generation process, energy transformation and energy transfer, renewable versus nonrenewable energy sources
Collaboration, Communication skills, Creative problem solving, Critical Thinking, Systems thinking
Curiosity, Optimism, Resilience
Brain-Based Learning, Design Thinking, Multi-Disciplinary, Multiple Intelligences, Project-Based Learning, Real-World Application, Technology Integration
Background information for teachers

The diverse ways in which we power our world can be confusing--most of us don’t even know where our energy comes from! Read the Energy Resources 101 text to build familiarity with crucial energy concepts. Students will engage with this text in the investigation portion of the lesson to build confidence with these concepts.

Materials needed
Key vocabulary
benefit, climate change, criteria, constraint, economic impact, energy, fossil fuel, geographic location, greenhouse gases, nonrenewable energy source, renewable energy source, source, sustainability, trade-off
Time Exercise Description
45 minutes Introduce
45 minutes Investigate
45 minutes Debrief

Project the Electrical Generation Process diagram. The diagram is a model of a power plant. This is where electricity is generated and transferred to places where humans receive and use electricity. Discuss the following:

  • What natural resources do we use to make electricity to power on our appliances and devices?
  • Do you know how we use energy from fossil fuels, such as oil and coal, to generate electricity?
  • How safe is it for humans to dig and drill deep into the Earth to recover fossil fuels? To pipe gas, to mine for coal, and to pump oil?

Group Discussion
Facilitate a class discussion around the questions below:

  • What are sources of power? (Generate a list of student responses on the board)
  • What are renewable resources? Nonrenewable resources?
  • What questions do you have about them?

In groups, redesign the power plant model to integrate at least one renewable energy source. Provide written explanation for how the details of the model. Groups can present new models and identify the different paths and forms of energy. Be sure groups are able to explain which renewable resources are used and possible challenges of their designs. Groups can share their designs on Facebook, Instagram, or Schoology using the hashtag #1MillionEnergyActions.

Analyze Data: Renewable vs. Nonrenewable Energy

After reading the text, Energy Resources 101: Renewable vs. Nonrenewable, conduct an online investigation for how electricity is generated in your area. The following questions can be used to help guide research:

  • Does your energy provider use primarily fossil fuels or renewable resources?
  • Which resources specifically and in what amounts?
  • Is power usage tiered or fixed price?
  • What does a local utility bill look like? Are bills available online, in hard copy, or both?
  • How far does your energy travel from the plant to your area?

With students, start to define resource management problems (challenges): criteria (a way to measure or evaluate success) and constraints (a limitation or restriction). Have students make and defend claims about categories of resources, using evidence from the text. In groups of four, (use a large paper) create and complete a data analysis chart on at least five energy resources. Students can refer to the text and conduct research online. See sample chart below with some spaces filled in for you.

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Prepare for and Facilitate a Classroom Debate

In groups, students should define the smart grid and grid distribution. Students may further investigate how renewable energy is being integrated into their community’s power mix. Split the class into two groups: those in favor of using more renewable resources and those in opposition to using more renewable resources. Have the groups identify major hurdles that prevent utility providers from integrating more renewables into the smart grid. Reasons will be related to climate, engineering limitations, politics, and expense. Keep in mind that the energy we are using right now is mostly being generated moments before it’s used. Facilitate a class debate about why and how humans should reduce the use of fossil fuels and seek to increase use of renewable energy sources.

Reflection Questions
  • How can we provide energy to our current and future communities?
  • How can we provide energy to our current and future communities?
  • How do our decisions as energy consumers impact our environment?
Standards assessment

Next Generation Science Standards

  • HS-ESS3-1: Construct an explanation based on evidence for how the availability of natural resources, occurrence of natural hazards, and changes in climate have influenced human activity.
  • HS-ESS3-2: Evaluate competing design solutions for developing, managing, and utilizing energy and mineral resources based on cost-benefit ratios.
  • HS-ESS3-3: Create a computational simulation to illustrate the relationships among the management of natural resources, the sustainability of human populations, and biodiversity.
  • HS-ESS3-4: Evaluate or refine a technological solution that reduces impacts of human activities on natural systems.
  • HS-ESS3-5: Analyze geoscience data and the results from global climate models to make an evidence-based forecast of the current rate of global or regional climate change and associated future impacts to Earth's systems.
  • HS-ESS3-6: Use a computational representation to illustrate the relationships among Earth systems and how those relationships are being modified due to human activity.

California Career Technical Education Model Curriculum Standards
Engineering and Architecture
Energy Environment and Utilities

Community connections

What is the Connection to your backyard?

You have been put on a task force to design your community’s energy portfolio. Move through the resources below to learn about current news in your community, data being gathered there, and people who work in the relevant industries. Keep the following questions in mind as you read:

  • What is the timeline to implement your energy portfolio?
  • What existing limitations of the grid need to be considered?
  • Think about what political factors may affect your plan.
  • Are your ideas for the energy portfolio financially sustainable?
  • How can you design the grid for long-term resilience?


  • Learn about an alternative energy project in Richmond.
  • Read about the history of a Contra Costa County power plant.
  • Use Google Scholar to research something related to the energy you are curious about. Use keywords from the module to guide your search.

Climate Data:

  • Google Project Sunroof - Data Explorer (Beta)
    • Navigate to the Data Explorer tab on the website and search for your community’s estimated solar potential and amount of existing solar arrays.
  • Climate Investment Map
    • Navigate to the About section to learn how California is leading efforts in renewable energy projects.
    • Navigate to the Map section and search for your community. Find an example of a clean energy project near you.
  • SF Bay Area Carbon Footprint Map
    • Zoom to where you live and explore what industries have the biggest carbon footprint in your area by navigating through the different tabs.

Now that you’ve built your knowledge of energy concepts and explored what happens in your local community, let’s apply it! You have the opportunity to plan ways you can empower people and change what’s going on in your backyard. Do you see any energy projects happening in or around your school? How can you use what you’ve learned to benefit yourself, your friends, your family, and your community? Think about people working in the field you can connect with. We can’t wait to see what you come up with!

Professional Development Opportunities

The Energy Coalition equips industry practitioners with the expertise needed to tackle complex technical challenges essential to project realization; and designing and delivering leading-edge training and instruction to develop industry knowledge and leadership. To learn more, visit