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My Carbon Footprint

7, 8
Essential questions
What can a carbon footprint tell me about the impact my actions have on the environment?
How does using different kinds of lightbulbs impact our use of energy?
What kinds of choices about the products we regularly buy and use can we make to help conserve energy?
What are some key alternatives to fossil fuel energy?
What are the pros and cons of the most common energy alternatives?

This module includes the following lessons:

Lesson 1: Eco-Action: Personal Energy Eco-Audit: (Estimated time needed: Two 45-minute class periods)
In this lesson, students learn that framing our energy habits and choices in terms of a “carbon footprint” can help us understand our individual impact on the global environment. They conduct a personal eco-audit to investigate how their own energy usage results in carbon being released into the atmosphere. After tracking their habits for one 24-hour period, students calculate their personal carbon footprint and then compare the results to averages for other countries and communities. As students frame their choices in a global context and come to understand the importance of making sustainable choices for a healthier future, they also look for ways to support each other and create exciting and innovative changes for the future.

Lesson 2: Eco-Activity: Investigating Lightbulbs: (Estimated time needed: One 50-minute class period)
In this lesson, students consider the various ways we illuminate our world. They conduct a scientific experiment to determine how much thermal energy various types of lightbulbs emit and consider the pros and cons of each light source. When they see that some types of bulbs are far more energy efficient than others, they consider the environmental implications of those more efficient options—hazardous waste. As students review the cost, energy use, lifespan, and disposal requirements of different kinds of bulbs, they learn that making thoughtful, considered choices about the products we use is an important aspect of sustainable intelligence.

Lesson 3: Eco-101: What’s the Alternative? (Estimated time needed: Three 50-minute class periods)
In this lesson, students learn about alternatives to fossil-fuel energy resources. They take on a challenge from the community’s “mayor” to serve on an Energy Task Force and research whether the most common alternative energy resources are appropriate for their community. Working in groups, they research five alternative energies and present their findings to the mayor. Then the groups evaluate the experience and the implications that each of these technologies has for both their local community and the larger global community.

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