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Energy Busters: Home Energy Conservation

What You Need

 
Energy Busters: Home Energy Conservation Photo Credit: Clipart.com

Purpose

To conduct a home energy survey and develop an energy conservation plan for their home.


Context

This lesson is designed to help students look at their personal use of energy, and determine practical ways they can cut back on their energy usage. It focuses on the part of the Benchmark that states that people try to conserve energy in order to save money.

Although this lesson doesn't delve into the depletion of energy resources, it is important to be aware of common misconceptions associated with energy. For example, young children think of energy as being used up; they do not readily understand the conservation of energy. Students believe energy is associated only with humans or movement, is a fuel-like quantity which is used up, or is something that makes things happen that is expended in the process. (Benchmarks for Science Literacy, p. 338.)

Also, they do not understand that once energy is converted it is not necessarily in a useable form. Some students interpret the idea that "energy is not created or destroyed" to mean that energy is stored up in the system and can even be released again in its original form. (Benchmarks for Science Literacy, p. 338.)


Motivation

To begin, ask students to brainstorm a list of all the things they did that morning to get ready for school. Record these ideas on chart paper. Ask students to consider the items on the list and decide which require the use of energy. Allow students to share their ideas with the class.

Next, students should use their Energy Busters student esheet to go to and read an article entitled What is Energy? or you can simply use the article as a framework for guiding class discussion. This brief article, which is from the Learn About Energy.org site, highlights the varied ways that energy is used—i.e., to produce light, warmth, or locomotion, to run machines, or to promote growth. Allow students to come up with an example for each type of energy usage. Students can list their ideas on their Energy Busters student sheet.

Now, have students revisit the class list of morning activities. Ask them to categorize the type of energy usage in each activity (light, warmth, locomotion, running a machine, growth) and to identify the source of that energy.

For younger students, you may wish to guide the discussion with questions such as:

  • What is the source of energy that makes the clock run?
  • What is the source of energy that keeps your house warm/cool?
  • What is the source of energy for the lights that light your house?
  • What is the source of the energy that moves the vehicle that brings you to school?
  • Are there any examples of energy use that you need to add to the list? What are they?

(Answers may vary. Accept all answers and encourage students to explain their answers.)

Ask students to consider the amount and types of energy they required just to prepare for school each morning. Have them consider what an entire household would use in the course of a day, week, month, and year. Ask students:
  • Where does that energy come from?
  • Who pays for it?
  • Have you heard your parents talking about energy bills?
  • Is the cost of energy going up or down?

(Answers may vary. Accept all answers and encourage your students to explain their answers.)

Explain to students that the monthly utility bill is directly related to the amount of energy a household uses. Tell students that they will complete a home survey to determine how much energy is being used in this household, how much is needed, and whether any of it is wasted.


Development

Begin by asking students these questions:

  • Is there a way to keep track of the energy that you use?
  • How could you do that?
  • What are some of the things that you would need to watch?
  • How do you use energy when you leave school? At night?
  • Do you continue to use energy even when you are asleep? Why or why not?

(Answers may vary. Accept all answers and encourage students to explain their answers.)

Distribute the Home Energy Usage Survey. Review the survey and instructions with students, and answer any questions that students may have. Make sure the students are comfortable with the mathematics needed to complete the survey. For example, students must be aware that 1¢ is 0.01 when working with it as a value in a math problem.

Ask students:

  • Which do you think will be the area of greatest energy usage for your household for the day? For the month?
  • Which do you think will be the area of least energy usage for your household for the day? For the month?

Students should record their predictions. Make sure that students know that they are to complete the surveys for homework. Also, encourage students to ask their parents to share a recent utility bill with them, if available. A Home Energy Survey Parent Letter has been provided explaining the activity and how their cooperation is essential.


Once students have completed the survey, discuss the results in a general way, letting students know that they will discover the estimated costs of the energy used in their household per week, month, and year. Depending on ability, students can evaluate their data by using a standard calculator or paper and pencil. Students should enter the results onto their Home Energy Usage Survey activity sheet.

When students have completed their surveys, ask them:

  • What is your household's area of greatest energy usage?
  • What is your household's area of least energy usage?
  • Which item on your survey has the highest cost? What explains the high cost? Was this item used for many hours or did it have a high cost per hour? Was this the item you predicted would use the most energy?
  • Which item on your survey has the lowest cost? What explains the low cost? Was it because of low usage or low cost per hour? Was this the item you predicted?

Find out if any students were able to look at a household utility bill. If so, ask them:

  • What did you discover about your household utility bill?
  • How do utility bills change throughout the year?
  • Which utility bill was highest in your household? Why was this so?
  • What would be a good way to cut back on energy usage for your home?
  • Is this a practical area to conserve energy? Why or why not?
  • Would it be better to try to conserve energy in just one area or in several different ways?
  • What are some results of conserving energy usage?

Students should visit the Learn About Energy.org, Saving Energy section. This is a broader and more in-depth focus on conservation of energy. It provides a myriad of potential small ways to make meaningful steps toward overall energy conservation.

Ask students:

  • Were there new ways listed to conserve energy? What were they?
  • Do any of the conservation strategies seem easy to do? Which ones?
  • Do any of the conservation strategies seem difficult to do? Which ones?
  • Did any conservation strategies seem unrealistic? Why?
  • Would the people in your household agree with your ideas? Why or why not?
(Answers may vary. Accept all answers and encourage your students to explain their answers.)

Assessment

Have students develop a conservation plan for their homes. They should rely on evidence from their surveys to help develop these (they need to cite how what they learned from their surveys led to their plans). Students' plans should be specific to their households. They should be practical in that the plans need to address real areas where the households can reduce energy usage. Students should list three to five practical ways (with supporting evidence) they can limit energy use; these can evolve from what they learned in the survey, and elsewhere.

Allow students to share their plans, discuss:

  • What are some of the reasons why it is important to conserve energy?
  • What would happen if everyone in this class chose one way to conserve energy?
  • What if each person in everyone's family chose one way to conserve energy?
  • What would happen if everyone in the U.S. did this?
  • Why might some people choose not to conserve energy?

Extensions

Have students log onto America's Most Wanted Energy Wasters, on the Learn About Energy.org site. Have them draw and complete a sheet about themselves as energy wasters. This activity allows students to concentrate on their energy consumption excesses in a concrete and fun way.


Students could assemble the Classroom Energy Poster Puzzle, from the Energy Quest website, as the opening or culminating activity to their study of energy conservation. It allows students the chance to think about the many ways in which energy is expended that we take for granted.


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Lesson Details

Grades Themes Type Project 2061 Benchmarks
AAAS