Energy and Environmental Trade-offs

Author: Mark Roland


2 class periods

Preparation Time:

10 minutes

Materials: Handouts of “World Without Oil”
Poster boards

During this lesson students will brainstorm ideas about how they consume energy, and what sources of energy are available to them. Students should be able to trace their energy consumption directly back to the resources that provided it. The introduction to the idea comes from a reading that discusses a world without oil.

After making the connection of energy consumption and resources, students are asked to brainstorm all of the different ways in which they consume energy. This aspect of the lesson serves many purposes: to realize how dependent we are on energy, to see especially our dependence on electrical energy, and as an introduction to the concept of the conservation of energy. A web-based simulation (URL provided) can be used to demonstrate the cost of running various appliances around the home. Very cool!

Purpose – The goal is to make students aware of how dependent they are on energy. They should also realize that most current sources of energy are non-renewable, and engage their thinking about current and future energy sources.

Students will be able to:
1. Describe, through diagramming on poster board, the various energy sources required in the consumption of everyday products.

National Science Education Standard:
• Content Standard B-Physical Science
CONSERVATION OF ENERGY AND THE INCREASE OF DISORDER -The total energy of the universe is constant. Energy can by transferred by collisions in chemical and nuclear reactions, by light waves and other radiations, and in many other ways. However, it can never be destroyed. As these transfers occur, the matter involved becomes steadily less ordered.

• Content Standard F-Science In Personal and Social Perspectives
NATURAL RESOURCES - Human populations use resources in the environment in order to maintain and improve their existence. Natural resources have been and will continue to be used to maintain human populations.

Teacher Background

Related and Resource Websites

http://www.article19.com/shockwave/ph.htm (PowerHouse website)



Day 1
1. Have the handouts of a “World without Oil” prepared for students to read when they come in the door. Ask students to think about the different ways that they consume energy throughout their days.

2. After completing the reading, students should form groups of 2-5 students and brainstorm the different ways in which they consume energy on a daily basis. Ask the students to focus on tracing the energy consumption all the way back to the natural resource from which it originated. Give each group poster board so that they can share their ideas when done. Each group should present what ideas they came up with to the rest of the class.

3. After sharing their ideas with the class, each group should choose one common consumable product, such as a food item, a school supply, clothing, books, CD’s, etc. Teachers should monitor the student’s discussion, and try to steer the students into selecting a reasonable product. A reasonable product would be one that is commonly used, and one whose production could be easily researched.

4. For homework, students should brainstorm every way in which energy is consumed in order for that product to reach them in their homes or schools.

Day 2
5. Allow the groups to reconvene and share the ideas that they came up with on their own for homework. Each group should be preparing to list to the class all the energy consumption involved in the production of their respective products.

6. Discuss each group’s findings. The teacher should encourage and make note of any comment discussing the consumption of electrical energy. All consumption is acceptable, and important to note, but the upcoming unit deals with electricity.

7. If time allows and computers are available, the Power House website (URL provided under Related and Resource Websites) is a great simulation, allowing students to directly see how turning on appliances contributes to their monthly electric bill.

Any time remaining should be used for discussion. Begin to discuss the idea of renewable versus non-renewable resources. Start asking what can be done to save energy. There are countless ways to do so, at almost every step of production and consumption of products!!

Embedded Assessment
This lesson is early in the unit, so no formal assessment is required. The diagrammed pathway of energy offers insight into a groups understanding.

From the first night:
Ask students to brainstorm about all of the energy consumption that goes into a certain every day product that they selected in groups.

Embedded Assessment




















PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:

NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award


Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694

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Last update: November 10, 2009
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