Power-Who Needs It?

Author: Mark Roland


1 Class Period

Preparation Time:

10 minutes

Materials: Handouts

The reading for the lesson is from July 4, 2004 from the NY Times. The information provided should be appropriate for a very long time. It discusses the importance of energy in fueling a growing economy, showcased by China and the problems they face with their incredible economic growth. It also mentions the environmental problems that are beginning to surface due to their growth with little regulation.

Purpose – This lesson serves as an engagement lesson for the threaded big idea of the entire quarter. Our economy and society is completely dependent upon energy, yet our energy consumption leads to environmental health concerns. We must find a way to balance both of these concerns.

Students will be able to:
1. Articulate a connection between energy consumption and the economy.
2. Articulate a connection between energy consumption and environmental health.
3. Ask questions and begin to formulate possible responses concerning how the nature of pollution is produced from energy production, what health effects it has, and how we can minimize both.

National Science Education Standard:
Content Standard E- Understandings about Science and Technology
Science and technology are pursued for different purposes. Scientific inquiry is driven by the desire to understand the natural world, and technological design is driven by the need to meet human needs and solve human problems. Technology, by its nature, has a more direct effect on society than science because its purpose is to solve human problems, help humans adapt, and fulfill human aspirations. Technological solutions may create new problems. Science, by its nature, answers questions that may or may not directly influence humans. Sometimes scientific advances challenge people's beliefs and practical explanations concerning various aspects of the world.

Related and Resource Websites
(The teachers may want to register to read the complete copy of this article appeared on the New York Times)



1. Provide the article as a handout for students as they come into class. Have these questions on the board or overhead for them to ponder:

a. Do you think China’s demand for power will increase?
b. What will happen if their demand grows faster than their supply?
c. What options do you think they have to deal with this problem?
d. What effects will this growth have on their environment and the health of their citizens? Is it worth it?
e. Could the same thing happen in the United States? Globally?

2. Have students read the article.

3. Spend about 15 minutes discussing the reading as a class. Ask students for their thoughts on the questions provided. Lead the students to a synthesis of the relationships among energy, the economy and environmental health Students should see the importance of energy in fueling an economy, yet understand the environmental health trade-offs.


Have students fill out an “exit card”, which allows the students to leave the class, and which asks for a minimum of three questions that they have about energy, its generation, sources of energy, pollution generated, and health risks involved. This will get them thinking about the threaded big idea of the entire quarter, and it will also allow you to see what questions should be addressed in future lessons.

Embedded Assessment
There is a lot of class discussion built into the lessons for this class.
The exit card provides insight into student questions and understanding.

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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