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Topics

  • Climate Science
  • Economic Impact

Competencies

  • Critical Thinking
  • Technology

Regional Focus

  • Global

CryptoClimate: Exploring Cryptocurrency and Climate Change

Created by: Jennifer LeBlanc
Date: Jun 26, 2021
Duration: 55 minutes
Grades: 6th, 7th, 8th
Subjects: Science, Social Studies, Economics
Keywords: climate change, energy, coal, electricity, economics, Bitcoin, cryptocurrency, China, Bitcoin mining
Synopsis

This lesson shows the climate impact of cryptocurrency.


Step 1 - Inquire: Students watch a video to describe cryptocurrency. 


Step 2 - Investigate: Students create a model to trace how cryptocurrency uses energy.


Step 3 - Inspire: Students calculate energy use and commit to one action to reduce energy use at home.


Accompanying Teaching Materials

N/A

Inquire
10 minutes
  • Teacher asks, "What do you know about cryptocurrency?" Allow the students a few minutes to respond.
  • Teacher says, "Cryptocurrency is a new way to exchange a form of currency online. We will watch a short video to learn more about cryptocurrency."
  • Students watch one of the videos below that explains cryptocurrency. The teacher can select which video best suits their class. Each one has a great explanation of cryptocurrency, and it really depends on the needs of your class.
Investigate
30 minutes
  • Students create a model.
    • Teacher asks the students, "How is cryptocurrency linked to climate change?" Let the students think about this silently.
    • Students then draw a model of how they think it connects. Teacher gives them the hint that cryptocurrency uses electricity. Teacher reminds students this is brand new information, so their models might not be correct. The idea is for the students to make their thinking visible.
  • Students learn about the connection.
    • Teacher tells the students about how electricity is generated. Students can explore Energy Conversions to show electricity paths for simple appliances in the home. Additionally, teachers can have students explore this website from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The language on this website might be difficult for middle school students. However, the simple graphic on the website can help students understand electricity generation. In most cases (except solar panels) a generator must turn in order to produce an electric current.
    • Next, teacher explains that cryptocurrency uses a lot of energy and shares this article: Bitcoin Consumes 'More Electricity Than Argentina.'
    • Teacher then asks, "Where do you think most cryptocurrency is mined?" Teacher listens to students' responses and then reveals the answer from this article: China’s Bitcoin Mining is Threatening Its Climate Change Targets, Study Says. Most cryptocurrency is mined in China, which burns a lot of coal for electricity. This emits large amounts of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas.
  • Students recreate their models.
    • Students recreate their cryptocurrency climate change models to represent their new knowledge.
Inspire
15 minutes

  • Students explore their own energy usage with the Household Energy Usage application.
    • This application offers use for 5 minutes for free. If the school has a subscription, then the student has unlimited use. The free 5 minutes is enough for students to get a general idea of the cost of appliances. It helps if the teacher has the students focus on just one or two appliances.
  • Students commit to taking one action at home such as turning off lights, unplugging unused appliances, or reducing the use of an air conditioner.
  • Students can write this commitment on a class pledge sheet. Teacher can hang this pledge in the classroom.

Teaching Tips

Positives

  • Engaging and trendy lesson.

  • Encourages students to see connections between the economy, everyday life, and climate change.

Additional Prerequisites

  • Some basic understanding of concepts such as currency, electricity, and power generation could be helpful but not absolutely necessary.

Differentiation

  • If the free Gizmo application in the “Inspire” step does not work for you, you can also visit this website from the U.S. Department of Energy: Estimate Appliance and Home Electronic Energy Use.

  • Preview vocabulary for English language learners:

    • Appliance
    • Currency
    • Electric Current
    • Electricity
    • Generator
Standards
  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • PS2: Motion and Stability: Forces and Interactions
      • MS-PS2-3 Ask questions about data to determine the factors that affect the strength of electric and magnetic forces.
  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • ETS1: Engineering Design
      • MS-ETS1-2 Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
  • College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Standards
    • Dimension 2: Geography
      • D2.Geo.4.6-8 Explain how cultural patterns and economic decisions influence environments and the daily lives of people in both nearby and distant places.

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