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Renewing Hope: Analyzing Renewable Energy Data

Created by: Jennifer LeBlanc
Date: Aug 12, 2021
Duration: 100 minutes
Grades: 6th, 7th, 8th
Subjects: Science, Earth and Space Sciences, Math, Physical Science, Engineering
Format: Google Docs
Synopsis

In this lesson, students learn about renewable energy sources while improving their data analysis skills, building their research skills, and learning about the engineering design process. 


Step 1 - Inquire: Students watch two videos about fossil fuels and renewable energy.


Step 2 - Investigate: Students analyze data about fossil fuel consumption and renewable energy consumption from the Energy Information Administration.


Step 3 - Inspire: Students engineer a solar oven to further understand the renewable power of the sun and learn about the engineering design cycle.


Accompanying Teaching Materials

Inquire
10 minutes
Investigate
45 minutes
Inspire
45 minutes
  • Teacher transitions by stating: “From our data analysis we see there is hope in renewable energy. The United States is slowly trending towards using more renewable energy each year. Overall there is one concern holding back many renewable energy options: storage! Storing renewable energy is tricky and engineers are trying to solve this every day. Let's watch this short video and find out more.” 
  • Students watch Solving the Storage Problem.
  • Teacher transitions by stating: “Now that we know engineers are working to solve storage problems, let's explore the engineering process and the power of the sun. The sun’s energy is used as a renewable energy source for solar panels. Additionally, the sun’s energy can also be harnessed for thermal energy which can be used for many purposes. In the next activity, you will work in small groups to engineer a solar oven that harnesses the sun’s energy!”
  • Students complete the Making a Solar Oven activity.
  • Non-lab option: Students research and write. 
    • Students research the pros and cons of renewable energy. Students can use the e-book How Renewables Work: A Practical Guide to Solar, Wind, and Geothermal for their research.
    • Then students research possible solutions to the cons.
    • Finally, students write a letter to local energy officials urging more use of renewable energy resources in their city.
Teaching Tips

Positives

  • The NGSS crosscutting concept for this lesson is "Influence of Science, Engineering and Technology on Society and the Natural World."

  • Creating a solar oven at the end of this lesson is fun!

Additional Prerequisites

  • Students should have background knowledge of energy. For example, students should be familiar with why humans use energy for electricity and transportation. Additionally, they should know how electricity is generated. The “Inquire” videos will help refresh the students' background knowledge regarding energy use. 

  • Students should have some previous knowledge of renewable and nonrenewable resources from elementary school.
  • You must have the materials for creating the solar oven ready before beginning the lesson.

Differentiation

  • There is a non-lab research-based option for the Inspire section.

  • For the data analysis, you can print the charts and graphs and highlight the key data that needs to be found.
  • The questions from the student worksheet can be copied and put into an interactive board to make it a whole group activity. For example, Jamboard or Peardeck are great interactive whole group forums.
Standards
  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • PS3: Energy
      • MS-PS3-3 Apply scientific principles to design, construct, and test a device that either minimizes or maximizes thermal energy transfer.
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • MS-ESS3-3 Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment.
      • MS-ESS3-4 Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth's systems.
      • MS-ESS3-5 Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century.

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