USA Energy Analysis

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SWBAT analyze the energy Americans produces and consume.

Big Idea

How do we use energy? What should our energy production and consumption look like?


10 minutes

To start the lesson my strategy is to use recent video to engage students in our energy needs. The video below is a long political speech by President Obama. I only show the segment in which the President explains the need for a shift to clean energy based upon climate change data from many sources (from 12:28-13:15). After 13:15, the Presidents discusses some party politics that I think is not important for the lesson. My advice is to look over the sections you think are best for your students. 

I ask the question, "Why is this an important political topic?" At table groups students discuss climate change. I ask table groups to list the effects of climate change. We share the lists, looking for patterns of answers. Most patterns include information about the polar ice caps or global warming. To develop deeper thinking in science, I ask students to explain causes and effects. I ask, "What do some people believe are the causes of global warming? Why do some people feel that global warming is not true?" In my school this can be a spirited discussion as many student families watch the news and have definite opinions about environmental issues.  I remind the students that scientists are humans and they like to have honest tolerant debate. There will always be disagreements but how we disagree is far more important than disagreeing. If the discussion gets mean or too politically charged, I say, "I love this debate. Let's take a look at some data to help inform our decisions."

Connections to Engineering,Technology, and Applications of Science: Scientists and engineers are guided by habits of mind such as intellectual honesty, tolerance of ambiguity, skepticism, and openness to new ideas.

SP1- Asking Questions and Defining Problems that arise from careful observation of phenomena, models, or unexpected results, to clarify and/or seek additional information.


15 minutes

The strategy I use next is Mathematical Models. Students will look at energy statistics and create pie charts comparing U.S. production and consumption of energy.  I use the site U.S. Energy Information Administration Recent Statistics.   See the Data Table to get a better understanding about how it looks on the computer. 

As they look at the data, I ask students to consider the words energy production and consumption. My intention is to promote vocabulary. I ask, "Can anyone tell me what I mean by energy production?" We discuss the definition of production and consumption and I add the words to my Word Wall. I ask, "What is the difference between consumption and production?" 

To promote a culture in which students work independently, I share an instructional document, USA Energy. The document is a step-by-step list of how to create a spreadsheet and it includes prompts students must answer.

The lesson includes technology integration. By rewriting the data into a spreadsheet, students can easily create a pie chart. They input the data from the Primary Energy Production Data Table on the site, and create a pie chart. The pie chart allows the students a visual way to analyze the different ways the US produces energy.

I ask the students to follow the same procedure with the Energy Consumption data. On the spreadsheet there are two data tables and two pie charts. 

I ask the students to analyze the data and determine changes that would make a healthy balance of energy sources. Students create a new data table with the numbers they feel would be better percentages for US Production and Consumption of energy. Using their changes, students create new pie charts. 


(MP-4 Model with Mathematics)


15 minutes

I end with two table group discussion questions. 
What numbers did you change and why? (My intention is to determine student reasoning for changes in the numbers.)
What surprised you about the data? (My intention is to offer the opportunity for students to respond to the data on a personal level. )

I end with two analysis questions. The questions will be summative assessment so the students are helping one another develop ideas. 

  1. As you examine the data, how does our nation contribute to climate change? (My intention is for students to tie climate change to our production and consumption of energy.)
  2. What needs to be done to change the existing data to your healthy data? (My intention is to help students analyze how energy production and consumption changes are possible.)

Using the NGSS Connections to Engineering, Technology, and the Application of Science, I am promote the idea that "all human activity draws on natural resources and has both short and long-term consequences, positive as well as negative, for the health of people and the natural environment." 


MP-4 Model with Mathematics 

SP-2: Developing and Using Models: Develop and/or revise a model to show the relationships among variables, including those that are not observable but predict observable phenomena.

SP-4 Analyzing and Interpreting Data: Use graphical displays of large sets of data to identify temporal relationships.


15 minutes
I'm using the strategy of Argument Writing -- students state positions and use data to support or refute the statement. Students respond to two prompts, using their pie charts as evidence.
I ask them to report to both the production and the consumption sides of their data in their engineering notebooks.  
The position statement is, "Our nation contributes to climate change." Student use the pie chart data to support or refute the statement. 
I want to offer the students an opportunity to use their data to support a position also. Students use their made-up data to answer complete the sentence, "Our society can switch from the actual production and consumption of energy to my healthy numbers by ........"  


RST.6-8.4 Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain- specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 6–8 texts and topics.

RST.6-8.7 Integrate quantitative or technical information expressed in words in a text with a version of that information expressed visually (e.g., in a flowchart, diagram, model, graph, or table).