Slash Your Carbon Footprint

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SWBAT explain energy consumption. SWBAT create & analyze a bar graph showing annual energy consumption.

Big Idea

How much energy do you consume? America's electricity is used to power Smartphones, tablets, and other devices. Students learn how to slash their carbon footprint.

Engage: Listen To It

10 minutes

Engage: Listen To It

I ask students to open their Science Journal (Notebook) to a new page, write the date, and a title such as "Atlanta Family Slashes Carbon Footprint." Next, I engage students in the lesson by asking them to listen to a podcast. I explain that a podcast is like listening to the radio. On the white board, I display an Image of the family in the podcast because this makes the listening more authentic. I ask students to write & draw as they listen to the podcast. Students should include: questions, facts, information, and/or drawings.

After this 7+ minute podcast, I ask students to share a thought, question, or drawing from their journal. To draw all students into the conversation, I use popsicle sticks. This strategy allows for a variety of students to be included and speak during the discussion.

Next, I specifically ask students to answer "How can you slash your carbon footprint?" I allow 2 minutes for students to process the question and write an answer. Students should write their answers on the Energy Eaters worksheet. By providing a sentence frame (I think that . . .if I . . .), it scaffolds the learning for all students, especially ELL and Special Education students. Then, as a class, students share insightful answers including:

  • You can cut pollution by not driving.
  • Your commute may affect the environment.
  • Is the average commute different in other states?
  • This family walks to stores because they live close to them and that's better than driving.


Earth's Resources Unit: This is a short, interactive unit that students can be engaged in at the end of the school year. It helps keep students focused on science while learning important information about Earth's resources. As student's progress through the unit, they will work towards MS-ESS3-4 constructing an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per capita consumption of natural resources impacts Earth's systems.

Unit Description: What are the advantages of using Earth's resources wisely? Where do we get energy? Students evaluate the biodegradability of renewable and nonrenewable natural resources while using critical thinking skills to create an energy exhibit focusing on energy sources.

Explore: Graph It

15 minutes

Explore: Graph It

I chunk the next part of the inquiry so that students graph data, look for patterns in the data, and analyze information about annual energy consumption of electronic devices. This experience should helps students to MS-ESS3-4 construct an argument supported by evidence from how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth's systems. The lesson allows me to assess if students understand why it is important to reduce annual energy consumption.

Creating a graph is a visual strategy to help students understand data. As students explore the essential question "What are advantages of using Earth's resources wisely?" I ask them to create a bar graph to compare the five most energy-hungry devices (ie- TV, component stereo, cell phone, alarm clock, and computer). The worksheet Energy Eaters contains data, information for the graph, and instructions to create a bar graph.

I guide students in setting up their bar graph by modeling how to label the x and y axis, add a meaningful title to the graph, and fill-in the data to illustrate each bar on the graph. It is important to model the expectations for all students, especially ELL and Special Education students. Mathematical practices are woven into this lesson. Students (MP#5) use appropriate tools (graph paper, pencil, ruler) strategically to create a graph while (MP#6) attending to precision when creating a graph. It is important to communicate data precisely when creating a bar graph because it makes the information valid and reliable. Students should measure and record accurately as they record data on the graph paper.

Explain: Analyze It

15 minutes

Explain: Analyze It

This part of the lesson helps students explain the concepts (resources, carbon footprint, energy) they have been exploring. Students have opportunities to verbalize their conceptual understanding with their peers and demonstrate new skills as they create a bar graph with the data. 

It is important to analyze data after it is displayed in a graph because then students can identify patterns, trends, similarities, and other relationships. Students could then (SP#1) ask questions such as:

How can I use this data?

What does this data mean to me?

What is the graph telling me?

I encourage students to (SP#8) engage in a scientific discussion with their peers as they analyze their graph and answer the questions. Students will accurately communicate their findings in a bar graph in order to engage in discourse with their peers.

After students analyze the data, I ask them to explain their thinking. Students wrote:

  • I think that we should reduce energy consumption because then global warming or pollution could be less and maybe stopped.
  • I think that yes, it is important to reduce your energy consumption because more energy consumption releases pollution which is already bad, which leads to greenhouse gas, which leads to global warming.
  • I think that it is important to reduce annual energy consumption because then we will have more energy to use later in life.