Resources for Grades 6-8 Activity – Exploration Energy!

The energy we use at home, school, or work enhances our lives, but it also often contributes to air and water pollution, wildlife and habitat loss, and climate change. When we reduce the amount of electricity we use—or use electricity from sources that are less polluting—we help to protect the environment and human health. Students learn about different sources of energy, conduct an audit of the electricity they use in their own homes, and create an action plan to use energy wisely.

For the complete activity and more like this, purchase the Explore Your Environment: K-8 Activity Guide at Shop.PLT.org and/or attend a professional development training in your state.

Below are some supporting resources for this activity.

STUDENT PAGES

Download the copyright-free student pages that are included with this activity:

Home Energy Audit (PDF)

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

The following tools and resources may be used to enhance the activity.

  • Visualizations and Data for Climate Change Communication

    One of the best ways to understand data is to visualize it. The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication (YPCCC) conducts scientific research on public climate change knowledge, attitudes, policy preferences, and behavior. Data is compiled from public opinion and messaging research, using surveys, experiments, qualitative methods, statistical models, maps and participatory GIS, among other methods. View YPCCC’s Visualizations & Data to explore climate change beliefs, risk perceptions, and policy support at every geographic level in the United States.

  • EnergyKids

    Developed by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, EnergyKids provides a wide range of articles and resources about energy. Students can explore energy sources, ways to use and save energy and the history of energy with games and activities that promote learning. Challenge your students with energy-related Suduko, puzzles, crossword puzzles, and word searches!

  • Climate Challenge Board Game

    Games4Sustainability can help you incorporate a sustainability-themed game in your activities to improve your understanding of important global issues today. Narrow your search from among 100+ games and simulations by filtering the games by the UN Sustainable Development Goals or use the advanced search for more options. Challenges include topics of food, climate, security, and public health. For example, in the Climate Challenge, players face the crucial trade-off between long-term sustainability and short-term economic growth. Provide your students with a unique challenge to problem solve and practice decision making.

  • Generate: The Game of Energy Choices

    Generate: The Game of Energy Choices is a board game from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that teaches students about the costs and benefits of the energy choices we make; what happens if the mix of energy sources changes in the future; and what energy choices mean for our climate, air, water, and overall environmental quality. Teachers can download a printable version of the game and accompanying materials.

  • Nature Works

    Did you know that nature works to power the things you depend on every day such as your smartphone, refrigerator, and more! Thanks to energy from the earth we can power all these things. This 5-minute video from PBS Learning Media, Nature Works – To Make Clean Energy discusses sustainable energy sources. It also explains how sustainable energy sources support the environment and minimize harm. Learn more about the benefits of renewable technologies of energy with this video.

  • Our Relationship with Energy

    Energy makes everything we do possible. In this TEDxMileHighWomen event, energy journalist Joran Wifs-Brock talks about Our Relationship with Energy, or as she explains, the broken relationship. Use this presentation with high school students to help them consider the ways we use energy in our own life and the communication breakdown between flipping a switch and the resources we use lighting our homes.

  • A Guide to the Energy of the Earth

    As the demand for energy increases throughout the globe it is sourced through a variety of cycles connecting the sun to our food chain to electricity and beyond. Yet, if energy is neither created nor destroyed, where does it come from? TED-Ed Original lessons feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. In this TED-Ed lesson, A Guide to the Energy of the Earth, educator Joshua M. Sneideman examines the many ways in which the energy all around us is captured and sourced. This 5-minute video is also supported with 10 assessment questions.

  • Top Ten Things You Didn’t Know About… Wind Power

    Developed as part of Energy.gov’s informational “Top 10 Things You Didn’t Know About…” online series, Top 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Wind Power presents facts and resources describing the growth, development, current status, and future potential of the wind power industry. Most appropriate for middle and high school levels (grades 5-12), the educational resources include diagrams showing how a wind turbine functions, as well as extensive wind maps from the US Department of Energy.

  • STEM Teaching Tools

    The University of Washington’s Institute of Science and Math created Practice Briefs.  These free articles highlight ways of working on specific issues that come up during STEM teaching. These briefs helps K-12 educators and administrators stay informed on teaching STEM issues, including STEM issues relating to teaching NGSS and implementing meaningful STEM learning. Each brief is separated into digestible sections and includes recommended actions for educators.

  • How Electricity Works Infographic

    Help students understand the science of electricity with this animated infographic from SaveOnEnergy.com. It includes the basics of electricity all the way to how we harness this power to fuel homes, schools, hospitals and more.

  • Ted-Ed: Create a Lesson

    Looking for a way to incorporate more technology into your teaching? TED-Ed produces original animated videos and pairs them with questions and resources for teachers to create their own interactive lessons. Once you create a free account, simply search the topic you want to develop a lesson around and use the TED-Ed platform to build a customized lesson around any TED-Ed Original, TED Talk, or other educational video. Check out the example below.

    TED-Ed: Guide to Energy on Earth The global demand for energy continues to increase. But where does energy come from, and where does it go? These are just some of the questions that you can help your students answer with this Guide to the Energy of the Earth by TED-Ed. The online lesson guide includes a short video, questions for discussion, and additional resources to explore the topic further. 

  • Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy in Low-Income Communities

    Investing in energy efficiency, renewable energy, and climate protection programs is an important way for state and local governments to provide a variety of benefits to low-income communities, including energy cost savings, job creation, improved air quality, and healthier homes. EPA’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy in Low-Income Communities guide helps state and local staff connect with local and national initiatives that can assist them in expanding or developing their own EE and climate initiatives in ways that benefit low-income communities.

  • Municipal Solid Waste

    This U.S. EPA website provides in-depth information on solid waste generation, recycling, and disposal in the United States.

  • Water Calculator and Conservation Tips

    The GRACE Water Program is home to the Water Footprint Calculator, which estimates the water you use directly from the tap as well as the “virtual water” that goes into producing your food, clothing, and more. The program provides tools, tips and information on water conservation.

  • U.S. Department of Energy Multimedia

    This U.S. Department of Energy website provides links to animations, videos, and audio files on energy sources, with a focus on energy efficiency and renewable energy. Energy Guides for Schools, Advanced Energy Design Guide for K–12 School Buildings, The website of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers provides guidelines and approaches for achieving advanced levels of energy savings.

  • Climate Change around the World

    An article in BBC News that discusses impacts of global warming in countries around the world and in major sectors of society: health, water, food, ecosystems, coasts, and industry.

  • Energyhog.org

    The Alliance to Save Energy’s Energy Hog campaign is educating teachers, kids and parents about energy efficiency.  Why?  Saving energy lessens our dependence on foreign oil, improves our air and water quality, and reduces our energy bills.  To help spread energy efficiency in the classroom, print out Student and Teacher Guides or explore the rest of the site, including the interactive Hog and Seek game.  

  • How Do Solar Panels Work?

    In this digital interactive from the Public Broadcasting Service’s (PBS) NOVA Education, users see how solar panels work to convert sunlight into electricity. Links to related PBS NOVA videos and programs are also included.

  • Water Calculator

    The H2O Conserve Water Calculator is a short survey that will get you thinking about how much water you use, and how water connects to almost every aspect of your life. The Conserve Water Calculator compares individual daily water usage with the national average. It also provides suggestions of how to save more water using improved practices. Beyond the calculator, the site provides valuable educational materials and activities to engage students in water conservation issues.

  • How Do Solar Panels Work?

    In this digital interactive from the Public Broadcasting Service’s (PBS) NOVA Education, users see how solar panels work to convert sunlight into electricity. Links to related PBS NOVA videos and programs are also included.

  • US EPA Facts and Figures About Materials, Waste and Recycling

    US EPA Facts and Figures About Materials, Waste and Recycling website has information on municipal solid waste in the United States. The data includes information on energy recovery and landfills as well. 

  • International Carbon Footprint Challenge

    International Carbon Footprint Challenge unites high school students worldwide as they calculate their individual footprints using an online “footprint calculator” and post class data on a world map. Students then enter discussions about their footprints and how to work toward solutions to globally shared environmental issues.

  • Energy Lab

    This PBS NOVA series has launched the Energy Lab, where middle and high school students can design renewable energy systems for cities nationwide and compete with other students nationwide. Visit the Energy Lab website to design your own renewable energy system.

  • TeslaTown

    Designed for upper elementary and middle school students, a free iPad app teaches about electricity generation and delivery thorough visits to a solar-powered house, a hydroelectric power plant, and a wind farm. With clickable, interactive structures and informational graphics and photos, students discover what is meant by “the power grid.”

  • [email protected]

    In profiles of women working in various roles at the Department of Energy, women share what inspired them to work in a STEM field, what excites them about their work, and what ideas they have for getting more underrepresented groups engaged in STEM fields. The website is useful for middle and high school students interested in learning about STEM careers.

  • Functions of Forest Soil

    This informational handout, made available by Montana State University Extension Forestry, describes forest soil profiles, functions, and the effects that natural and manmade impacts can have on overall forest health. 

  • Zero Carbon

    A free app that can be downloaded for Apple devices. Zero Carbon can calculate an individual’s carbon footprint by looking at a person’s daily habits. Once you know the amount of greenhouse gases your lifestyle is producing, this app offers tips on reducing that number. Zero Carbon also shows how your statistics stack up against world averages, and it can be connected to Facebook, for sharing results.

  • Superfund for Students

    At this EPA website, students can learn about four different types of hazardous waste (groundwater contamination, surface water contamination, soil contamination, and air contamination) and how to clean up each type. Later, students can test their knowledge of hazardous wastes with the Superfund Scavenger Hunt or Superfund quiz.

  • Renewable Energy Documentary: Unlimited

    Unlimited, a documentary by OneLight OneCamera Productions about renewable energy, highlights a group of passionate sixth-graders who call on adults everywhere to take action and address global warming. Their voices are supported by those of global warming and energy experts, who discuss upcoming and promising technologies like solar, wind, tidal power, and more. To purchase a copy of the 25-minute film, visit this website or check it out on YouTube for free.

  • Essential Energy Info

    This website features essential energy information from the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Medicine, and the National Research Council. Targeted at a nonscientific audience, the site presents facts about America’s current energy system in four main topics: energy uses, energy sources, energy costs, and energy efficiency. Teachers will find an energy quiz, a glossary, and an extensive source library.

  • Energy4me

    Explore energy and its related concepts with resources from The Society of Petroleum Engineers’ Energy4me program. Compare energy sources, request or download a copy of the book Oil and Natural Gas, explore energy technologies, and more.

  • Energy Zones Mapping Tool

    The Energy Zones Mapping Tool is a free online database that allows users to map existing and potential energy resources in the 39 easternmost states. Users can run site-suitability analyses for a variety of renewable energy sources, including biomass, solar, water, wind, natural gas, geothermal, and nuclear power. Regional, custom maps of existing energy resources and environmental characteristics that impact energy development can also be created using overlapping and interactive layers. This tool is hosted by the Eastern Interconnection States’ Planning Council (EISPC), among other project partners. 

  • EPA’s Carbon Footprint Calculator

    The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website provides an interactive carbon footprint calculator designed for use by students in middle or high school. The calculator begins by asking students to investigate some baseline data points, such as their average home energy usage, transportation habits, and waste disposal process. Then, the calculator offers ways impact reduction by offering tangible conservation tips alongside estimated annual savings. This is an excellent tool for making home connections, as well as a compliment to PLT GreenSchools!

  • An Animated Guide to the Science of Wind Turbines

    Have you ever wondered what keeps the massive propellers of today’s wind turbines in motion? Check out this animated infographic from SaveOnEnergy to learn how wind turbines work. While the science behind wind powered turbines may seem modern day, the concept has been around for millennia. Its predecessor, the simple windmill, can be traced as far back as 200 B.C. when it was used for farm work, such as grinding grain and drawing water.