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        Thinking about Energy

        A survey of students’ understandings of energy resources in Pennsylvania

        Lesson Summary


        The following standards-aligned lesson allows practitioners to assess students’ prerequisite knowledge about energy concepts to implement instructional strategies that capitalize on students’ understanding to create the most effective learning environment.

        Content Objectives

        Students will know that

        • their perceptions about various concepts of energy affect their understanding of these concepts.
        • studying physical science will enhance their comprehension of energy concepts.
        • natural resources vary in their value, location, and availability.
        • resources can be nonrenewable or renewable.
        • the sustainability of natural resources is important.
        • there are differences in energy efficiency for various types of resources.
        • there are differences in usage of resources (for energy) in various societies.

        Teachers will become familiar with

        • the usability of a pre- and post-instructional web-based survey tool.
        • the prerequisite knowledge upon which students build their conceptions of energy.
        • any misconceptions that could impact future student learning.
        • the alignment of curricula with Pennsylvania Science and Technology and Environment and Ecology Standards.

        Process Objectives

        Students will be able to

        • navigate through a web-based survey that sparks curiosity and understanding of energy concepts.
        • describe how their prior perceptions influence their understanding of energy concepts.
        • identify how their conceptions of energy change or are reinforced by completing the survey.
        • evaluate their comprehension about concepts of energy.

        Assessment Strategies

        • Student understandings about energy-related concepts will be evaluated through their completion of a multimedia driven, pre-and post-instructional survey tool, Thinking about Energy.
        • Students will participate in a metacognitive journaling exercise to document their pre-instructional experience with the survey.
        • Student participation will be assessed through a small group activity to examine the nature of resources.

        Grade Level: 6-12

        Multimedia Resources


        Before the Lesson

        The Lesson

        Part I: Introduce Content and Complete Survey (1-50 minute Class Period)

        1. Introduce 6-8 grade students to the content using a framing question such as:

        • What resources will allow us to continue to live the way we do through the 21st century and beyond?

        Students in grades 9-12 could be introduced to the content using a framing statement and question such as: In order to maintain our current standard of living, we depend upon environmental quality; the availability, use and access to resources; and our society’s political and cultural structure. What resources will allow us to continue to live the way we do through the 21st century and beyond? What factors impact the resources we will rely upon?

        2. To present the survey, explain the idea of “thinking about your own thinking” as a means to better understand energy concepts as well as a means for teachers to prepare their instruction. Inform students that they will complete a survey about their understandings about energy concepts to help identify all of the things they know already and what the class should do as a whole to learn more about energy.

        3. Allow students to work individually to complete the "Thinking About Energy" Survey. They will need to view the energy animations on the computer to complete the survey. Be sure to emphasize the fact that students will need to use the PDF below to complete the exercise.

        4. Review the survey with the class to address any questions and alternate conceptions. (This step could also be done later in this lesson or a larger unit studying energy to allow students to assess how their thinking about energy may have changed.)

        Part II: Homework Assignment

        5. Revisit the framing questions and invite a short discussion to further hook students by illustrating our current standard of living through the use of manipulables such as an iPod, cell phone, and print or electronic visuals of transportation infrastructure and the products we have visuals access to because of the systems we have in place (i.e., exotic foods, clothing, etc).

        6. Assign students the homework task of pondering the framing question and identifying at least two resources that they will use in the next 24 hours. Encourage students to collect and share the resources during the next class meeting.

        7. In addition, prompt students to use the “Reflective Writing Activity” in the PDF below to reflect on their experience with the survey. Have them explain any concepts that made them question their current beliefs about energy, define what a resource is, and describe how confident they are in their definition. Give students the opportunity to record any new questions they want to ask about resources and energy. This response could be emailed or delivered in hardcopy with students’ examples of resources.

        Part III: Debrief Homework and View “History of PA Energy through 20th Century” Video (30 minutes)

        8. Allow students to share their examples of energy use in small groups. Challenge groups to develop a scheme for categorizing the examples they present. Assign group members with responsibilities so that a record of the small group discussion can be preserved for later use.

        9. Share the video below (3:31) with students as a large group.

        10. Return students to their small groups and give them an opportunity to make any modifications to their categorizations.

        11. Develop a class discussion about the differences among perpetual, renewable, and nonrenewable resources and those that are recycled and reusable based upon student categorizations of energy resources.

        12. Collect each small group’s discussion document and share ideas.


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