Love isn't what makes the world go 'round---energy is. Without energy sources, we would be unable to do many of the ordinary activities that we take for granted. It is important for kids to realise the energy sources that exist out there, as well as the pros and cons of each one. You can teach kids about energy sources by connecting them to ideas that they can relate to.
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Teaching About Coal
Students may not understand how much they can impact the use of coal. To demonstrate this, explain that each pound of coal produces 926 watt-hours of energy, and that as the coal burns, it gives off 1.2 Kilogram of carbon dioxide (which causes global warming). Then show (or have them research, by looking at user's guides) how many watt-hours of energy several examples of electrical appliances use up. For example, a refrigerator uses up 700 watt-hours, a dishwasher uses up 1450 watt-hours, and a regular light bulb uses up 60 watt-hours. Have them calculate how many pounds of coal are needed to power these devices---each time the dishwasher runs, or each day that the light bulb stays on all day---as well as how much carbon dioxide is produced. Then brainstorm together about what they can do to conserve fossil fuels, such as coal, and to limit global warming.
Teaching About Oil (Gasoline)
Students may not realise that gasoline continually gets more and more expensive, and that some schools have tried to make changes in order to conserve the energy produced by gasoline, such as combining bus routes and cancelling field trips. Organise a debate in which two groups pretend to be on the school board, discussing whether to put these changes into effect for your school. Encourage students to research the amount of gas needed for these purposes and to come up with inventive ways to conserve gasoline. This activity will help students understand the repercussions of the rising prices of gasoline, as well as the importance of conserving the gasoline that we do use.
Teaching About Alternative Energy Sources
Students may not be aware of many of the alternative energy sources out there in the world. To remedy this, brainstorm a list of energy sources that your students are aware of, such as coal, oil, solar energy, and nuclear energy. Then add to the list with other options they may not know about, such as natural gas, wind power, water power, geothermal energy, and fuel cells. Discuss briefly what each one is, including how it is used. You can then define the terms "fossil fuels" and "alternative energy sources," and discuss why coal, oil, and natural gas are all examples of fossil fuels, whereas the others are examples of alternative energy sources. Ask students why they think that we use some sources of energy more than others---especially fossil fuels more than alternative energy.
Then instruct students to research several types of alternative energy, in groups, and to consider which type of alternative energy is most useful and practical. Encourage them to explain their answers and to discuss them as a class.
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