Energy Guardians

How To Use This Program

Thank you for taking the time to educate your students and their families about energy efficiency and natural resources. We want you to know that participating in this program and using its supplementary materials is easy and can integrate seamlessly with your established teaching methods. Please note that our programs are aligned with state educational standards as well as the Next Generation Science Standards.

The student playbook and online teacher resources have activities that emphasize the Four Cs of 21st Century Education Skills – Collaboration, Communication, Creativity and Critical Thinking. Along with suggested grade levels, purpose of each activity and cognitive level of thinking, this allows you to tailor the learning to meet the needs and abilities of your entire class.

Access Student Activities
 
Day of the Performance
  • Ask the students a K-W-L. What do you know about the subject matter we are about to see? What do you want to know?
  • Attend the live performance scheduled for your class.
 
After the Performance
  • Explore the Education page to make use of the additional games and activities. Conclude your K-W-L by asking the students what they learned from the performance.
  • Evaluate the program by going to HeyTeachers.org and entering the code you received from the actors.
  • Complete the program evaluation.
 
Educational Standards

Find the related state and Next Generation Science Standards here.

Educational Standards
 
Words to Know

Hover over the image to reveal the definition.

A small attachment on a faucet to save water in kitchens and bathrooms
To save or use wisely
Producing very little waste
A useful source of energy used in many ways
The ability to do work and the force that makes things change
A lightbulb that uses less energy than an incandescent bulb
A showerhead that saves water and energy
A card that shows the temperature of your water to help you save energy
One thousand watts of electricity
Things we use to make electricity, like coal and natural gas
Using 1,000 watts of electricity for one hour
To use thoughtlessly or carelessly
A unit of electricity
 
Expanded Information: How We Generate Electricity

Introduction
Read this passage to your students and ask them the discussion questions that follow.

We use electricity every day to power our TVs, computers, video games, lamps and about a million other things. But where does electricity come from, and how does it get into those funny looking holes in the wall?

Let’s go backwards. The outlets in your wall are connected to a series of wires that lead to utility poles outside of your house or apartment building. These wires then lead to transformers or substations, which, in turn, lead to a power plant. It’s in the power plant that the electricity is created.

In the 1800s, scientists discovered that when a magnet is dragged across a series of copper wires, it creates a field of electricity. The problem is, in order to keep your lightbulb lit, there has to be a constant current of electricity flowing through it, which means the magnet has to be continually moving. To solve this problem, the magnets in the power plant are surrounded by wires on all sides. So if the magnets spin in a circle, they create a nonstop current.

But how do we keep that magnet spinning? One way is to attach it to a turbine. A turbine is like a giant fan. Imagine a child’s pinwheel. If the magnet were attached to that pinwheel, then it would spin any time the child blew on it. In the power plant, the pinwheel-like turbine isn’t spun by a child with amazing lung capacity, but instead with steam. By focusing steam through smaller and smaller pipes, it becomes so powerful it can spin the turbine with great ease.

All that steam comes from boiling large amounts of water. The more water we boil, the more steam we produce; which takes us to resources. All of that water has to boil somehow, and we make that happen by burning resources like coal, oil and natural gas. The more electricity we make, the more resources it takes to make it. And because there’s only so much coal and natural gas in the world, it’s more important than ever that we conserve, or save, electricity wherever possible.

Critical Thinking Questions
What is another way we can spin the turbine?

  • We can put a turbine in a river. This is how hydroelectric dams work.
  • We can also use the wind to spin a turbine in a windmill.

What happens when we run out of resources like coal, oil or natural gas?

  • They’re gone. We will have to use renewable resources like wind, solar or hydro.

What are some things that use electricity in your classroom?

  • Lights, computers, tablets, etc.
 
Language Arts
How we measure energy

Zombies and Electricity by Mark Weakland
Have your students read this fun and fascinating book about electricity. It’s a graphic novel and great for struggling or reluctant readers. It combines the basics of electricity with a fun and compelling story about zombies. “Learning about electricity doesn’t have to be scary. Join zombies as they uncover the science of electricity and all of its uses. You’ll give your knowledge of electricity a jolt with a monster dose of humor.” – Amazon.com

How energy is wasted

Crunch by Leslie Connor
This book explores the concept of energy scarcity. What might happen if the Earth’s supply of gas runs out? It’s a perfect classroom read to spark discussions about energy conservation and the future of our planet. The book can be an eye-opening experience to students just becoming familiar with the concept of scarcity and how much waste each of us contributes in our daily lives.

“Dewey is stuck in a crunch. He never guessed that the gas pumps would run dry the same week he promised to manage the family's bicycle-repair business. Suddenly everyone needs a bike. And nobody wants to wait.” – Amazon.com

What renewable resources are

Timelock by David Klass
The third part of this global warming trilogy follows the adventures of Jack Danielson. “Wrenched away once more from those he knows and loves, Jack is thrust through time to the fiery deserts of the future and the frozen tundra of the Arctic, battling cyborgs, zombie warlocks and scorpions the size of tanks. At least he has Gisco – everyone's favorite surly telepathic canine – to keep him company, not to mention the Ninja Babe, Eko. And he will finally be reunited with the parents who abandoned him so long ago, in order that he might save their dying planet.” – Goodreads.com

What renewable resources are

Max Axiom: A Refreshing Look at Renewable Energy by Katherine E. Krohn
This book explores the uses of renewable energy sources. The Children's Literature Comprehensive Database says: “Max takes another look at energy by exploring various alternative forms of energy that can be used to heat homes, power appliances, run cars and even power cities. Readers get a basic look at how solar energy, wind energy, and even ocean wave energy can be harnessed to generate electricity more cleanly than coal or nuclear power plants. Max also does a fair job at considering the downsides to cleaner forms of energy -- noting how hydroelectric plants pollute less but also threaten fish and other wildlife, while growing ethanol fuel can sacrifice much-needed farmland.”

 
Social Studies
How we measure energy

The metric system came into being in 1799, during the French Revolution, when the existing system of measures was replaced by a decimal system based on the kilogram and the meter. Previously, the inconsistent methods of measurement created havoc in industry and trade. The new units were taken from the natural world: the unit of length, the meter, was based on the dimensions of the Earth, and the unit of mass, the kilogram, was based on the mass of water having a volume of one liter or a cubic decimeter. Reference copies for both units were manufactured in platinum and remained the standards of measure for the next 90 years.

How energy is wasted

There is a new crisis in recycling. From The Atlantic: “For decades, (The United States was) sending the bulk of our recycling to China — tons and tons of it, sent over on ships to be made into goods such as shoes and bags and new plastic products. But last year, the country restricted imports of certain recyclables, including mixed paper — magazines, office paper, junk mail—and most plastics. Waste-management companies across the country are telling towns, cities and counties that there is no longer a market for their recycling. These municipalities have two choices: pay much higher rates to get rid of recycling, or throw it all away.”

How we can conserve energy

Along with lighting, cooling a living space is one of the biggest electricity hogs. An average household can save as much as 10% a year on heating and cooling by simply turning the thermostat back 7°-10°F for eight hours a day from its normal setting. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average monthly residential electric bill for roughly 132 million electric customers in the United States was $111.67 in 2017. A savings of 10% would result in about $120 per year. Multiplied by 132 million households, the total annual savings would be $1.5 billion. That kind of savings can have a significant economic impact.

What renewable resources are

Renewable energy sources are becoming cheaper and cheaper. In fact, many reports indicate that renewable energy is already cheaper than many non-renewable energy sources. One report finds that in 2018, 211 gigawatts (GW) of existing U.S. coal capacity, or 74% of the national fleet, was at risk from local wind or solar power that could provide the same amount of electricity more cheaply. By 2025, at-risk coal increases to 246 GW – nearly the entire U.S. fleet. Discuss the far-reaching impacts of this upheaval in the energy industry.

 
Science
How we measure energy

Did you know that until recently there was an actual, physical example of how much a kilogram should weigh? Scientists have long recognized the limitations of such an “artifact” kilogram and have declared that the kilogram and three other units will be redefined in terms of “invariants” of nature. For the kilogram, that invariant is the Planck constant (symbolized by the letter h) — a quantity more familiar to the exotic territory of quantum mechanics than to the everyday world of weights and measures. Scientists arrived at a value of h = 6.626070150 × 10-34 kg⋅m2/s. This value was the last piece in the scientific puzzle to redefine the kilogram in terms of fundamental constants of nature.

How energy is wasted

New technologies can help make use of waste in order to assist energy efficiency efforts. Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) combine the benefits of gasoline engines and electric motors. They can be designed to meet different goals, such as better fuel economy or more power. Most hybrids use something called regenerative braking to re-capture wasted energy and put it to use. It uses the forward motion of the wheels to turn the motor. This generates electricity and helps slow the vehicle. Since the car is putting energy to use that would normally be wasted, it is a more energy-efficient vehicle. Poll your students to find out how many of their families have or intend to purchase a hybrid vehicle.

How we can conserve energy

Physicists have achieved record levels of temperature reduction using the process of radiative cooling. Scientists have lowered the temperature of a thermal emitter – a device designed to give out more heat than it takes in – to 42.2 °C below that of the surrounding air. Earth’s atmosphere allows thermal radiation of wavelengths between eight and 13 micrometers to pass through it into outer space. The thermal emitter was specifically designed so that most of the heat it emits falls within that range. The heat will pass straight out into space without being bounced back by the atmosphere. Since heating and cooling interiors is one of the biggest energy wasters, this could lead to a new revolution in energy conservation.

What renewable resources are

Geothermal resources are reservoirs of hot water that exist at varying temperatures and depths below the Earth's surface. Wells with a depth of a mile or more can be drilled into underground reservoirs to tap steam and very hot water that can be brought to the surface for use in a variety of applications, including electricity generation, direct use and heating and cooling. In the United States, most geothermal reservoirs are located in the western states. More and more people are taking advantage of residential geothermal resources to heat and cool their homes. Residential systems rely on the constancy of the ground temperature, rather than on hot springs, to achieve heating and cooling results.

 
Math
How we measure energy

What is horsepower? Horsepower (hp) is a unit of measurement of power, or the rate at which work is done. There are many different standards and types of horsepower. The common definitions being used today are the mechanical horsepower, which is about 746 watts. To convert from horsepower to watts, multiply by 746. To convert from watts to horsepower, multiply by 0.00134. The term was adopted in the late 18th century by Scottish engineer James Watt to compare the output of steam engines with the power of draft horses. It was later expanded to include the output power of other types of piston engines, as well as turbines, electric motors and other machinery.

How energy is wasted

Follow these steps for finding the annual energy consumption of a product, as well as the cost to operate it. Estimate the number of hours per day an appliance runs (e.g. three hours). Find the wattage of the product (e.g. 60 watts). Then multiply the wattage and the hours and divide the result by one thousand. This gives you your daily kilowatt-hour (kWh) consumption (e.g. [60 x 3] ÷ 1,000 = .18). Then multiply the daily kWh consumption times number of days used per year. This equals your annual energy consumption (e.g. [.18 x 365 = 65.7]). Find the annual cost to run the appliance by multiplying the annual energy consumption times the utility rate per kWh – for example, 11 cents per kWh (e.g. 65.7 x .11 = $7.22).

How we can conserve energy

There are about 130 million households in the United States. The average LED lightbulb can save approximately $3.80 in annual electricity costs. Therefore, if every household in the U.S. bought and used one LED lightbulb, the annual costs savings would be about $494 million. Have your students calculate the energy savings if every household bought two LED lightbulbs. The average American home has about 30 lightbulbs. Have your students calculate the savings if every household replaced all of the existing lightbulbs with LEDs.

What renewable resources are

Wind and hydroelectric turbines spin to help generate electricity. Usually, the more revolutions per minute (rpm) the turbine spins, the more electricity can be generated. A typical 172-ton hydroelectric turbine turns at 90 rpm. You can have your students explore this concept by using pinwheels. Mark one of the blades of the pinwheel with a marker or piece of tape. Then have your students note the revolutions per minute as the pinwheel is spun at different speeds. You can also have them count the revolutions every 10 seconds and then multiply the result by six to get to the same answer as revolutions per minute.