Local Government Climate and Energy Strategy Series
December 27, 2012
The Local Government Climate and Energy Strategy Series, published by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, gives a straightforward overview of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction strategies that local governments can use to achieve economic, environmental, social, and human health benefits. The series covers energy efficiency, transportation, community planning and design, solid waste and materials management, and renewable energy.
This board game, designed for middle school students, introduces the concepts of energy use in our lives and the real impact that personal choices can have on our energy consumption, energy bills, and fuel supply.
This activity engages students in learning about ways to become energy efficient consumers. Students examine how different countries and regions around the world use energy over time, as reflected in night light levels. They then track their own energy use, identify ways to reduce their individual energy consumption, and explore how community choices impact the carbon footprint.
Students conduct an energy audit to determine how much carbon dioxide their family is releasing into the atmosphere and then make recommendations for minimizing their family's carbon footprint. Students are specifically asked to understand the units of power and energy to determine the cost of running various household appliances. Finding the amount of carbon dioxide emitted for different types of energy and determining ways of reducing carbon dioxide output is the outcome of the lesson.
The activity follows a progression that examines the CO2 content of various gases, explores the changes in the atmospheric levels of CO2 from 1958 to 2000 from the Mauna Loa Keeling curve, and the relationship between CO2 and temperature over the past 160,000 years. This provides a foundation for examining individuals' input of CO2 to the atmosphere and how to reduce it.
Students investigate passive solar building design with a focus on heating. Insulation, window placement, thermal mass, surface colors, and site orientation are addressed in the background materials and design preparation. Students test their projects for thermal gains and losses during a simulated day and night then compare designs with other teams for suggestions for improvements.
Students calculate the cost of the energy used to operate a common three-bulb light fixture. They then compare the costs and amount of CO2 produced for similar incandescent and compact fluorescent light bulbs. Students also do a short laboratory activity to visualize why two bulbs, which give off the same amount of light, use different amounts of electrical energy.
In this activity learners work in pairs or small groups to apply knowledge of energy-wise habits to evaluate energy use in their school and make recommendations for improved efficiency. Students create and use an energy audit tool to collect data and present recommendations to their class. Further communication at the school and district level is encouraged.
Students explore their own Ecological Footprint in the context of how many Earths it would take if everyone used the same amount of resources they did. They compare this to the Ecological Footprint of individuals in other parts of the world and to the Ecological footprint of a family member when they were the student's age.