Global Education

Teacher resources to encourage a global
perspective across the curriculum

Sustainable energy sources

Year level: 5-6

Issue: Environment

Students investigate the energy sources that people use to meet their daily needs, with a particular focus on ways of generating electricity. They develop key understandings about the environmental impact of different energy sources (non-renewable or renewable) and opportunities for decisions and actions that can make a difference for a sustainable future.

Two large circular solar cookers catch the sun outside a large building in snowy mountainous area.

A solar cooker uses the energy of the sun to cook, reducing deforestation in remote areas of Nepal. Grant Dixon / Lonely Planet Images


Interdependence and globalisation, Social justice and human rights, Sustainable futures

Australian Curriculum links

Learning areas

English

Year 5

Identify aspects of literary texts that convey details or information about particular social, cultural and historical contexts (ACELT1608)

Year 6

Participate in and contribute to discussions, clarifying and interrogating ideas, developing and supporting arguments, sharing and evaluating information, experiences and opinions (ACELY1709)

Science

Year 5

Light from a source forms shadows and can be absorbed, reflected and refracted (ACSSU080)

Decide which variable should be changed and measured in fair tests and accurately observe, measure and record data, using digital technologies as appropriate (ACSIS087)

Use equipment and materials safely, identifying potential risks (ACSIS088)

Year 6

Energy from a variety of sources can be used to generate electricity (ACSSU219)

With guidance, pose questions to clarify practical problems or inform a scientific investigation, and predict what the findings of an investigation might be (ACSIS232)

General capabilities

  • Literacy
  • Critical and creative thinking
  • Ethical behaviour

Cross-curriculum priorities

  • Sustainability

Activity 1: Renewable and non-renewable energy

This activity focuses on how people in Australia meet their energy needs and the impact on the environment of using renewable or non-renewable energy sources. It highlights greenhouse gas emissions as a key aspect of environmental impact.

Preparation

 

Brainstorm and list what energy sources are used for cooking, heating, cooling and transport in Australia? Share what you know about where the fuel we use to generate energy comes from. How is it used to generate power? (For example, coal, oil and gas are fossil fuels found beneath the earth; they are produced from mines or wells and burnt to release their energy.)

Discuss:

  • What environmental problems might be related to energy production and use? Consider factors including ‘air pollution’, ‘greenhouse gases’ and ‘climate change’. You could use the Australian Greenhouse Calculator website’s glossary to help.

View and discuss an animation from the EPA website, which explains the greenhouse effect.

Research in small groups different energy sources and ways of generating power: coal, oil, natural gas, solar, hydroelectricity, geothermal and wind. 

  • What is the environmental impact of this energy source?
  • Who uses this energy source?
  • Why might they use this energy source?
  • Create a PMI for the energy source you have researched. 

Classify the different energy sources as renewable or non-renewable.

Review your list from brainstorming. Circle the energy sources that come from fossil fuels with a black marker. Circle energy sources that do not pollute the environment or produce greenhouse gases with a green marker.

Use the Australian Greenhouse Calculator to work out your own greenhouse gas emissions, or imagine some different households and calculate and compare their emissions.

Discuss what you have learned from this activity and what it makes you think about.

Activity 2: Energy use and access around the world

This activity focuses on how people in different countries meet their energy needs. It includes an inquiry into social and economic factors that influence energy use and consumption.

Women in  Rajasthan, India, in saris spend time searching for, collecting and carrying firewood before they can cook food. A woman bakes flat bread on a fuel efficient stove in Tilonia in north-east India.
Examine the photos showing use of a traditional fuel and answer the questions.

  • Who is doing the work?
  • What equipment is being used?
  • What energy is being used?

Discuss: How and why might different countries, cultures, or people in different locations vary in their use of energy? Ideas might include population, cross-cultural differences in lifestyle, differences between life in cities and in rural areas, and differences in the availability of local resources or connections to a power supply ‘grid’.

Examine the figures in Table 1: Energy and the environment

CountryPopulation (million) (2010)Urban population (% of total) 2010Fossil fuel consumption (% of total) 2009Electric power consumption (kilowatt per person) 2009Carbon dioxide emissions (metric tons per person) 2008
Australia22.38994.411,11318.6
China1,338.34587.42,6315.3
Indonesia232.55465.65901.7
PNG6.913n/an/a0.3
Vietnam88.42956.29181.5

Create a short profile for each country. Work in groups. Include a map, a short description of the country and the statistical information in the above table.

Investigate the different energy sources used in the country you research.
Provide useful links to help, possibly http://data.un.org. Discuss your observations. What factors do you think influence a country’s energy use and greenhouse gas emissions?

Add a statement to the country profile developed by your group about the country's impact on the environment. Make a suggestion for how that country might meet its future energy as sustainably as possible.

Activity 3: Design and build a solar cooker

This activity focuses on solar power as an example of renewable energy. It develops science inquiry skills through interactive and hands-on experiments that involve constructing a solar cooker to explore how the Sun’s energy can be captured and used, and also includes discussion of the positives and negatives of solar power.

Preparation

  • Access to computers and the National Digital Learning Resources Network
  • Foil, bottles, cardboard or sticks to create frame
  • Craft knife, thermometer, clock
  • Metal and glass cooking pots
  • Items for cooking (eg small cakes, pikelets, eggs)
  • A sunny day!

 

Brainstorm: What do you know about renewable energy and about how heat from the Sun can be used? You might like to read and discuss an explanation of solar energy: www.kidcyber.com.au/topics/solar.htm.

Use NDLRN digital curriculum resource L1140 Energy from the Sun: design a solar cooker to explore factors that help solar energy to be captured effectively. Use NDLRN digital curriculum resource L1140 Energy from the Sun: design a solar cooker   to explore factors that help solar energy to be captured effectively.

Predict
what will happen as you adjust the cooker’s shape, direction and surface. How do you think these factors will affect the amount of solar energy captured?

Observe and discuss
the different results you achieve as you carry out your simulated experiment.

Record your learning about the shape, direction and surfaces of the solar cooker.

Examine these photos and describe how effective the solar cookers would be based on your findings from above.

Examine  Solar cooking in Zanzibar (You tube)

Investigate areas around the world that are using solar energy or would find solar power generation possible.

Use your learning to design, build and test your own solar cooker.

Measure and record the temperature inside the cooker at different times during the day.

Identify and investigate as many factors as you can that might affect the efficiency of your solar cooker (eg the Sun’s angle, cloud cover, wind, air temperature, size and colour of cooking pots and pans, food size, quantity and water content).

Choose a cooking project for your solar cooker. (A simple cake mix is ideal.)

Create a report on your testing procedures and results. Include a labelled diagram to show the design of your cooker.

Activity 4: Harnessing wind energy

This activity focuses on wind power as an example of renewable energy. It develops science inquiry skills through interactive and hands-on experiments exploring how the wind’s energy can be captured and used, and also includes discussion of the positives and negatives of wind power.

Preparation

  • Access to computers and the National Digital Learning Resources Network .
  • Thick aluminium foil (recycled pie plates or foil trays are ideal)
  • Scissors, a sewing pin
  • Two small pieces of cork or polystyrene
  • A stick or wooden ruler
  • A blob of plasticine
  • An electric fan (preferably with two or more speeds)

 

Brainstorm: What do you know about renewable energy and about how wind can be used to generate power? You might like to read and discuss an explanation of wind energy:
www.kidcyber.com.au/topics/windenerg.htm or try an interactive Energy in Motionwind power game .

Use NDLRN digital curriculum resource L49 It's not just wind to explore factors that allow a wind generator to work effectively. Use NDLRN digital curriculum resource L49 It's not just wind to explore factors that allow a wind generator to work effectively.

Discuss what you have learned.

Design, build and test your own windmill.

Circle cut to create blades for a fan. A fan used to test wind power.

  • As shown above, use a circle of foil to make the ‘blades’.
  • Make your first circle with the radius of the longest blade length you want to test, so that you can cut the same circle to make shorter blades.
  • To test the number of blades, start with four and then you can add more cuts for more blades.
  • Place your blades on the pin with cork/polystyrene on either side and attach to the stick or ruler.
  • Blow on the blades to check that they spin easily; then stand your windmill on a bench using plasticine.
  • Place an electric fan close enough to your windmill to make the blades turn.
  • Observe how fast the blades spin to ‘measure’ how much energy your windmill captures.

Record and discuss your results. You could use a + system: +++++ for very fast, ++++ for fast etc.
 

Factor
being tested (eg blade length)
Measurement of energy capturedAverage
12 cmTrial 1Trial 2Trial 3 
10 cm    
     
     
     

 

Discuss: What factors affect the amount of energy captured by windmills?

Investigate areas around the world that are using wind energy for power generation or would find this possible.

Create a PMI chart for the use of wind energy for power generation.

Activity 5: Working for a sustainable future

This activity focuses on possible ways of reducing the environmental impact of electricity generation and use.

Brainstorm ways in which we depend on electricity every day.

Consider the dilemma: We are dependent on electricity yet we know that our main ways of generating electricity have a negative effect on the environment.

Brainstorm ideas for solutions to the dilemma. For example:

  • Reducing use
  • Energy efficient appliances
  • Investments in renewable energy
  • Building regulations
  • Subsidies for solar panels.

Investigate, in small groups, one idea or solution and all the issues that surround it. Write five recommendations and display them in the classroom.

Imagine that your class has been put in charge of creating a plan for the sustainable use of energy sources for the world. Using the recommendations everyone has written, and the research you have done on energy sources, work together as a class to create a presentation using photographs and maps to show how the world could achieve fairer conditions for all. Display it in your school or post it on the school’s intranet.
 

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Women in Rajasthan, India, in saris spend time searching for, collecting and carrying firewood before they can cook food.
Photo © Robert Harding/Robert Harding World Imagery/Corbis
Print | Save
Women in  Rajasthan, India, in saris spend time searching for, collecting and carrying firewood before they can cook food. Photo © Robert Harding/Robert Harding World Imagery/Corbis
A woman bakes flat bread on a fuel efficient stove in Tilonia in north-east India.
Photo © Albrecht G. Schaefer/CORBIS
Print | Save
A woman bakes flat bread on a fuel efficient stove in Tilonia in north-east India. Photo © Albrecht G. Schaefer/CORBIS
A solar cooker uses the energy of the sun to cook, reducing deforestation in remote areas of Nepal.
Grant Dixon / Lonely Planet Images
Print | Save
A solar cooker uses the energy of the sun to cook, reducing deforestation in remote areas of Nepal. Grant Dixon / Lonely Planet Images