Teachers’ Notes for Energy Issues Pack
Use of the material
Energy issues are complex as well as highly topical, with the Government's Energy Review due out in June. Daily news bulletins provide fresh views and information. There is no possibility of covering the subject in its full range and depth in a pack of this kind and we are not attempting to do so. Rather, we aim to raise awareness of the issues involved and to point the way to the kinds of debate they generate. We hope that there is enough here to suit a variety of different subject areas and approaches, and to stimulate further enquiry.
Although specific aims of Education for Citizenship, as set out in Annex A and Annex B of the Education for Citizenship Framework Paper produced by the Advisory Council for Learning and Teaching Scotland, are highlighted in the lesson plans, the basic material provided could be adapted to meet other aims - for instance development of IT skills, confidence in handling statistics, and so on.
The notes that follow give further information and suggestions, which may be helpful.
In presenting the factsheets, teachers should point out the possibility of bias in selection of facts and the importance of giving due weight to the sources of information when evaluating this. Sources such as the Dictionary of Energy, which has been drawn on to a large extent, especially in the compilation of the Glossary, may be regarded as less likely to be biased than, say, a Greenpeace report. When several different sources of information, with sometimes conflicting agendas, agree on a fact or a trend (e.g. climate change), it becomes much harder to dismiss.
Underlined words and phrases in the factsheets are further explained in the Glossary.
Factsheet 1: Energy Dilemmas
Factsheet 2: Non-Renewable Energy
Wood fuel is mentioned in the sheet as releasing greenhouse gases - chiefly carbon dioxide: however, because it releases only the carbon dioxide it absorbed in its lifetime, which is comparatively short, and can be renewed in a comparatively short period of time, its impact on climate change is considered small and it classed as a renewable fuel (see biomass).
One of the points to stress about fossil fuels is that, although they are organic, just as wood fuel is, they derive from organic material accumulated over millions of years, with the result that (i) within a 100 years carbon dioxide accumulated over millions of years has been released and (ii) the formation of comparable fossil deposits will take millennia, so that effectively they are non-renewable.
Lesson plan 2, Energy and the Environment, is designed around the issues raised in this factsheet and factsheets 3 and 4, but, again, the factsheet could be used quite differently. It could, for instance, form the basis of a lesson on simple statistics, with different class members researching the costs of production for each of the different non-renewable sources of energy; or it could be used in conjunction with factsheet 4 as the basis of a lesson on risk assessment (e.g. setting the environmental and health and safety hazards of each non-renewable energy source, against those for nuclear energy).
Factsheet 3: Renewable Energy
Some of the sources listed (e.g. hydro-electric power, biomass in the form of wood burning) are not new, others (e.g. solar thermal energy, wave power) are still largely in the experimental stage. It is the case that different sources of information may produce widely differing estimates of the future viability of a given source of renewable energy. Teachers will need to stress to pupils that the issues are complex and that research into many forms of renewable energy is still at an early stage.
Lesson plan 2, Energy and the Environment, is designed around the issues raised in this factsheet and factsheets 2 and 4. An alternative use of the factsheet would be to assign each of the different kinds of renewable energy source to an individual class member (or group) to research and present to the class, each pupil or group to argue as persuasively as possible the case for the energy source assigned to them, or, more objectively, to make as comprehensive a list as possible of the pros and cons of the energy source assigned and assess its environmental impact.
As well as the web-sites listed in the pack, they should be encouraged to use Google to access information on specific types of energy source, and also to look out for articles in newspapers and magazines, on TV etc.
Factsheet 4: Nuclear Power
Uses of the factsheet, outside those suggested in the two lesson plans, could include a similar approach to that suggested for factsheet 1, i.e. taking one or more of the different headings in the sheet and constructing a fact-finding activity/project around them.
BNFL produce useful educational material on nuclear energy [see http://www.bnfleducation.com/education/resources/catalog.php] some of which is free to schools, though it too must be assessed for bias.
Factsheet 5: Distributing and Conserving energy: Alternatives
If teachers decide to use the suggestion of a school or home energy audit by pupils, they will obviously need the permission and co-operation of the headteacher in the first instance, and may wish to enlist the co-operation of parents in the second (for instance by devising a questionnaire on energy uses for pupils to use which includes a note for them to show their parents).
Factsheet 6: Free Ways to Save energy
Factsheet 7: Appliance Energy Use
SAMPLE LESSON PLANS
For Poster 2 it will be helpful for the teacher to visit the Greenpeace site www.greenpeace.org.uk/DecentralisingPower.
Poster 3 - both sides - should be self-explanatory, but it may be worth pointing out that a dripping tap (Wasting Energy side of Poster 3) can waste energy as well as water if it is a hot water tap. Pupils could also be encouraged to make a list of electrical appliances not shown in the Home Energy Survey side of Poster 3 - perhaps these could be written out or drawn on stick-it notes or small pieces of paper and stuck around the edges of the poster.
The New International magazine (in first 40 packs only) provides useful additional material on nuclear energy. It is included primarily for the use of teachers.
LIST OF WEB-SITES
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