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Teachers’ Notes for Energy Issues Pack

Use of the material
A range of material, both visual and factual, has been provided, and a range of open-ended, adaptable suggestions for activities based on this material. The idea is that teachers ‘pick and mix’ the various lesson plans and suggested activities, to suit their needs and the level and needs of their classes. Although the material has been presented in a certain order, there is no suggestion that this order needs to be followed or that all the material will necessarily be used by individual teachers.

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.

Although every effort has been made to ensure that the facts given are accurate, and to provide sources of information wherever possible, we cannot guarantee that there are no errors of fact in any of the sheets.

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
It will be realised that we have provided only the briefest of outlines, highlighting some of the main concerns affecting choices of future energy sources. Lesson Plan 1, Pros and Cons of Nuclear Energy (see below) is designed around the issues raised in this factsheet and factsheet 4, but it could be used quite differently - for instance, simply by taking one or more of the different headings in the sheet and constructing a fact-finding activity/project around them.

Factsheet 2: Non-Renewable Energy
As with all the factsheets, we are simply touching on the main issues, which the teacher can develop in several different directions.

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
Our aim with this factsheet is to list the main sources of renewable energy and give a snapshot of the pros and cons of each. More could be said about the environmental impact of the various sources of energy (e.g. a burst hydro-electric dam could have devastating consequences, and HEP does produce carbon dioxide and methane emissions from rotting vegetation on the bed of reservoirs).

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
Lesson plans 1 and 2 both make use of this factsheet. In lesson one it is supplemented by Poster 1, which succinctly lists the current main arguments for and against new investment in nuclear energy and by the CND leaflet on nuclear power. Teachers may wish to use the latter to illustrate the tactics of a pressure group, and should certainly indicate the likelihood of bias in presentation of facts in the factsheet itself. At the same time, the sources of information for the factsheet are mainly neutral, as can be seen by consulting the Sources sheet.

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] some of which is free to schools, though it too must be assessed for bias.

Factsheet 5: Distributing and Conserving energy: Alternatives
Lesson plan 3 is designed around the issues raised in this factsheet and factsheet 6. There are many potential uses of the factsheet, some of which are suggested in the lesson plan. For instance, the whole class could be given a homework assignment to research further Woking Borough Council's energy saving projects (in this connection a visit to Woking Borough Council's web-site might be a useful start).

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
As the list of sources indicates, this factsheet is taken from the National Energy foundation web-site. There are any number of web-sites, including those of the main electricity suppliers in the UK, which give advice on how to save energy, both by simple measures such as those outlined in the factsheet, and by means such as purchasing energy saving appliances. Pupils could be encouraged to visit some of these sites (see list of web-sites included in the pack) and compile as much information as possible on saving energy, to supplement the factsheet.

Factsheet 7: Appliance Energy Use
This is taken from the same web-site as Poster 3, Home energy Survey. As this is an American site, both the layout of the home and the appliances listed differ in some respects from the average Scottish home. The lesson plan indicates that this should be explained to the class. An American site was used because it was the one that most closely met the requirements of the pack, on a Google search.
The differences between American and Scottish homes and appliances could be utilised to initiate a discussion about differences in energy use. Pupils could be encouraged to research further into comparative energy wastage in American and Scottish homes, for instance offsetting the greater size and number of appliances in the average American home against the wastage of energy through poor insulation, lack of draughtproofing etc in many Scottish homes. The influence of climate on power use (e.g. the use of air-conditioning in America) could also be discussed.

All three plans follow the same format, which is close to that used in the Hiroshima packs last year. The ideas for organising lessons and using material are only suggestions. In each lesson plan, under Learning Objectives, the areas of knowledge which the lesson plan can be seen as developing are taken from those set out at Annex A of the Education for Citizenship Paper produced by the Advisory Council of Learning and Teaching Scotland, and the generic skills from those set out at Annex B of the paper.

The posters are intended for classroom display as part of the background to the suggested lessons, but also for photocopying in A4 size, for distribution to the class.

For Poster 2 it will be helpful for the teacher to visit the Greenpeace site

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.

Some uses of the articles are suggested in the lesson plans. If the Media watch idea is adopted (Lesson plan 1), pupils could be encouraged to look at several different newspapers (main UK broadsheets all have web-sites) and note the stance that each takes on energy issues.

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.

This list has been compiled from various sources and is by no means exhaustive. It should be noted that SCND has no control over or responsibility for the content of these web-sites.


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