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NOVA Labs: Energy offers eight short videos on energy use and alternative sources. The culminating Research Challenge -- incorporating real-time weather and solar data -- tasks students with developing renewable energy systems for five U.S. locations. The content is superb and concise, and the final task impressively real-world.
The videos and responses are easy to use: start class, provide as a review, or even employ as a self-paced module. If possible, most kids would benefit from the addition of hands-on experiences like building electric generators or manipulating photovoltaic cells. You'll also need some teacher elbow grease for the Research Challenge. Most kids will be able to complete the challenge using site feedback, but even high school kids will need support. Fully conceptualizing the task goals and inherent trade-offs and then systematically comparing the possibilities might not come easily. Support students' learning by partnering kids, providing graphic organizers to keep track of attempts and results, and hosting some guided discussions.
- Not All Forms Are the Same -- There's a great definition of energy here, along with the kind of info and examples that will help students actually make sense of the concept.
Key Standards Supported
Earth and Human Activity
Evaluate competing design solutions for developing, managing, and utilizing energy and mineral resources based on cost-benefit ratios.
Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century.
Analyze a major global challenge to specify qualitative and quantitative criteria and constraints for solutions that account for societal needs and wants.
Use a computer simulation to model the impact of proposed solutions to a complex real-world problem with numerous criteria and constraints on interactions within and between systems relevant to the problem.
Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions.
Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
Analyze data from tests to determine similarities and differences among several design solutions to identify the best characteristics of each that can be combined into a new solution to better meet the criteria for success.