Segment 5 and 6
sites/default/files/3 - 5 ENEQ Kansas_QTCC-800 BBlow_0.mp4
sites/default/files/3 - 5 ENEQ Kansas_QTCC-800 BBlow.mp4

The state of Kansas and the city of Baltimore, Maryland, are obviously very different communities. And yet in coming together to explore ways forward to a cleaner and more sustainable energy future, both share interesting approaches. For this reason, we suggest comparing and contrasting their stories, and using similar activities.

Kansas: Conservation, the "5th Fuel"

Conservation is sometimes called “the fifth fuel,” a clean and cost-effective way to make the most of our existing energy sources. Some estimates suggest that innovations in energy efficiency have the potential to save $700 billion in the U.S. alone. The key to tapping this potential, illustrated by the 2011 “Take Charge! Challenge” in Kansas, is motivating people to rethink their energy consumption in homes and businesses, breaking energy-hogging habits and adopting more sustainable ones. Footage from the “Take Charge! Challenge” (their punctuation) competition shows 16 communities reducing their carbon footprint for a chance to win cash prizes, and having fun while doing it.

Baltimore: Conservation in a Big City

“Conservation in a Big City” shows how what might at first seem like small and individual actions can add up to have a big impact on the health of a large urban community, as they have done in Baltimore, Maryland. Here, local government, utilities and neighborhood “Energy Captains” have joined forces to educate citizens about simple ways, like weather-stripping and reducing water use, to save energy and lower their utility bills. (In one low-income neighborhood, conservation helped homeowners save as much as $1,300 per year.) As a result, the entire city—America’s 21st largest—is on track to cut its carbon emissions and energy usage by 15% by 2015, eliminating the need for a new power plant.


How can we examine our own energy usage in an attempt to reduce the amount of energy we consume and increase the amount of money we can save?

Annotated Script
Downloadable PDF: pages 27-34 and 35-40

  • Students will distinguish between energy efficiency and energy conservation and be able to provide examples of each.
  • Students will be able to characterize their own energy usage and identify ways that they can save energy in their daily lives.
  • Students will be able to list the energy sources that power their community in an effort to describe strategies for conserving these resources.
  • Students will be able to identify why different energy sources and which conservation technologies are more efficient and how they work. (See Expand/Adapt/Connect)

Content (ETOM video and Suggested Activities) in this segment integrates the following Disciplinary Core Ideas (related Performance Expectations follow); the Suggested Activities that follow utilize at least one science and engineering practice.

Middle SchoolNatural ResourcesHuman ImpactsGlobal Climate ChangeDefining Engineering ProblemsDeveloping Solutions

High School    Natural ResourcesHuman ImpactsGlobal Climate ChangeDefining Engineering ProblemsDeveloping Solutions

Natural Resources

  • Humans depend on Earth’s land, ocean, atmosphere, and biosphere for different resources. Minerals, fresh water, and biosphere resources are limited and many are not renewable or replaceable over human lifetimes. These resources are distributed unevenly around the planet as a result of past geologic processes. (MS-ESS3-1)

  • All forms of energy production and other resource extraction have associated economic, social, environmental, and geopolitical costs and risks as well as benefits. New technologies and social regulations can change the balance of these factors. (HS-ESS3-2)

Human Impacts on Earth Systems

  • Typically as human populations and per-capita consumption of natural resources increase, so do the negative impacts on Earth unless the activities and technologies involved are engineered otherwise. (MSESS3-3), (MS-ESS3-4)

  • The sustainability of human societies and the biodiversity that supports them requires responsible management of natural resources. (HS-ESS3-3)

  • Scientists and engineers can make major contributions by developing technologies that produce less pollution and waste and that preclude ecosystem degradation. (HS-ESS3-4)

Defining and Delimiting Engineering Problems

  • The more precisely a design task’s criteria and constraints can be defined, the more likely it is that the designed solution will be successful. Specification of constraints includes consideration of scientific principles and other relevant knowledge that are likely to limit possible solutions. (MS-ETS1-1)

  • Humanity faces major global challenges today, such as the need for supplies of clean water and food or for energy sources that minimize pollution, which can be addressed through engineering.

These global challenges also may have manifestations in local communities. (HS-ETS1-1).

Developing Possible Solutions

  • There are systematic processes for evaluating solutions with respect to how well they meet the criteria and constraints of a problem. (MS-ETS1-2), (MS-ETS1-3)

  • Sometimes parts of different solutions can be combined to create a solution that is better than any of its predecessors. (MS-ETS1-3)

  • Models of all kinds are important for testing solutions. (MS-ETS1-4)

  • When evaluating solutions, it is important to take into account a range of constraints, including cost, safety, reliability, and aesthetics, and to consider social, cultural, and environmental impacts. (HS-ETS1-3; secondary to HS-ESS3-2 and HS-ESS3-4)

Compact Fluorescent Light bulb (CFL), Carbon footprint, Carbon dioxide emissions, Energy conservation, Energy efficiency, Energy audit

These two videos explain the efforts of two groups, the State of Kansas (spearheaded by an NGO, The Climate+Energy project, using federal stimulus dollars) and the City of Baltimore, to reduce the amount of energy they are using, thereby saving money and reducing the pollution associated with energy production. By implementing fun, competitive strategies and providing access to energy-saving technologies, citizens reduced the amount of energy they consumed, saved money and eliminated the need for building new power plants. In both cases, this meant less electricity generated by coal.


(Middle School) Prior to viewing these video segments, invite students to take the “How Green AreYou?” quiz on the ETOM Facebook page, at : (They can retake it to maximize their scores if they don’t like their first results: all can be Energy Heroes even if they start as Energy Hogs! And then they can brag to Friends.)


(High School) Have students complete the “Cool California” challenge ( as homework prior to watching the video segments.


Discuss what students learned in the “How Green Are You?” quiz and/or by using the Cool California calculator. Ask students to distinguish between energy conservation and energy efficiency and to provide examples of each based on what they learned from the engagement activities. For more info visit:


Students should gather that a combination of energy efficiency and energy conservation strategies can be utilized to reduce CO2 emissions. With this in mind, ask the class, “How would you motivate an entire community to reduce the amount of energy they are using?” Keep track of their answers on the board so you can return to them after watching the videos.


Next, show the video segments and suggest that students list all energy efficiency and energy conservation strategies they observe while watching the videos. To conclude, return to the board and have students identify which strategies they listed (prior to watching the video) were actually implemented by the communities in the video. Then prompt a class discussion by asking the following questions:

  1. Which strategies were most effective at conserving energy?
  2. Which strategies might work in any community?
  3. Which strategies might students want to implement in their own homes, and how easy or difficult would it be to implement each one?

1) CONCEPT: Energy use varies by individual; a combination of energy efficiency and energy conservation strategies can be utilized to reduce the CO2 emissions associated with an individual’s lifestyle and behaviors (carbon footprint).

ACTIVITY: Using the Cool California calculator (Grades 9-12)

Using the information provided by the student before watching the video, the Cool California calculator enables users to characterize energy usage at home and while traveling. Students will need access to computers or tablets with Internet access so they can continue to investigate energy and money saving strategies. When students click on the “Take Action” tab, they can identify practical and easy ways to save energy.

Have students record their results and create and describe their plans to save energy by dragging and dropping different solutions. Have students save their plan and present it to the class for review. Students might then write a proposal to their families encouraging the implementation of their findings. In their proposal, have students answer the following questions:

    • What new energy saving technologies would you like to invest in? Why?

    • What energy saving strategies would provide the greatest energy and financial savings? Describe why the savings for these strategies and technologies are so great.

    • Which energy-saving technologies and strategies are the easiest to implement? Which are the hardest? Explain your answers.

    • Why are these the best possible strategies to implement?

This is a unique opportunity to engage families in what a student is learning in school. However, some families may not have the information necessary to answer the questions or there may be some resistance to sharing personal information about energy usage and costs. If there are barriers to accessing real data allow students to share data or provide students with a set of data representative of an average home in your area.

ACTIVITY: HogBusters Training Camp (Grades 6-8)

Students play different training games created by the Alliance to Energy to earn the Official Hog Buster Title. There is an Energy Hog Busting Handbook that informs students of the different places where energy inefficiency can found be in the home. Each type of energy loss is associated with different “hogs,” each with their own name.

To augment the game playing, there is a workbook that can be printed and distributed to students. Students can analyze their energy bill, identify where energy is being wasted in a hypothetical “hog home”, conduct a Energy Hog Scavenger Hunt in their own home, keep and Energy Use Journal, and sign an Energy Hog Buster Pledge.

A teacher’s guide is provided that supports using the game and the workbook. Teachers also have access to coloring pages, light switch covers, posters, and game show-style presentations. To integrate more writing, students can work together to write proposals for reduction of energy in their schools.

ACTIVITY: The Lifestyle Project (High School)

Time permitting, this three-week project by SERC Pedagogic Service Project challenges high school students to learn about environmental alternatives by modifying their own lifestyles. Throughout the project, students reduce their impacts on the environment by changing the way in which they live from day to day. Learning goals include analysis of the everyday tasks that require large inputs vs small inputs of energy, ways to reduce energy use, details of what can and cannot be recycled in their community, simple ways to reduce garbage output and water consumption, and the connection between food production and energy use

In addition to the learning goals listed above, students will come to understand that they do indeed play a role in the big picture. While it is easy to blame others for environmental problems, students will realize that they are both part of the problem and part of the solution. Students will also learn that making small changes to their lifestyles is not difficult and they can easily reduce their personal impact on the environment.

Many supporting resources are included in this project-based learning module making it adaptable to a variety of settings and environments. Middle school students can participate in the Department of Energy/NSTA Home Energy Challenge at

2) CONCEPT: A variety of energy sources are used to meet the energy demands of a community; energy conservation strategies ultimately conserve the energy resource (e.g. coal).

ACTIVITY: Energy for You

In this lesson, students learn about the sources of the energy that supply their community. They will explore where the energy comes from, how it is transported, and how each energy source is used by society. This lesson cultivates an awareness among students “that the growth of technology has led us to use some materials from the environment much more rapidly than they can be replaced by natural processes. Forests in many countries have been greatly reduced during the past few hundred years, and ore deposits are being depleted (See the ETOM segment, “America’s Energy Past”). There is a continuing search for substitute materials—and in many cases they have been found or invented.”

“Energy in a High-Tech World” is developed by AAAS and funded by the American Petroleum Institute. It is designed for middle school students and can be adapted for use with high school students.

ACTIVITY: From Grid to Home

Participants attending the “Teaching Energy Workshop” created this single-day lesson plan for teachers to use in middle and high school classes. Students use their household electric bills and available online data sets describing US regional electricity use, cost and source to explore household energy use on personal, regional and national scales. Students use Excel to analyze energy sources, usage and costs in different regions of the U.S., compare household energy use to regional norms, calculate carbon emissions based on different sources of electricity, and discuss ways to reduce energy footprints.

This activity is intended for use with grades 6-12 and requires that students have a basic understanding of Microsoft Excel. Alternatively, students could graph data by hand. Some basic math skills are need to make calculations.

In these extension activities, students can further investigate the following topics:

Energy efficient lighting

Both of these ETOM video segments mention compact fluorescent light bulbs as a form of energy efficient lighting. More recently, light emitting diodes (LEDs) have been increasingly showing up in consumers’ hands as their cost comes down. Invite students to learn more about each type of light bulb and to compare their efficiencies.

Light pollution

One scene in the videos showed NASA imagery from ISS, the International Space Station, of the Earth at night. All the city lights you can see from space are a form of light pollution! Invite students to learn more about light pollution (wasted electricity), the impacts of light pollution and the design of lighting fixtures to reduce light pollution. A starting point for research is the International Dark Sky Association (; check out the brochure, Light Pollution and Energy, by visiting

The Stabilization Triangle

ACTIVITY: The Stabilization Wedges Game

The Stabilization Wedges Game was created by Princeton University’s Carbon Mitigation Initiative and is a team-based exercise that teaches students about the scale of the greenhouse gas problem and allows them to investigate different existing technologies that would reduce carbon emissions, provide long-term savings and conserve energy. Players use their critical thinking skills to select eight carbon-cutting strategies to construct a carbon mitigation portfolio, filling in the eight wedges of the stabilization triangle. Then they write about the costs and benefits of their chosen solutions.

While this activity is ideal for high school students and adult learners, it can be adapted for use with middle school students. This game is very effective at engaging students and in getting them to think about all the potential options and tradeoffs. Students should be given the opportunity to report out on their solution plan and evaluate the plans of other teams.

Content in this segment integrates the Disciplinary Core Ideas cited above to the most directly relevant NGSS Performance Expectations:


Earth and Human Activity:

MS-ESS3-3. Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment.

MS-ESS3-4. Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth’s systems.

MS-ESS3-5. Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century.

Engineering Design

MS-ETS1-1. 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.

MS-ETS1-2. Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.

MS-ETS1-3. 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.

MS-ETS1-4. Develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved.


Earth and Human Activity

HS-ESS3-2. Evaluate competing design solutions for developing, managing, and utilizing energy and mineral resources based on cost-benefit ratios.*

HS-ESS3-3. Create a computational simulation to illustrate the relationships among management of natural resources, the sustainability of human populations, and biodiversity.

HS-ESS3-4. Evaluate or refine a technological solution that reduces impacts of human activities on natural systems.*

Engineering Design

HS-ETS1-1. Analyze a major global challenge to specify qualitative and quantitative criteria and constraints for solutions that account for societal needs and wants.

HS-ETS1-2. Design a solution to a complex real-world problem by breaking it down into smaller, more manageable problems that can be solved through engineering.

HS-ETS1-3. Evaluate a solution to a complex real-world problem based on prioritized criteria and trade-offs that account for a range of constraints, including cost, safety, reliability, and aesthetics, as well as possible social, cultural, and environmental impacts.

HS-ETS1-4. 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.

*Traditional science content is integrated with engineering through a Practice or Disciplinary Core Idea.



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