Energy: Our Future

I’m making this post because I’m super-excited about this. For the past 6 hours, my colleague (Twitter: @HenryYavuz) and I have been re-thinking our approach to Year 9 Science. We want to make it more relevant and engaging for the students. We want students to realise they can make an impact on the world and change it!

In the past Term 1 involved students learning about atoms, electricity and nuclear energy. Atoms involved just teaching about atoms and the periodic table and the topic lacked context. Electricity and nuclear energy are OK but they don’t allow much scope for students to connect their learning to audiences outside the classroom. So we came up with the idea of using the looming energy crisis as the main theme for the topic, a problem that our Year 9s will face as adults.

Students will work in teams to act as advisors to make recommendations for Australia’s future in energy. They will need to investigate the social, economical, scientific, environmental and legal implications of coal energy, nuclear energy, solar energy, wind energy and biomass in order to recommend whether Australia should:

  • Continue with coal powered stations
  • Adopt nuclear energy
  • Expand on solar energy
  • Expand on wind energy
  • Expand on biomass
  • A combination of any or all of the above

They will present a written report to persuade the adoption of their recommendation. They will also need to make a presentation on their recommendation to a (mock) panel of government reps.

To ensure students will be successful in this task, we have set up mini tasks that will act as learning artefacts for students to demonstrate their understanding and provide the scope for regular feedback. These mini tasks will be uploaded to their electronic portfolio (a blog). The mini tasks are:

  • A timeline of how energy sources and use have changed overtime
  • Using a model of the atom to explain how electricity works and describe the benefits and limitations of models
  • A summary of the social, economical, legal, scientific, etc pros and cons of different types of energy
  • An exposition of whether radioactive waste should be moved from Hunters Hill to the Auburn-Lidcombe LGA

Students will also be uploading a learning journal and other learning artefacts onto their blog. Each group will be assigned a “buddy group” so they can comment on each other’s blogs.

So far this is what we got. We’ve started to nut out the learning sequence.

What do you think of it so far? If you were a 14 year old, would you find this engaging and meaningful? Are we trying to do too much?

Feedback is welcome 🙂

12 thoughts on “Energy: Our Future

  1. I think you have a winning class outline. I wish we would have more science classes and teachers like you in the United States–to push our students to examine for themselves the interplay between scientific method and political forces. Good luck; I’m sure you will have a very successful class.

  2. Does your school have solar panels? Their information can be accessed via a web interface with lots of juicy stats about usage and patterns . . .

  3. I would have liked it as a kid. But I was a nerd, as long as there is enough direction from the teachers, and it seems as if there is, students will probably be more engaged because they can see the relevance, I know my bottom year 8s were interested in this topic. It’s a real problem, that they can have that sense of ownership in that they are coming up with real solutions. Could u get any guest speakers in? Someone that wouldn’t push their own agenda? A scientist working in renewable/nuclear energy? Just some random thoughts off top of my head, I’d be very interested to see how this goes!

  4. Alice, this unit sounds amazing. Good luck with it. I am sure student learning will be fabulous and engagement with the learning will be ” energetic”.

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