What do kids need to know about energy?

carina asks: What topics can I teach about energy?

Hi carina –



I’m not sure what age you’re teaching to, but I’m glad you are, because energy is such an important issue today, and we really do want all humans of any age to understand it.


One thing that the youngest really have trouble grasping is how much more the world depends on energy sources than ever before.  Can they even conceive of a world with no computers, no cell phones, and no big-screen TVs?  Or how about a world with no cars?!


The truth is, it wasn’t that long ago that the only energy sources out there were food, wood, and labor (including dog labor)!  Now today, our whole lives run on electricity, gas, oil – more than just about anything else.  Just think – I’m writing you right now, but for you to read it, my computer has to be charged up, the computers and data storage at the website has to be charged up, and your computer has to be charged up.  And that happens all the time every day, with billions of emails, websites, etc.  That’s a LOT of energy!


So one subject I’d definitely have your students think about is what the work would involve if we didn’t have the systems we do.  Have them imagine writing a letter – but include making the paper, the pen, the ink, delivering the letter, etc!


Another would be for them to imagine if they suddenly lost all electrical power in their city or town.  What would happen?   I can nearly guarantee you that there would be issues they’d never think of.  For example, they might think they could live in their petroleum-powered cars for a while.  But the pumps at their service stations are run on electricity!


Then of course, you could talk about the different sources of energy we have, and the pros and cons of each.  What does coal do to the environment, what are the dangers of nuclear power, how has oil use affected the world, and even what problems exist with wind, water, and solar power.  The more kids understand, the better.


And last but by no means least, be sure to teach about what they can do to conserve energy.  From wearing more clothing when it’s cold, to turning off the lights and TV when you don’t need them, to riding bikes places instead of driving, to… the choices are endless.


Here’s my favorite though.  When it’s a really cold night, instead of turning up the heat, or using an electric blanket, invite that wonderful dog of yours into the bed.  We are GREAT sources of heat, and really enjoy cuddling up when it’s chilly!


And electric blankets don’t lick your nose in the morning!


Thanks for the great question!



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