Energy Education Contributors Great Ideas Survey (Responses)
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TimestampWHAT should Energy Education consist of--Basic SciencesWHAT should Energy Education consist of--Energy sources, production, distributionWHAT should Energy Education consist of--interfaces and digital technologyHOW should Energy Education be done--CurriculumHOW should Energy Education be done--Techniques, PedagogyHOW should Energy Education be done--Real Behavior ChangeWHY do Energy Education?DateNameInstitutional Affiliation
12/3/2014 15:49:25In order to understand the connection between climate change and global warming the transfer of energy and Earth's energy budget is crucial in forming the understanding that incoming shortwave radiation is re-emitted as longwave radiation which is then again absorbed by greenhouse gases. Understanding this key concept will eliminate many controversial discussions about the validity of climate change - we have known about this phenomenon since Tyndall in the late 19th century. It should discuss sources and alternative source to the ones that are used currently, production, distribution but also touch on the impact of each of these steps (water-energy nexus). It seems powerful for students to be able to track their own energy use (both nutrition but also energy for driving, heating, production of goods). This can be facilitated well with digital technology. The CLEAN - Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network - project provides a digital collection of peer-reviewed resources that support educators in their teaching about energy.
The Energy Literacy Framework from the Department of Energy is a useful document to frame energy education.
Active learning is always the most powerful way of instruction. Provide learners with solutions to limit energy consumption. Decreasing use of fossil fuels12/3/2014Anne GoldCooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES)
12/4/2014 13:19:41People should know that energy can never be created nor destroyed (Law of Thermodynamics) but that energy can be transformed and some can be "lost" due to heat loss and friction. People should be aware of the major sources of energy (wind, solar, coal, hydropower, geothermal, nuclear, oil) and of the benefits and limitations of each.That it's ever evolving and there is no one right answer or way!EPA Energy Literacy Principles are great backbone to build off of. Facing the Future has excellent lessons for all students in their Fueling our Future curriculum. Problem based approach. Since there is no one great solution to our energy needs, it should not be taught in such a manner. Allow the students to explore the variety of answers and see the challenges involved.Starting with K-12 students and rely on the trickle up affect of them growing into informed adults and hoping they pass on that education to their parents as well.It's a real issue that needs everyone's awareness and input that is related to quality of life, climate change, energy security,equity and education. 12/4/2014Jennifer A. SchonUniversity of Idaho McCall Outdoor Science School
12/5/2014 12:41:23How energy is changed from one form to another, particularly one we can use. i.e. How electricity is produced from coal.

The units of measure associated with energy

How much energy we consume per capita compared o the world
Where our energy comes from
How it is produced
Conversion efficiencies
Sources and how they are, and can be, used
Ways to measure energy - meters, electric bill
(What we really need is an app to do this!!)
Not knowledgable about what is out there
Experiential learning is the best - i.e. via a lab environment

Then taking that knowledge and applying it at your home
People need to realize there is a consequence for their actions. This could be by directly impacting their personal economics (usually the most effective) or / and the environment. (not as effective often due to the "Tragedy of the Commons effect"Quality of Life on this planet

Sense of Stewardship for this planet

The more knowledgable people are the better they will be able to address the problems that will inevitably arise
12/5/2014Ken VisserClarkson University
12/15/2014 11:24:42Much more can be done to make both students and the public more literate about the full potential of energy efficiency and renewable energies as a key issue in EfS. Most importantly, energy curricula needs to engage people in understanding and actively challenging through civic engagement the political barriers to a deep implementation of energy efficiency and renewable energies. A new national initiative of the USP in its facilitating role with the HEASC, called Campus and Course Conversations (2014), teaches both civil discourse across the political spectrum and civic engagement in Clean Power Plans for greenhouse gas emissions reductions and more implementation of renewable energies and energy efficiency.Measure civic engagement in necessary policy change to get to a sustainable energy future.

Include power analysis of who are the vested interests and what is their undue influence and how can that be changed and then be part of the change through civic engagement.
We are creating a call to action for more interdisciplinary energy minors. No undergraduate should graduate unless they are literate about our energy challenges and able to engage in individual and systemic solutions.

We are compiling a youtube channel on this, specifically showing efficiency and renewables – let people know and have them contribute choices

Create a renewable energies myth busting site like
Show Mark Jacobson’s work at the Stanford Energy Institute about how we can meet our needs with efficiency and renewables and smart grid. (there is a nice youtube on this with David Letterman – parts 1 and 2 - and

Show examples how renewables and energy efficiency are the only choices that pay for themselves within their lifetime and then provide free energy

Show how, with appropriate financing, renewables and energy efficiency create more “money in the pocket” from the beginning of the project.
Show Mark Jacobson’s work at the Stanford Energy Institute about how we can meet our needs with efficiency and renewables and smart grid.
12/15/2014Debra RoweOakland Community College
12/19/2014 12:32:49I would love people to be able to apply the law of conservation of energy to real-world situations and to account for loss of energy in the machines and technologies that we use. People should know the social, economic, and environmental consequences of the energy sources they are using. I hope that people know about and are critical consumers of energy technology and that they consider using technology to help them reduce their energy use. Even better if they can also figure out the amount of embodied energy in the technology they use!As energy is inherently interdisciplinary, so too should be our approach to energy curricula. At Facing the Future, we appreciate the authentic educational opportunities that arise from teaching about issues such as energy through the lens of global sustainability. Addressing behavior change in curricula and energy education!Because energy is interconnected to many other issues such as equity, climate change, and sustainable development, I am motivated to make sure that energy education addresses these issues as well as fosters the ability and willingness in our youth to work toward sustainable energy solutions. 12/19/2014Danica HendricksonFacing the Future, Western Washington University
12/20/2014 15:54:28Rudimentary basics need to be covered. This can include basic measures of energy types, and ways to convert them. Students that don't understand basic problems with storage are common - this occurs because they don't understand basic ways in which energy is derived and operates.Of the three "what" questions, this one seems most important to me. Critical is to understand differences between usage systems: electricity / heating / transportation / industrial. Second, understanding the differences between regulatory aspects of these systems is also critical. Many students do not understand the very large differences between regulated monopoly systems such as electricity systems, versus privatized, systems for transportation fuels. This question is a bit strange for me, because I'm not exactly sure what specific kinds of things this means in the context of energy specifically. Students need a "real world" context, so I always use a news story aggregator such as NCSE in my energy policy class.

Case based problems are useful in almost any class.

EIA / IEA are both excellent data sources.

a balance between broadly theoretical questions that apply across energy types or delivery systems versus specific focus on specific energy types (eg biomass electricity, gasoline, etc.)
I find it particularly useful to focus on local problems or controversies as a way to make the class relevant.

make students attempt to solve problems and peer critique each other

I'm moving to more "deep dives" rather than trying to cover everything...
internalize motivation
provide multiple rationales for possible action
make information transparent; especially costs
Geopolitical security
Climate Change
"wicked problems"
Energy as a multi-jurisdictional problem (earth, continent, multi-country region, bilateral or border, single country, multi-state region; state; county, city, town, village....)
Mix of technology, science, policy, psychology, economics, politics, philosophy
the linchpin to everything else....
12/4/2014Stephen BirdClarkson University
12/30/2014 15:28:33They should know that building energy consumption is largely determined by thermal energy - heating and cooling are the main users of energy in a home. Therefore, a solid understanding of thermal energy (heat transfer, etc) is vital to understanding building energy consumption. In addition, students should have a grasp on how traditional and renewable electricity generation facilities run, especially solar and wind. On the math side of things, students need to be able to budget and calculate energy costs using a variety of units (Btus, kilowatt-hours, etc) and over a variety of time scales.People should know about policies impacting their ability to use renewable energy sources and the various tradeoffs in efficiency between sources. People need place-based and geographic information about energy as well, such as information on local weather and vegetation patterns, their location in the greater energy market and ability to access various fuels.The key is connecting energy sector professionals with classroom teachers. In my case this is accomplished by my position as education specialist (having been a former teacher). This can be done in other ways, though. What matters is that the energy professional is knowledgeable about pedagogy and working with schools (standards, etc).

Hands-on and engineering-based curricula that support the Next Generation Science Standards are key. The more kids DO, the better they will be at implementing their skills.

Bridging beyond STEM is also important - connecting with art, social studies, math or gifted programs are very fruitful ways to get more energy education in a crowded curriculum landscape.
Have them calculate real life costs that affect them personally, not just averages or national data. They will not only be more emotionally connected to the project/lesson but also will have gained knowledge of their local utility along the way, helpful for making more positive connections in the future.It is part of our utility's overall energy management goals to have quality education programs. We also live in a climate of media scrutiny as a public utility and being proactive in creating positive attention is always a benefit. We also have customer survey data indicating that our customers desire programs about energy efficiency but also need education on how the energy system works. They hold many misconceptions about energy, efficiency and renewables.12/30/2014Alex DzurickColumbia Water & Light
1/5/2015 12:45:52I think people need to know the basic physics behind energy including the different forms (potential, chemical, mechanical, electrical, heat, etc.). I think they should understand how energy flows through a system.I believe most people should be aware of the source of the energy that they use (coal, nuclear, wind, gas, oil, etc.) and where these materials come from and the environmental costs of such exploration/extraction.I think interdisciplinary is key. I believe geology, mathematics, biology, and sociology (among others) should all be interwoven to realize the complexity of energy.Firsthand observations of energy production sites is very useful as is expert lectures and videos about the variety of energy sources.Establishing a sense of agency in which each individual can realize the positive steps that they can take to conserve energy as well as recognizing the power they have in a democratic society that can make even larger positive changes.Environmental sustainability; Social needs; species at risk, intergovernmental relationships (and dangerous dependency); coming energy crisis.1/5/2015Mark BloomDallas Baptist University
1/6/2015 15:19:57Before giving my own opinion, I'll note that the Energy Literacy: Essential Principles and Fundamental Concepts, available at, offer a very good overview of what is necessary to be energy literate.

Perhaps the two most important aspects of energy literacy are more general ideas about understanding scale and understanding some basic ideas about systems science. Without knowing the difference between a million, a billion, and a trillion, it is very difficult to make sense of our energy system. This is tightly connected to ideas of energy density. Both of these ideas are essential for the systems aspects of energy literacy - being able to make sense of particular methods for energy production require not only knowing the basic science of that particular energy source, but how that energy source is contextualized in the broader system.

Then, of course, are some energy basics. Adults should have basic understandings that combustion reactions involve chemical changes that release heat. These reactions also typically involve changes of state, from either solid or liquid to gas (and they should know that gases are invisible). Photosynthesis takes the most commonly produced gas from those combustion reactions, carbon dioxide, and essentially reverses the process - taking gas out of the air and turning it back into a solid. Other biological and chemical processes can take carbon dioxide dissolve in water and turn into shell, bone or stone.

They should know that most electricity is generated by the relative motion of magnets and loops of wire, and that most of this is done by burning something to produce steam to drive turbines, but that hydroelectric plants and windmills spin the turbines in other ways. They should know that turbines are connected to electric generators to make those magnets and electric wires mentioned earlier move relative to one another. And, they should know that if electricity is put into a generator, it becomes an electric motor.

People should also know that electricity from solar panels doesn't require a turbine or generator. I'm unsure of how much specificity beyond that is helpful, related to the photoelectric effect.

People should also know that most of our energy, for the last few generations, has come fossilized photosynthesis (which implies that they also ought to know something about photosynthesis). Fossil fuels are called fossil fuels for a reason, but people should also know that for oil and natural gas, what's been fossilized is typically single-celled organisms, and for coal, it's typically plants from swampy areas. We don't get any significant amount of energy from fossilized dinosaurs, if we get any at all.
Perhaps the most important idea to understand about the energy used to power society is that none of it is environmentally harmless. There's no such thing as a free megawatt.

People should also have a good sense of where the energy they use comes from and how much they use relative to other people in their community, state, nation and in comparison to others around the globe.

Comparison of different energy sources is challenging because the environmental harms caused by different energy sources are fundamentally different from one another, and even within a particular energy source, there are typically many different ways of extracting or harvesting the energy source, making comparisons still more difficult.

Coal, oil, and natural gas are all burned to produce energy, and that burning releases carbon dioxide. Per unit of energy, natural gas releases about half the CO2 of coal, but the gas itself may leak into the atmosphere and methane, the primary component of natural gas, is a powerful greenhouse gas. Coal may be strip mined, or come from sub-surface mines. Oil can come from a conventional well on land, offshore wells, or tar sands (a.k.a. oil sands). And it might come from a horizontal high volume hydraulically fractured well. All of these have different environmental impacts, and those impacts vary further due to differences in geology and technology.

Renewable energy typically has low energy density meaning that it requires huge amounts of space to produce the energy comparable to more traditional power plants. And renewable energy typically requires special materials like copper and rare earths that have very substantial environmental footprints. We also do not presently have the capacity to make renewable energy infrastructure with renewable energy infrastructure. We need to use the infrastructure we have to make the infrastructure we need. That means we need to use fossil fuels and nuclear power to make renewables until we have sufficient renewable capacity. Of course, once a renewable source is online, it has no emissions.

All of this points to a simple bottom line idea: As the only environmentally friendly energy is the energy you don't use, we must use a lot less energy.

Reducing energy demand, which entails conservation, efficiency, and more, should receive as much attention in energy education as renewable energy sources. Included in the "and more" are things like making communities more walkable and bikeable.
Well, I think my article is a good place to start.

The Energy Information Administration's website, particularly it's interactive map are especially valuable tools. Go to and click on the "Geography" tab near the top of the screen, and then on "U.S. States." Explore the energy infrastructure in your region and look for patterns in the way energy is produced and consumed around the country.

Programmable thermostats and appliances with delayed start times (to help balance energy loads and automate tasks) can be both helpful around the home and usable in instruction.

Smart meters and things like the Kill-a-Watt hopefully will become more commonplace in the coming years to help people better track their energy use, but I'll admit I've not used either of these myself.
Again, both my article and the Energy Information Administration's website ( offer some resources.

The CLEAN Network has many reviewed curriculum resources for teaching about climate and energy.

I also strongly recommend a place-based approach. See the next response for a bit more about that.
Use the EIA website to learn about how energy is produced and used within your region. Students can explore the website themselves. Build basic understandings of the energy portfolio locally and use that as a launching point for understanding energy at broader scales.

Recognize that while evidence about energy sources and about climate change is essential - you must ground your teaching about energy in the science - evidence alone is not enough, especially when dealing with controversial issues like hydrofracking and climate change.

Generally, I recommend against debating - debating tends to oversimplify and lead participants to deepen their convictions more than their understandings. There are ways to debates at least reasonably well, but that takes careful planning and research, with things like having some students argue from positions they do not hold, but I think it is best to simply avoid debate.

I also, as noted in my first response, advocate strongly for nurturing understanding of scales and systems. Without such understandings, one cannot hope to have deep understandings of energy or climate.
In my public programming and teacher professional development on energy, I note that I have been rubbing my nose in the energy system for years, and that it all stinks. That's partly a polite way to begin rubbing the participants' noses in the energy system.

While paying attention to evidence and the glum predictions grounded in that evidence is essential, it is also essential to pay attention to hope. Doom and gloom understandably turns people off and can lead them to tune out what you're trying to teach them.

While it's almost certainly true that the amount of carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere and oceans will lead to very difficult changes in climate in the coming decades and centuries, we can do things to make it less bad.

There are both high and low technology aspects to reasons for hope. High technology hopes include the changes that might come with sweeping changes to the transportation system including telecommuting and, on the more futuristic side, driverless cars that are also not individually owned (as cars typically sit on the order of 95% of the time). There are also at least eight surface parking spots for every car in the U.S. and this doesn't include garages. Imagine if all of that space could be reclaimed for either living space or green space. Roadways could also be shrunk in recognition of the more efficient driving technologies and increased mass transit. On the lower technology side, simply making communities more walkable and bikeable, and making houses and other buildings better insulated and designed with passive solar heating in mind could also greatly reduce energy demand.

Clear attention to waste of all kinds is also fundamental to energy education. Whenever anything other than time is wasted, energy is also wasted. In the U.S., we waste on the order of 40% of the food produced. That carries with it a tremendous amount of wasted energy and water. Focusing on waste is also more politically palatable than focusing on climate change.
All of the above are reasons that I do this work.

Having a citizenry that has a deep understanding of the energy system would improve everyone's quality of life both in the short term with cleaner air and water, and healthier lifestyles, and in the longterm related to climate change. It would also reduce or eliminate our dependence on people we don't like to support for a range of sound political reasons.

It would also reduce waste and stop freeloaders from using our shared atmosphere and oceans as a dumpsite for their waste.
1/6/2015Don Duggan-HaasThe Paleontological Research Institution
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