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Energy Alternatives and Conservation
a Problem-Based Learning Project
about Alternative Energy Sources and Energy Conservation

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The Problem:

Your class is attending a town council meeting.

Under New Business, Mayor Solare reports to the council members regarding a compelling book, Over a Barrel: A Simple Guide to the Oil Shortage by Tom Mast. The world is running out of oil.

Councilwoman Turbine reads from a Time magazine article.

"Although many economists argue that it will be difficult and expensive to find an alternative to oil and coal--and that we should delay the transition for as long as possible--their position is based on a technological pessimism that seems out of place today. The first automobiles and computers were difficult to use and expensive, but the pioneers persevered and made improvements, and ultimately triumphed in the marketplace.

Just as automobiles followed horses and computers displaced typewriters, so can the advance of technology make today's smokestacks and gas-powered cars look primitive, inefficient and uneconomical. Unlike fossil fuels, renewable energy never runs out, and geologists will not have to travel to the Alaskan North Slope or the shores of the Caspian Sea to find new sources. The sunlight falling on the surface of the earth each day contains 6,000 times as much energy as is used by all countries combined. Studies show that covering the existing flat-roof space of many cities with solar cells could meet half to three-quarters of their electricity needs. In the U.S., North Dakota, South Dakota and Texas together are swept by sufficient wind to meet the electricity needs of the entire country." Flavin, Christopher., Clean as a Breeze, Time, Dec. 15, 1997.

Mayor Solare urges that the council look at alternatives. She wants your community to thrive, even as oil becomes increasingly expensive and scare. She says the effort begins with changing the energy strategy to alternative sources and to changing how we use the energy we have. Mayor Solare turns to your class in the audience.

"Our young people will be the ones to live their lives with this new world of energy.
They are open to new ways of thinking. What do they suggest?"

Your teacher says your class will look into alternative energies and get back to the Council.

How can the actions/choices of people in your community be contributing to the problem?

Which would be the best alternative source(s) of energy for your community?

How can your school conserve energy? How can you conserve energy?

Go to Plan/Process

"The fifth revolution will come when we have spent the stores of coal and oil that have been accumulating in the earth during hundreds of millions of years. It is to be hoped that before then other sources of energy will have been developed. Whether a convenient substitute for the present fuels is found or not, there can be no doubt that there will have to be a great change in ways of life. This change may justly be called a revolution, but it differs from all the preceding ones in that there is no likelihood of its leading to increases of population, but even perhaps to the reverse." Sir Charles Galton Darwin, 1952

Plan 2
What you do not know 4
Worksheet examples 5
Project examples 6
Compare and Contrast 2 Methods of Conserving Energy
Energy Light bulbs compare/contrast Activity
Energy Alternatives Exploration activity

Problem-based Learning Index

Dedicated to Malcolm Workman, of Westerly Parkway Junior High, who taught me to think!

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FAQ Posted 9/2005 by Cindy O'Hora utd 2/2009
Cindy's email address 1/7/2007 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License.