Abstract. With the aging of the existing school building stock there is a need for low-cost solutions that enable long-term resource efficiency in schools and reduced greenhouse gas emission (GHG). The Energizing Education to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions (ENERGE) project addresses this need using a range of targeted interventions that includes the design and implementation of pedagogical approaches that aim to enhance student’s energy literacy. This study will outline the pedagogical approach adopted to enhance second level student’s energy literacy, present activities that have designed and implemented in the physics classroom and share teacher’s reflections on their student learning.
With the aging of the existing school building stock (new schools/deep retro-fits can take years from planning to completion) there is a need for low-cost solutions that enable long-term resource efficiency in schools and reduced greenhouse gas emission (GHG). Effective energy education at school is important because it improves student engagement with carbon-reduction strategies. The Energizing Education to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions (ENERGE) project addresses this need using a range of targeted interventions that includes the design and implementation of pedagogical approaches that aim to enhance student’s energy literacy. At second-level, the concept of energy is taught as a cross-cutting concept in science and students build their knowledge about energy around four central ideas: energy transfer, transformations, dissipation and conservation (1,2). Energy literacy in education (3) expands on this understanding of energy and highlights the importance of systems thinking (the environmental, social, cultural, political, technological and economical dimensions of energy education) which allows learners to become competent at deciphering information about energy, making informed decisions, solving problems and taking action. In 2008, DeWaters & Powers have developed a widely employed set of criteria for measuring energy literacy in the classroom that is comprised of five key characteristics that describe energy literacy outcomes in three domains: cognition, affect and behaviour (4).
The process used to design and develop the ENERGE pedagogical approach was carried out over several stages. The first stage involved a review of the national education models to identify opportunities for energy education within the national curricula across six partner countries in Northwest Europe (NWE), i.e., France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Northern Ireland and the Netherlands. The second stage involved a systematic review of literature to identify what types of knowledge, skills, attitudes, values, beliefs, and behaviours were associated with developing energy literacy. Based on the findings from research, policy and practice, the project adopted a pedagogical approach that is comprised of six characteristics as presented by DeWaters & Powers (4) (see Table 1). This pedagogical approach was used to design a collection of 46 energy teaching and learning activities (ENERGE activities) that could be adopted for use in the existing curricula in the six countries. The authors engaged in a process of co-design with second-level teachers (including physics teachers) working in ENERGE project schools in these six countries to develop and trial these activities in the classroom.
Table 2 presents seven ENERGE activities that have been piloted by teachers in ENERGE project schools in France, Germany, Luxembourg, Ireland, Northern Ireland and the Netherlands.
Table 1. Energy literacy characteristics (4)
An energy literate student:
- has a grounded understanding of science and how energy is harnessed and used to power human activity (C1)
- understands the impact that energy production and consumption have on all spheres of our environment and society (C2)
- is sensitive to the need for energy conservation and the need to develop alternatives to fossil fuel-based energy resources (C3)
- IS cognisant of the impact of personal energy-related decisions and actions on the global community (C4)
- strives to make choices and decisions that reflect these attitudes with respect to energy resource development and energy consumption (C5)
These activities are included in topics on the second level physics curriculum and are suitable for lower and upper second-level students. The selected activities explore student’s personal use of energy in and examine their home environments to explore and debate issues surrounding energy use, energy conservation and energy efficiency in the home.
Table 2. ENERGE Activities mapped to Energy literacy characteristics presented in Table 1
Title of Activity Related to Characteristic
Leaking Electricity “Phantom Loading” C1, C3, C4, C5
Calculating the cost of energy in the home C1, C2, C3, C4, C6
Calculating the cost of energy in the community C1, C2, C3, C4, C6
Energy Sankeys: Calculating energy efficiency C1, C3, C4, C5
My thermal comfort at home C1, C3, C4, C5
Monitoring energy consmption in the home C1, C2, C3, C4, C6
Calculating the payback costs of a low energy home C1, C3, C4, C6
The pedagogical approach presented to address energy literacy has been successfully adopted in a small number of NWE schools. Widespread implementation of this approach will require strong curricular alignment and teacher collaboration to implement a transdisciplinary approach to energy education that will (1) enhance the development of students’ energy literacy, (2) maintain student engagement in carbon-reduction strategies at home/school and (3) support teacher professional learning.
Energizing Education to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions (ENERGE) project has received funding ftom Interreg NWE.
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