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Lesson: Energy Projects

Quick Look

Grade Level: 8 (6-8)

Time Required: 2 hours

(three 40-minute class periods)

Lesson Dependency:

Subject Areas: Data Analysis and Probability, Physical Science, Physics

In front of a posterboard, a student describes her energy project to an adult.
Communicating ideas and solutions is an important part of engineering.
Copyright © 2008 Clarkson University, Potsdam NY 13699


This lesson includes the various components required for completion of the unit project related to identifying and carrying out a personal change to reduce energy consumption. Ideally, the preliminary homework assignments should be interspersed throughout the unit so that the students stay focused on their ultimate culminating projects.
This engineering curriculum aligns to Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Engineering Connection

Through the engineering design process, numerous potential solutions areidentified and the best option is chosen. This lesson walks students through these steps with the ultimate goal that they recommend (or carry out, if possible) energy solutions, and communicate the solutions to others. Communication is an important, and often underappreciated, skill of the engineering profession.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students should be able to:

  • Identify personal decisions they can make to affect the current energy situation.
  • Apply the problem solving method to real-life problems.
  • Identify the key concepts to investigate in order to complete their projects.
  • Apply the energy and math knowledge they learned in class to real-life problems.
  • Communicate their ideas and new knowledge to their class or community.

Educational Standards

Each TeachEngineering lesson or activity is correlated to one or more K-12 science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) educational standards.

All 100,000+ K-12 STEM standards covered in TeachEngineering are collected, maintained and packaged by the Achievement Standards Network (ASN), a project of D2L (www.achievementstandards.org).

In the ASN, standards are hierarchically structured: first by source; e.g., by state; within source by type; e.g., science or mathematics; within type by subtype, then by grade, etc.

NGSS Performance Expectation

MS-ESS3-4. Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth's systems. (Grades 6 - 8)

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This lesson focuses on the following Three Dimensional Learning aspects of NGSS:
Science & Engineering Practices Disciplinary Core Ideas Crosscutting Concepts
Construct an oral and written argument supported by empirical evidence and scientific reasoning to support or refute an explanation or a model for a phenomenon or a solution to a problem.

Alignment agreement:

Typically as human populations and per-capita consumption of natural resources increase, so do the negative impacts on Earth unless the activities and technologies involved are engineered otherwise.

Alignment agreement:

Cause and effect relationships may be used to predict phenomena in natural or designed systems.

Alignment agreement:

All human activity draws on natural resources and has both short and long-term consequences, positive as well as negative, for the health of people and the natural environment.

Alignment agreement:

Scientific knowledge can describe the consequences of actions but does not necessarily prescribe the decisions that society takes.

Alignment agreement:

  • Design involves a set of steps, which can be performed in different sequences and repeated as needed. (Grades 6 - 8) More Details

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  • Brainstorming is a group problem-solving design process in which each person in the group presents his or her ideas in an open forum. (Grades 6 - 8) More Details

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  • Identify questions that can be answered through scientific investigations. Students should develop the ability to refine and refocus broad and ill-defined questions. An important aspect of this ability consists of students' ability to clarify questions and inquiries and direct them toward objects and phenomena that can be described, explained, or predicted by scientific investigations. Students should develop the ability to identify their questions with scientific ideas, concepts, and quantitative relationships that guide investigation. (Grades 5 - 8) More Details

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  • Recognize and analyze alternative explanations and predictions. Students should develop the ability to listen to and respect the explanations proposed by other students. They should remain open to and acknowledge different ideas and explanations, be able to accept the skepticism of others, and consider alternative explanations. (Grades 5 - 8) More Details

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  • Identify appropriate problems for technological design. Students should develop their abilities by identifying a specified need, considering its various aspects, and talking to different potential users or beneficiaries. They should appreciate that for some needs, the cultural backgrounds and beliefs of different groups can affect the criteria for a suitable product. (Grades 5 - 8) More Details

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  • Design a solution or product. Students should make and compare different proposals in the light of the criteria they have selected. They must consider constraints--such as cost, time, trade-offs, and materials needed--and communicate ideas with drawings and simple models. (Grades 5 - 8) More Details

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  • Implement a proposed design. Students should organize materials and other resources, plan their work, make good use of group collaboration where appropriate, choose suitable tools and techniques, and work with appropriate measurement methods to ensure adequate accuracy. (Grades 5 - 8) More Details

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  • Evaluate completed technological designs or products. Students should use criteria relevant to the original purpose or need, consider a variety of factors that might affect acceptability and suitability for intended users or beneficiaries, and develop measures of quality with respect to such criteria and factors; they should also suggest improvements and, for their own products, try proposed modifications. (Grades 5 - 8) More Details

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  • Scientific inquiry and technological design have similarities and differences. Scientists propose explanations for questions about the natural world, and engineers propose solutions relating to human problems, needs, and aspirations. Technological solutions are temporary; technologies exist within nature and so they cannot contravene physical or biological principles; technological solutions have side effects; and technologies cost, carry risks, and provide benefits. (Grades 5 - 8) More Details

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  • Technological solutions have intended benefits and unintended consequences. Some consequences can be predicted, others cannot. (Grades 5 - 8) More Details

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  • Technology influences society through its products and processes. Technology influences the quality of life and the ways people act and interact. Technological changes are often accompanied by social, political, and economic changes that can be beneficial or detrimental to individuals and to society. Social needs, attitudes, and values influence the direction of technological development. (Grades 5 - 8) More Details

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  • Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth's systems. (Grades 6 - 8) More Details

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Suggest an alignment not listed above

Worksheets and Attachments

Visit [www.teachengineering.org/lessons/view/cla_lesson8_energy_projects] to print or download.

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What is a personal decision you can make in your life to affect the current energy situation?

What concepts that you learned in science class can you apply in your project?

How can you apply the problem solving method in your project?

Lesson Background and Concepts for Teachers

At this point, students have learned all the energy concepts of the curriculum. They have learned ways to conserve energy and use alternative energy sources; have been introduced to the technological method of problem solving; and should have seen their problem statement.

In this lesson, students decide on and complete a project. This enables them to show that they understand the impacts of energy production and consumption on the societal, environmental or economical perspective. This project also serves as a way for students to strengthen their communication skills by presenting their projects at the class, school or community level.

Key concepts to stress in this lesson include:

  • We can make personal decisions in our homes, schools and communities that affect the existing energy situation.
  • All the energy concepts we have learned throughout the semester can be used and applied to real-life problems.
  • Solving problems is faster, easier and has better results if a problem solving procedure is used.
  • If an idea is never clearly communicated, it is useless.

Teaching Plan: Depending on the class, you may be completing this lesson throughout the course of the other lessons, or at the end of the curriculum. There is no real outline of how this should be done. The students brainstorm ideas, make a decision about a specific solution, and then get to work. The time needed to complete the projects depends on what projects they select and how much class versus homework time you allocate to finishing the project. Assign the following homework assignments throughout the curriculum or in the beginning of the project development to assist students in brainstorming.

  • Energy Decisions: This homework is specifically outlined in the Problem Solving lesson. This guides students through the problem solving method with their problem statement.
  • Project Ideas: This homework asks students to write down several ideas and how they want to communicate them.
  • Project Handout: This homework asks students to describe their projects and list the materials they need.


Interim Assignment Deadlines: Students should complete and turn in early assignments that show their work to define a project when assigned during the unit.

Final Project: The culminating project provides an overall assessment for the semester. Expect students to use the vocabulary and concepts developed throughout this unit appropriately. Most important, use this project to assess students' critical thinking skills (evaluation, synthesis) as they apply what they learned in class to their own projects. An example rubric for the culminating unit project is attached. Another assessment requires students to review other students' projects and report (briefly) on their findings.


National Energy Education Development (NEED) http://www.need.org

U.S. Department of Energy. http://www.eia.doe.gov/kids/

NYSERDA - Get Energy Smart. http://www.getenergysmart.org/schools/teachers/curriculum.asp

Alliance to Save Energy. http://www.ase.org/.

Energy Star. http://www.energystar.gov/

Energy Hog. http://www.energyhog.org/

Other Related Information

This lesson was originally published by the Clarkson University K-12 Project Based Learning Partnership Program and may be accessed at http://internal.clarkson.edu/highschool/k12/project/energysystems.html.


© 2013 by Regents of the University of Colorado; original © 2008 Clarkson University


Susan Powers; Jan DeWaters; and a number of Clarkson and St. Lawrence University students in the K-12 Project Based Learning Partnership Program

Supporting Program

Office of Educational Partnerships, Clarkson University, Potsdam, NY


This lesson was developed under National Science Foundation grant nos. DUE 0428127 and DGE 0338216. However, these contents do not necessarily represent the policies of the National Science Foundation, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government.

Last modified: February 13, 2019

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