This activity has been selected for inclusion in the CLEAN collection.
This activity has been extensively reviewed for inclusion in the Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network's collection of educational resources. For information the process and the collection, see http://cleanet.org/clean/about/selected_by_CLEAN.
This page first made public: May 6, 2009
Skills and concepts that students must have mastered
How the activity is situated in the course
Content/concepts goals for this activity
- A general synthesis of the major components and configuration of the electrical power grid.
- Basic understanding of the current local or national energy mix for power generation (the relative contributions of fossil-fueled, nuclear-fueled, hydroelectric, and other sources).
Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity
- Accurately modeling some subset of the grid and energy mix.
- Organizing the components of the grid and mix systematically.
Other skills goals for this activity
- Designing, creating, and explaining a concept sketch.
Description of the activity/assignment
After about 10 minutes or a noticeable decrease in conversation volume, and if time and logistics permit, the instructor may ask some or all of the groups to present their sketches to the class for review and discussion. (To facilitate this, groups may instead be given transparencies and markers and use an overhead projector.) Each student is reminded to put her or his name on the sketch before it is submitted.
After the activity is complete, the instructor may present his or her own version of this concept sketch (illustrating the present-day local or national energy mix; an example is attached here), or simply proceed into a lecture presentation or discussion on the topic of energy. Students may also be directed to research the electrical power grid or the national energy mix as a homework assignment.
Determining whether students have met the goals
(For example: Less than 1 km from our campus there is a natural-gas-fired generating station operated by our local utility, and directly in front of it is a solar-energy research center operated by the same utility. Here, several acres' worth of solar collectors and photovoltaic arrays are being tested and are clearly visible, although no solar power is commercially produced. However, more than half of the students who have done this activity over several years depicted solar energy rather than fossil energy as the primary proximate source of their electrical power.)
I have not yet done this myself, but it could be instructive to reassign this concept-sketching activity to individuals or groups as a post-test.
Download teaching materials and tips
- Power Source Activity: Follow-Up Slide (PPT) (PowerPoint 900kB May5 09)
- Power Source Activity: Follow-Up Slide (PDF) (Acrobat (PDF) 512kB May5 09)
Johnson, J. K., & Reynolds, S. J. (2005). Concept sketches—using student- and instructor-generated, annotated sketches for learning, teaching, and assessment in geology courses. Journal of Geoscience Education, 53, 85-95.