How Households in 4 Different U.S. States Use Energy

Diane I. Doser, University of Texas at El Paso, The
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This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Reviewed Teaching Collection

This activity has received positive reviews in a peer review process involving five review categories. The five categories included in the process are

  • Scientific Accuracy
  • Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
  • Pedagogic Effectiveness
  • Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
  • Completeness of the ActivitySheet web page

For more information about the peer review process itself, please see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.


This page first made public: May 26, 2017

Summary

Students use energy information from the U.S. Energy Information Administration in 2009 (most recent household compilation) in a jigsaw activity. Each student examines usage in a particular state and then the group compares similarities and differences in usage across the nation.

Keywords: household energy consumption, jigsaw activity

Context

Audience

This activity was used 3 times in a college freshman level course "Introduction to Environmental Science" primarily taught to non-science majors. The course had an enrollment of ~120 students. The class was divided into groups of 3 to 4 students who worked on activities each class period throughout the semester. This activity was designed as a jigsaw activity to be used by groups of up to 4 students. The individual part of the activity focuses on energy use in a particular state (Texas, Massachusetts, California, Florida). This could be done in-class or as a take-home assignment. The group activity should be done in-class and involves comparisons of energy usage in different states. The group then examines trends in national energy usage over time as well as reflecting on their own energy usage. The activity allows the students to practice pie charts and histograms depicting energy usage.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Students should have an understanding of how to read pie charts and bar graphs.

How the activity is situated in the course

This is a stand-alone activity following a chapter on energy resources. It is a jigsaw activity so there is an individual and group part to the activity.

Goals

Content/concepts goals for this activity

- Interpret pie charts and bar graphs related to energy usage.
- Relate a state's energy usage to climate, types of housing, household appliances and variations in population.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

- Interpret pie charts and bar graphs related to energy usage.
- Relate a state's energy usage to climate, types of housing, household appliances and variations in population.

Other skills goals for this activity

Students work in groups to synthesize results from study of energy usage for different states.

Description and Teaching Materials

The activity is based on household energy data published by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Individual fact sheets were published for 16 states in 2009 at https://www.eia.gov/consumption/residential/reports/2009/state_briefs/ The states selected for this particular exercise were Texas, Massachusetts, Florida and California. Check the website for available fact sheets for other states. The administration is in the process of updating these sheets based on a 2015 survey of households. Two figures shown in the group activity are taken from: https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=9951&src=‹ Consumption Residential Energy Consumption Survey (RECS)-f4 (bar graphs in group activity)
https://www.eia.gov/consumption/residential/index.php (pie charts in group activity)
The pdf file contain energy fact sheets for the states of California, Florida, Massachusetts and Texas. The word documents contain the individual and group exercises and answer keys.
state energy fact sheets (Acrobat (PDF) 472kB May22 17)
individual assignment sheet (Microsoft Word 38kB May22 17)
individual assignment key (Microsoft Word 40kB May22 17)
group activity assignment (Microsoft Word 70kB May22 17)
group assignment key (Microsoft Word 73kB May22 17)

Teaching Notes and Tips

The histograms and pie charts for this activity are difficult to read if reproduced in black and white. They should be reproduced in color or extensively labeled. Students in an introductory environmental science class had no major difficulties with answering questions in this activity.

Assessment

Assessments were based on the completed activity sheets. Students were also tested on their ability to read/understand similar graphs on quizzes and exams.

References and Resources

The U.S. Energy Information Administration has a wealth of data on household energy consumption. Specific data used in this activity can be found at:
https://www.eia.gov/consumption/residential/reports/2009/state_briefs/ (for state fact sheets - there are sheets for 16 different states)

https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=9951&src=‹ Consumption Residential Energy Consumption Survey (RECS)-f4 (bar graphs in group activity)
https://www.eia.gov/consumption/residential/index.php (pie charts in group activity)
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