K-12 Energy and Environment Lessons That Work

  • John Lord
Keywords: K-12 Energy, Environment


There are many reasons to be interested in sharing energy and environment lessons with K-12 students. These include the joy of educating students about basic energy concepts and environmental impacts. Regardless of one’s motivations, having a solid planning process provides a much better opportunity for success. This article allows readers to gain an understanding of why it is important to be knowledgeable about educational learning standards which relate to energy and environmental issues. Several lessons that work for students and examples of how these lessons have been used in Virginia’s Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) are described. Using pictures, descriptions, and a touch of imagination, readers will be able to participate in each of the lessons in a virtual way.

The LCPS’s energy and environment program has offered lessons for the enrichment and extra-curricular activities of students and community members for many years. The six most successful and well developed lessons are as follows:

1. Connecting the light switch to the environment—Participants learn where energy comes from and how energy use (or non-use) impacts the environment.

2. Building audits and virtual auditing—Participants become a part of a team and they learn how their actions can make a difference.

3. Squishy circuits—Using Play Dough participants learn the basics of circuit construction as well as parallel, series and short circuits.

4. Which lamp is better?—Participants learn about life cycle cost analysis and how to measure and compare the costs of light sources.

5. The convincer—A human powered electricity generator allows people to feel for themselves the difference between the energy consumption of one light source compared to another; everyone leaves convinced.

6. Vampire hunting—Vampire electronics are everywhere, in surprising places and creating a surprising impact. These normally invisible creatures are identified and their impacts are researched—we teach students how “kill” them.

The goal of this article is to share how these lessons were developed, how they have been executed and received by various audiences and how others could potentially offer similar lessons in K-12 communities.


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Author Biography

John Lord

John Lord has worked for the past 12 years as energy education specialist for Loudoun County Public Schools in Virginia. He holds numerous certifications from the Association of Energy Engineers including certified energy manager, certified sustainable development professional, certified demand side management professional, certified energy auditor and certified measurement and verification professional. He is a licensed teacher in Virginia with ten years of classroom experience.

Mr. Lord currently serves as the president of the National Capital Chapter of the Association of Energy Engineers. In addition, he serves on the Metropolitan Washington Council of Government’s Climate, Energy and Environmental Policy Committee. Due in part to the efforts of this team, LCPS won first place in the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2011 Green Schools Challenge and has earned the energy star partner of the year awards for 2010—2016. Email: john.lord@lcps.org.