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What's Up in the Environment?
overview | PROCEDURES

  Energy Audit

Step 1 - State the Problem
Step 2 - Research, and Hypothesize or Predict
Step 3 - Plan Experiment and Gather Data
Step 4 - Analyze the Data and Make a Conclusion
Step 5 - Take Action
Step 6 - Assessment

Step 1 - State the ProblemMore information about this step

Begin by stating the project problem: How does human energy consumption affect the environment, and how can we cut down the amount of energy we use? Ask students what they think the answers to these questions are before they begin research. You may want to record and post their answers in the classroom so that they can see how their knowledge base changes by the end of the project.

Afterwards, have them watch the WHAT'S UP IN THE ENVIRONMENT video, and/or visit the ENERGY Hot Topics page of this site to give students a sense of why this is an important issue.

Develop a survey
Since this project involves the local school area, students should begin by finding out how much the people within this community know already. This information will be useful to consider when students design their energy-saving tips in step 5. Student groups should begin by conducting an energy opinion survey of students, school staff, and parents or guardians from your school. You can have students ask the following questions:

  • Do students/school staff/parents/guardians think they use a lot of energy?

  • Do they feel that using energy hurts the environment?

  • What environmentally-friendly energy resources do they know of?

  • Would they change their behavior to conserve energy?

  • What are some methods they know of for saving energy?
As an alternative, students can develop their own survey questions using the following process: determine what, exactly, students want to find out; design questions that will get appropriate results; administer a test survey to a small sampling of people; analyze the results to see if the questions were on target; revise the questions if necessary; then conduct the survey on a wider scale. These surveys can be conducted using paper ballots, or reach a wider audience if created online using one of the many Web sites that provide pre-made survey forms (see survey sites listed in the activity resources section below). Use school announcements, e-mail (listervs), and the school Web site to reach as much of the school community as possible for the survey.

Resources for step1

Materials needed

  • Surveys - if you chose not to do it online: paper and access to a copier machine

Teacher tool Web sites

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Step 2 - Research, and Hypothesize or PredictMore information about this step


Now students should begin to find the answers to the following questions by using the book-marked Web sites listed below or by going to the library. You may want to divide groups up so that they investigate these questions for a different kind of energy. Talk to representatives from the U.S. Department of Energy (see contact information below) to find out as many ways as you can to save energy in your home and/or school.

Energy type research questions

  • What are the different kinds of energy used in the United States?

  • How are they used?

  • What impact do the various kinds of energy have on the environment when used?
Energy usage and environmental impact research questions
  • How much pollution is caused by U.S. energy use?

  • Why do we consume so much energy?

  • What is the history of energy consumption in the United States—how has it grown, and why?

  • How much energy do typical households and schools use?

  • How can you find out how much energy you use? How can you reduce the amount of energy that you use?

  • What are the costs involved with reducing energy use?

  • Why hasn’t it been reduced in the past?

  • What are the economic or political factors that may impact energy conservation?
In the end the class can share their findings, and compile their data into an energy usage matrix using either paper, or an Excel spreadsheet.

Forming the hypothesis

Using the research findings, have the class predict which elements are the biggest energy wasters in the school, suggest what changes should be made within the school, and predict how much energy and money these changes would save within the school itself. Finally, ask student to hypothesize how much this would impact their local environment. Have students record their predictions in an Excel spreadsheet, or paper chart labeled "Predictions". At the end of the project, after students have conducted their energy audits and encouraged their school community to make energy-saving measures, they will record their results in a column labeled "Results" in the same chart/spreadsheet.

Resources for step 2

Materials needed

  • Excel or large chart paper and markers
  • Access to the Internet (optional)

Bookmark these Web sites for student research

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Step 3 - Plan Experiment and Gather DataMore information about this step

Conduct an energy audit following the directions from one of the Web sites listed below, or with tips from a scientist from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). In addition, the DOE can provide a CD-ROM with energy efficiency ideas and simple directions for conducting an energy audit. As you conduct your audit, different groups of students can be responsible for looking into energy usage in various areas. Observations should be made daily and recorded in a lab book in order to keep the data organized. You should review how each group should record the different kinds of data before the audit begins.

Resources for step 3

Materials needed

  • Energy audit instructions ­ if you don't want to use the audit information from the Web sites listed below, then write to the DOE for a free CD-ROM:
    Department of Energy ­ Energy Efficiency CD-ROM
    The U.S. Dept. of Energy,
    Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy,
    Office of Building Technology,
    State and Community Programs,
    Attn: Mail Code EE-42,
    1000 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C., 20585-0121

Bookmark these Web sites for student research

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Step 4 - Analyze the Data and Make a Conclusion  More information about this step

Analyze the results of your energy audit. What were the most common areas of energy waste? Do your results show trends that might be important for other schools and homes in your area? If all the schools and homes in your area reduced their energy waste, how might this impact your local environment? Have each group of students write a report, or create a PowerPoint presentation explaining the causes they found for energy waste, and what can be done to solve the problems. Students need to consider the financial and behavioral aspects in coming up with solutions. You may want to ask an expert or a Department of Energy official for feedback on your findings.

Resources for step 4

Materials needed

  • PowerPoint (optional)
  • Access to the Internet

Bookmark this Web site for student research

  • Ask an Energy Expert from the Department of Energy
    This site allows you to ask a question of a D.O.E. expert. It does ask for personal information, so teachers may want to type in the questions themselves.

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Step 5 - Take Action

When you finish your energy audit, put as many of your energy efficiency ideas into practice as you can. Keep a record of how much energy you save! Work as a class to write a tip sheet with your top 15 tips for easy and low-cost ways to save energy at home. Make sure students use the information they gathered in the survey in step 1 about how much their intended audience knows about the topic, and what their attitudes are. They should gear their tip writing accordingly. Publish the tip sheet on your school Web site, and invite community members to visit the link by sending out promotional e-mails. If technology is not available, create and pass out flyers to your school community. Once action has been taken, have student groups monitor how much energy was saved as a result of their actions. Record their findings in the "Results" column of their charts created in step 2.

Resources for step 5

Materials needed

  • Access to the Internet
  • Materials for creating paper flyers: paper, markers, photographs, glue, scissors, OR software as simple as Paint or PowerPoint

Bookmark these Web sites for student research

  • National Wildlife Federation: Take Action
    This site gives great advice on how to write to local media, write press releases, plan campaigns, and more. You may want to have your students consult this site for advice on how to write their tip sheet.

  • Web Page Building Sites
    If you chose to create a Web-based fact sheet but your students have limited knowledge of html, you may want to have them use these free, Web templates that allow them to input their images and text without writing any code.

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Step 6 - Assessment

Have students create a Web site using pre-made templates from the sites listed below; or write an article documenting the steps they took in this project. They should add a section reflecting on why energy saving strategies they devised were effective or ineffective. They should note what strategies worked, or where they went wrong, and how they would correct these ineffective strategies if they repeated the experiment. The Web site or article should include information from the chart and log books, and any feedback they got from experts in the field. Also, students should include their reflections on what it was like to undertake this project.

Once completed and edited, notify your local newspaper to raise awareness about the project in your community by sending them your reports, or URLs. Send us your Web project and we'll post it on the WHAT'S UP IN THE ENVIRONMENT Web site!

If possible, return to the garden where you added the compost a year later to see how the garden is doing and test the soil. Analyze the new environment you helped promote and see how it made a difference! Send us your results with a Web site update.

Resources for step 6

Teacher tool Web site

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