Created to complement the themes of the Electropolis 3D film and the Plan It Green: The Big Switch! game, National Geographic designed education materials to bring students in grades 4-12 content about energy sources, energy efficiency, and energy conservation. These free, standards-based, online education resources were developed for formal and informal educators to engage students in science, social studies, and geography concepts related to energy. These resources provide innovative strategies and approaches to teach about complex energy topics in the classroom.
Questions about energy cannot be easily answered, and energy-related decisions require the work of many experts to address economic, political, environmental, and social factors. Be mindful of the complexity of issues around energy topics in both the national and global conversation as you engage students in these topics.
Educating about energy and energy choices is necessary. Students are future decision-makers, and the choices they make will be crucial to solving tomorrow’s energy problems. Arming students with a greater understanding of energy allows them to make wise choices in their lives and communities.
People have used biomass energy—energy from living things—since the earliest “cave men” first made wood fires for cooking or keeping warm. Today, biomass is used to fuel electric generators and other machinery.
Coal is a non-renewable fossil fuel that is combusted and used to generate electricity. Mining techniques and combustion are both dangerous to miners and hazardous to the environment; however, coal accounts for about half of the electricity generation in the United States.
Geothermal energy is heat that is generated within the Earth. It is a renewable resource that can be harvested for human use.
Hydroelectric energy is power made by moving water. “Hydro” comes from the Greek word for water.
Encyclopedic entry. Natural gas is a fossil fuel formed from the remains of plants and animals. Other fossil fuels include oil and coal.
Non-renewable energy comes from sources that will eventually run out, such as oil and coal.
Encyclopedic entry. Nuclear energy is the energy in the nucleus, or core, of an atom. Nuclear energy can be used to create electricity, but it must first be released from the atom.
Oil shale is a type of rock that can be burned for energy or fuel.
Petroleum, or crude oil, is a fossil fuel and non-renewable source of energy.
Renewable energy comes from sources that will not be used up in our lifetimes, such as the sun and wind.
Solar energy is created by nuclear fusion that takes place in the sun. It is necessary for life on Earth, and can be harvested for human uses such as electricity.
Tidal energy is power produced by the surge of ocean waters during the rise and fall of tides. Tidal energy is a renewable source of energy.
Wind energy is produced by the movement of air (wind) and converted into electricity.
Wind energy is poised to become a major energy source. Recently, however, people have begun to report problems and complaints with wind turbines built close to houses.
California, a leading state in solar power, has found many ways to harness the Sun, the most powerful source of energy on the planet.
See how residents in the town of Greensburg came together after a tornado leveled almost every structure in the area.
Watch videos of a live event focused on STEM careers in renewable energy.
Find out what National Geographic explorers are contributing to the global energy conservation.
The Center for Science is a national collaborative network focused on advancing science and technology, starting with the nation's youth. For Connect! Transform the Future, six of its leading science centers have partnered with National Geographic and GE to educate students about energy, engage them in a conversation about the future of energy, and inspire them to be the next generation of scientists and engineers. The Center for Science includes: Center of Science and Industry (OH), Maryland Science Center (MD), Pacific Science Center (WA), Reuben H. Fleet Science Center (CA), Saint Louis Science Center (MO), and The Museum of Science and Industry (IL).
Dennis Dimick, Executive Editor, National Geographic Magazine
Martin Storksdieck, Ph.D., Director of the Board on Science Education (BOSE), National Research Council (NRC)
Matthew Inman, Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow, Department of Energy
Dr. Jennifer Milne, Energy Assessment Analyst, Global Climate and Energy Project, Stanford University
Kathleen O’Brien, Ph.D., Manager, Electric Power Systems, GE Global Research