Grade Level: 3–8

ACF Lesson Plan: Conserving Electric Energy


Students participate in two experiments that familiarize them with electricity use and energy consumption.


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Special Note to Teachers:This is a great hands-on activity for students to comprehend the effects of regulation. Also ties into wasteful use of our resources.


Students will:

  1. gain an appreciation for their dependency on electricity,
  2. analyze and contrast two graphs measuring the consumption of a resource under modified regulations,
  3. understand that regulating the rate of consumption of a resource allows it to last longer, and
  4. compare and contrast the rate of consumption of a resource over a period of time through regulation.

National Standards:

National Science Education Standards (NSES)

  • Science in Personal and Social Perspective, 5-8
    • Populations, resources, and environments

National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) Standards

  • Production, Distribution, and Consumption
  • Science, Technology, and Society

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) Standards

  • Data Analysis, 3-5, 5-8

Time Needed:

One to two 45-minute class periods


  • Pen and paper
  • Cookies or crackers (two per student)*
  • Overhead projector or blackboard
  • Data Graphing Sheet

*Do not use any products that contain peanuts in case there are students with allergies.

Discussion Questions:

  • In what activities do you participate that are dependent on electricity?
  • How is that electricity generated?
  • Do you know how much coal and other natural resources are needed to generate the electricity you use in a given day?


  1. After conducting a brief discussion about the nation’s immense dependence on electricity, explain to students that more than half of the United States’ electricity is generated by coal—far more than any other energy source. Our country’s demand for electricity is on the rise as the use of microelectronic (e.g., computers) and other electronic equipment increases.

  2. Ask students if they think they could live in their homes without electricity for just two hours. What would their lifestyle be like? For homework, ask students to try to survive without using any electricity for two hours. Discuss as a class the items that students will have to abstain from using. The list may include the following:
    • Radio or stereo
    • Hairdryer
    • Lighting
    • Toaster
    • Freezer
    • Computer
    • Dishwasher
    • Video game console
    • Coffee maker
    • Alarm clock
    • Microwave
    • Washing machine
    • TV/VCR/DVD player
    • Refrigerator
    • Water heater
    • Electric stove
    • Clothes dryer
    • Can opener
    • Garage door opener

  3. Make sure students document which hours they went without using electricity and how they had to alter their routine to avoid using electricity. During the next class period, discuss how students felt about not using electricity for that period of time. Did they realize how dependent they are on electricity? How would it affect people if the nation ran out of the energy resources needed to produce electricity?

  4. Explain that fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and natural gas, are called nonrenewable energy because they are limited in supply. It is important to conserve these natural resources so that they will last longer. Tell students they will participate in a brief and tasty activity to demonstrate the impact that regulating the consumption of a resource has on making it last.

  5. Trial #1: Give each student a cookie or cracker. Give them a signal to begin eating and tell them to raise their hand when they are finished. Count the hands raised every 15 seconds until all the cookies or crackers are eaten. Use the first graph (Trial #1 graph) in the Data Graphing Sheet indicating how many students finished eating every 15 seconds.

  6. Trial #2: Give each student a second cookie. Tell them that this time they can only take a bite when you say, “Take a bite.” Do this every 15 seconds and have them raise their hand when they have finished the cookie. Count the hands raised after every 15 seconds and use the second graph (Trial #2 graph) in the Data Graphing Sheet to indicate the consumption rates. This graph usually shows that the overall cookie resources last longer.

  7. Discuss the two graphs. How are they the same? How are they different? Why did the cookies last longer when their consumption was regulated? Can we, or should we, conserve nonrenewable sources of energy, such as coal? Do individuals have a responsibility to conserve energy? Why or why not?


Have students write a paragraph explaining their opinion about conserving energy resources. What measures do they believe individuals can (or should) take to conserve resources such as coal? What, if any, measures should the government take to regulate individual or industrial rates of consumption?


Students can research what regulations are in place for controlling rates of consumption of other natural resources in their area or nationally. They may want to investigate rainforest or old-growth preservations, oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), water consumption restrictions placed on drought-ridden areas, or other significant efforts. Allow them to share their findings with the class and encourage them to become involved with these efforts if they feel passionately about them.

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