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This is a great project for a unit on energy or electricity. It is student-centered, collaborative, and memorable! And best of all, students learn how to reduce energy usage in their homes and are excited to challenge their families to do so.
The project lasts for two to three weeks, with probably three 40 minute periods of class time, and the rest will be done out of class. It is written with three parts; however, there is a supplement that will allow you to complete the second part completely in class, and the third part could be eliminated if you are that short on time.
For part 1, students learn how to read the electric meter at their homes. You should do a mini-lesson on how to read a dial electric meter in case the students' home meters are not digital. But, this is easy! I included a worksheet with the directions that you could print for each student. The students take a reading each day for eight consecutive days so that they can calculate how much energy their family is using over a week's time. Then, students work in groups to compare their data and brainstorm ways to conserve energy.
For part 2, the groups hypothesize which appliances in their homes use the most and least amounts of energy. They divvy up those appliances and research each appliance's energy usage at home by reading the appliance labels. This part can become an in-class activity using the appliance cards that are included. You could alternately just use some of the cards to teach the students what the appliance labels look like and what information on them is important for this activity. Students estimate hours per day that each appliance is used and complete a data table to calculate the cost of running the appliance for a week, a month, and a year! (Parents will appreciate that their kids realize that running appliance = money!) My local cost for electricity is about $0.13/kWh, but you can have the students research that too, if you'd like.
The optional part 3 helps the students to consider how to conserve electricity, and motivates them to educate their families about how to do so, also.