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Theme editorial: Energy and climate change

Issue: September 2014 354

Author: Keith Ross

Extract: The use of fossil fuels to supply our energy is causing our climate to change. In the context of this global concern, we re-examine how to introduce the concept of energy to our students in this special issue of School Science Review. In December 2015, world leaders will meet in Paris to agree on how the world will respond to climate change. We have until then to build the public pressure and political support necessary for them to agree to a strong deal.

Climate change: evidence and causes

Issue: September 2014 354

Author: Eric Wolff

Extract: The science behind climate change generally considered to be due to human activity. The fundamentals of climate change are well established: greenhouse gases warm the planet; their concentrations in the atmosphere are increasing; Earth has warmed, and is going to continue warming with a range of impacts. This article summarises the contents of a recent publication issued by the UK’s Royal Society and the US National Academy of Sciences. The report aims to make clear what is known and where there is still developing understanding on climate change science. There are important discussions to be had and decisions that will need to be made about what actions individuals, governments and the world as a whole should take in response to climate change.

Effective strategies for talking about climate change in the classroom

Issue: September 2014 354

Author: K. C. Busch and Jonathan Osborne

Extract: How discussion can help students to understand and consider energy problems. Teaching about climate science presents some unique challenges. Unlike many other science topics, mitigation and adaptation to climate change will require students to take action. This article outlines five major challenges to communicating about climate change in the classroom, drawing on research in environmental psychology: scepticism, complexity, uncertainty, scale and emotion. Strategies for effective communication, drawn from research, are also presented.

Making sense of energy

Issue: September 2014 354

Author: Richard Boohan

Extract: Practical approaches to teaching about energy and developing understanding. This article describes an approach to teaching about the energy concept that aims to be accessible to students starting in early secondary school, while being scientifically rigorous and forming the foundation for later work. It discusses how exploring thermal processes is a good starting point for a more general consideration of the ways that energy can be stored and transferred from one store to another, and emphasises the importance of quantitative work if students are to acquire a firm understanding of the concept.

Teaching about energy: from everyday to scientific understandings

Issue: September 2014 354

Author: Robin Millar

Extract: Reconciling the language and descriptions about energy in public discussion and the classroom. A key challenge in designing a teaching programme on energy is in deciding how best to deal with the differences in how the word ‘energy’ is used and understood in everyday discourse and in science. Many of the most important decisions and choices about energy matters, both for individuals and society, can be adequately understood from an everyday perspective. This raises the question of the appropriate balance in the curriculum between the everyday and scientific views of energy, and of why, when and how we should try to move students on from an everyday understanding of energy towards the scientific understanding.

Energy in the new curriculum: an opportunity for change

Issue: September 2014 354

Author: Charles Tracy

Extract: A fresh look at how the recognised types of energy are classified. The National Curriculum for England has been revised and the statements on energy have some new phrasing and some new ideas. In this article, I will reflect on how these changes might be beneficial, relieving some of the strictures of previous drafts and providing opportunities to talk about energy in new, more constructive ways. I will discuss some approaches that support the new statements and that, I hope, provide ideas for developing ways of discussing energy more helpfully with students.

Ideas for a teaching sequence for the concept of energy

Issue: September 2014 354

Author: Reinders Duit and Knut Neumann

Extract: Understanding the effects of energy within all the sciences. The energy concept is one of the most important ideas for students to understand. Looking at phenomena through the lens of energy provides powerful tools to model, analyse and predict phenomena in the scientific disciplines. The cross-disciplinary nature of the energy concept enables students to look at phenomena from different angles, helping them to develop a more integrated understanding of science. In this article we will discuss the role of four key ideas about the energy concept that students need to understand, namely energy transformation, transfer, degradation and conservation. Based on research showing that students progress from an initial understanding of energy transformation and transfer, through understanding degradation to finally understanding conservation, we will propose a teaching sequence that may help to successively build an integrated understanding of energy throughout physics instruction based on these key ideas.

Thermodynamics from car to kitchen

Issue: September 2014 354

Author: Geoff Auty

Extract: A look at how everyday experience can help us to understand thermodynamics. The historical background to the laws of thermodynamics is explained using examples we can all observe in the world around us, focusing on motorised transport, refrigeration and solar heating. This is not to be considered as an academic article. The purpose is to improve understanding of thermodynamics rather than impart new knowledge, and for that reason the wording has been kept as simple as possible. This is intended to help non-specialists find a way in to a topic in which textbook presentations often seem obscure, and help specialist teachers offer their students examples to which they can readily relate before tackling the information examiners might demand.

Using ‘energy ideas’ in the teaching of biology

Issue: September 2014 354

Author: Richard Needham

Extract: Would a change in terminology help avoid confusion or do we need to review the use of ‘energy’ in science teaching? ‘Energy ideas’ run through much of secondary school biology teaching. These ideas are not always consistent with each other or with the ideas used by other science disciplines. Would a change in terminology help avoid confusion or do we need to review the use of ‘energy’ in science teaching?

Blowing in the wind: a review of wind power technology

Issue: September 2014 354

Author: Frank Harris

Extract: Is the revival of one of the oldest methods of harnessing energy viable or desirable? The use of wind as a replenishable energy resource has come back into favour in recent decades. It is much promoted as a viable, clean energy option that will help towards reducing CO2 emissions in the UK. This article examines the history of wind power and considers the development of wind turbines, together with their economic, environmental and technical implications.

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