Beyond Batteries and Bulbs, Circuits and Conductors: Building Green, Activist-Oriented Student Communities

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  • This article was downloaded by: [University of Connecticut]On: 12 October 2014, At: 01:39Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House,37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

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    Beyond Batteries and Bulbs, Circuits and Conductors:Building Green, Activist-Oriented Student CommunitiesJulie Haun-Frank a , Catherine E. Matthews b & Melony Holyfield Allen ba Old Dominion University , Norfolk , VAb The University of North Carolina at Greensboro , Greensboro , NCPublished online: 06 Mar 2012.

    To cite this article: Julie Haun-Frank , Catherine E. Matthews & Melony Holyfield Allen (2012) Beyond Batteries and Bulbs,Circuits and Conductors: Building Green, Activist-Oriented Student Communities, Science Activities: Classroom Projects andCurriculum Ideas, 49:2, 54-59, DOI: 10.1080/00368121.2011.626810

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  • Science Activities, 49:5459, 2012Copyright c Taylor & Francis Group, LLCISSN: 0036-8121 print / 1940-1302 onlineDOI: 10.1080/00368121.2011.626810

    Beyond Batteries and Bulbs, Circuitsand Conductors: Building Green,

    Activist-Oriented Student Communities

    Julie Haun-FrankOld Dominion University,Norfolk, VA

    Catherine E. Matthews andMelony Holyfield AllenThe University of NorthCarolina at Greensboro,Greensboro, NC

    ABSTRACT In this article we provide an example of how to foster an activist-oriented student community by critically examining green technology. Wedesigned this curriculum unit to teach students about the fundamentals ofelectricity, green technology, and experimental design. Additionally, we viewedthis activity as an opportunity for students to apply their science contentknowledge and skills to a societal issue and, in turn, to take an active stanceas part of a science community and member of society. This unit extends howelementary electricity content and activities have been traditionally taught tohighlight the relationship between science and society.

    KEYWORDS classroom activity, electricity, elementary, social justice, socioscientific issues

    INTRODUCTIONToday, science is an ever-present aspect of our personal, civic, and political

    lives. Energy efficiency, health epidemics, and environmental hazards are ex-amples of imposing challenges facing citizens around the globe. These issuesdemand a scientifically literate citizenry that can use its science knowledge andskills to take action and find solutions (National Research Council 2007). Howdo we prepare students to gain these competencies? In this article we providean example of how to foster an activist-oriented student community by criti-cally examining green technology. This activity required fourth-grade studentsto apply their knowledge of electricity to take a critical stance in regard to theaccessibility of green technology within their community. In the state of NorthCarolina, one of the four major competency goals for science instruction infourth grade requires that learners build an understanding of magnetism andelectricity through observation and investigation.

    CRITICALLY EXAMINING GREEN TECHNOLOGYStudents investigated the pros and cons of replacing incandescent light-

    bulbs with compact fluorescent (CF) lightbulbs and considered to what extent

    Address correspondence to JulieHaun-Frank, Old Dominion University,Department of STEM Education andProfessional Studies, 228 EducationBuilding, Norfolk, VA 23529, USA.E-mail: jhaun@odu.edu

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  • this example of green technology was accessible tomembers of their class. This project extended a moretraditional unit on electricity and magnetism, whichwas taught using a Full Option Science System (FOSS)kit called Magnetism and Electricity. Magnetism wascovered first for approximately 2 weeks, and then elec-tricity was taught for another 2 to 3 weeks. With respectto electricity content,

    FOSS expects student to:

    Identify materials that are conductors and insulators. Understand and construct simple open, closed, parallel, and se-

    ries circuits. Learn how to make an electromagnet. Experience the relationship between the number of turns of wire

    around an electromagnet core and the strength of the magnetism. Use their knowledge of electromagnets to make a telegraph. Acquire vocabulary associated with electricity. Exercise language, math, and social studies skills in the context

    of electricity investigations. Develop and refine the manipulative skills required for making

    investigations in electricity. Use scientific thinking processes to conduct investigations and

    build explanations: observing, communicating, comparing, andorganizing. (FOSS n.d.)

    Traditional activities, such as using wires and a bat-tery to light an incandescent lightbulb and wiring acircuit, were completed by students in the FOSS mag-netism and electricity unit. This unit is correlated withBenchmarks for Science Literacy/Project 2061 (American

    TABLE 1 FOSS Kit Correlations with Sets of Science Standards/Benchmarks

    Benchmarks for Science Literacy/Project 2061 National Science Education Standards

    Nature of Science Science as Inquiry Results of scientific investigations are seldom exactly the

    same, but if the differences are large, it is important to tryto figure out why. One reason for following directionscarefully and for keeping records of ones work is to provideinformation on what might have caused the differences.

    Science is an adventure that people everywhere can takepart in, as they have for many centuries.

    Doing science involves many different kinds of work andengages men and women of all ages and backgrounds.

    The Physical Setting Things that give off light often also give off heat. Heat is

    produced by mechanical and electrical machines and anytime one thing rubs against something else.

    Abilities necessary to do and understand aboutscientific inquiry

    Physical Science Properties of objects and materials Electricity in circuits can produce light, heat, sound,

    and magnetic effects. Electrical circuits require acomplete loop through which an electrical currentcan pass.

    Science and Technology Abilities of technological designs Understanding about science and technology

    Science in Personal and Social Perspectives Science and technology in local challenges

    History and Nature of Science Science as human endeavor

    Association for the Advancement of Science 1993) andthe National Science Education Standards (National Re-search Council 1996) (see Table 1).

    OVERVIEW OF THE CLASSROOMACTIVITIES IN OUR UNIT EXTENSION

    Incandescent bulb dissection was the first activity ofthe unit extension. The dissection activity was a goodbridge between understanding circuits and the structureand function of parts of a lightbulb. We used burned-out household lightbulbs. To prepare the bulbs for dis-section, we covered the glass with duct tape, broke theglass with a hammer, and removed the glassleavingthe rest of the bulb intact (please see Safety Concernsregarding preparation of bulbs for dissection). Teacherschallenged their students to investigate why the light-bulbs stopped working. Students were asked the ques-tions, How does an incandescent bulb light, and whatcauses the lightbulb to stop working? The disman-tled incandescent bulb allows the student to unravelthe tungsten filament to better understand the struc-ture of the bulb and the path that electricity travelsthrough the bulb. Once students notice that the tung-sten filament is broken (the wire is broken), then theycan compare and contrast intact lightbulbs with bulbsthat have stopped working. Another way to pique stu-dents interests might be to present them with a set of

    Activist-Oriented Student Communities 55

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  • lightbulbs that light and a set of lightbulbs that do notlight (or have burned out) and then ask them to lookfor differences between the two sets.

    After students learned that the tungsten filamentmust be intact for incandescent bulbs to light, theyrecorded their observations through drawing and la-beling diagrams of the incandescent bulb in their sci-ence notebooks. They also included a written descrip-tion of the flow of electricity through the bulb. Thisactivity provided a foundation for students to com-pare and contrast the incandescent bulb to the CFbulb.

    Next, students investigated the similarities and differ-ences between the two types of working lightbulbs (in-candescent and CF). Teachers presented their class witha CF bulb, and students shared their experiences withand knowledge about the technology. Most studentshad either some experience with or knowledge aboutboth bulbs. Some students used both types of bulbs intheir homes. Classroom discussions highlighted howthe CF bulbs were marketed as green, good for theenvironment, and more energy efficient than regularor incandescent bulbs, which allowed our teachers toseamlessly transition into the next challenge they pre-sented to students.

    Teachers challenged students to design an experi-ment that would test whether the incandescent bulb orthe CF bulb was more energy efficient. Teachers pro-vided students with the following tools: a board wiredwith two sockets, a CF bulb (equivalent to 60 W), an in-candescent bulb (60 W), a ruler, two alcohol thermome-ters, a stop watch, a cardboard box, and aluminum foil(see Figure 1 for a sample data table used for this activ-ity and Figure 2 for a picture of the apparatus used forthe lightbulb comparison activity).

    In small groups, students brainstormed how theycould measure energy efficiency with the tools pro-vided. Students designed investigations that measured

    FIGURE 2 Apparatus for light bulb comparison activity (colorfigure available online).

    the heat output of each bulb as an indication of en-ergy efficiency. They placed the alcohol thermometerat equal distances near the bulbs and recorded the tem-perature in predetermined time intervals.

    For fourth graders, the energy efficiency of lightbulbscan be conceptualized by explaining to them that light-bulb efficiency is measured in terms of the amount oflight produced for each unit of electricity used. Thereare only two products when lightbulbs are plugged in:light or heat. Incandescent lights use 100% of the elec-tricity to produce approximately 10% light and 90%heat. CF lights produce approximately 30% light and70% heat. Therefore, by measuring heat output fromthe two comparable light sources over a given periodof time, students can make generalizations about theenergy efficiency of the two kinds of lightbulbs. Energyis defined as the ability to do work, and the everydayusage of conservation of energy refers to saving any energysource by using it efficiently and not wasting it (Smith1993). As energy changes from one form to another,much is lost, as a portion of the energy enters a statethat can no longer do work. For example, when gaso-line is burned in an automobile only a small portionis used to move the car; the remaining energy pro-duced from combustion dissipates into the atmosphere

    Comparing the Energy Efficiency of Incandescent and Compact Fluorescent Bulbs

    Predict: Which lightbulb will generate the most heat?

    Time (Minutes)

    Temperature F (Incandescent bulb)

    Temperature F (Compact fluorescent bulb)

    036921

    FIGURE 1 Sample data table used for lightbulb comparison lab.

    56 J. Haun-Frank et al.

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  • Home Lightbulb Survey

    Count the number and type of lightbulbs in your home.

    Incandescent_____________________

    Compact Fluorescent______________

    Ask your parent or other adult for an electric bill and obtain the fee for energy (e.g. $0.07 per kilowatt hour).

    Cost per kilowatt hour ___________________

    FIGURE 3 Sample of lightbulb survey.

    as heat that cannot do useful work (Smith 1993). En-ergy efficiency and efficient energy use are terms used to de-scribe efforts to reduce the amount of energy requiredor consumed to provide a particular service or product(California Center for Sustainable Energy 2010; WorldEnergy Council 2011).

    While students brainstormed their experimental de-signs, teachers used questioning to force the studentsto grapple with the relationship between experimentaldesign and the groups ability to compare and con-trast their data. For example, some students realizedthat the distance from the bulb to the thermometerwould influence the temperature reading. In the end,students compared their data and created line graphson a SMART Board to represent their findings, whichsupported their prediction that the incandescent bulbwould give off more heat compared to the CF bulb.Students concluded that their data supported the claim

    that the CF bulb was indeed more energy efficient thanthe incandescent bulb.

    As a homework assignment, students completed ahome lightbulb survey (see Figure 3) to count the num-ber, type, and wattage of each lightbulb in their homes.The next day, students researched the cost of CF bulbsand calculated the cost to replace each incandescentbulb in their homes with the more energy-efficientbulbs. Students also researched the energy savings asso-ciated with CFs (see Figure 4). They discovered that forsome of them, it would cost upward of $600 to replaceevery incandescent bulb in their homes. Teachers thenurged students to share these calculations with theirfamilies, share the results of their experiment (i.e., thatCFs were more energy efficient), and discuss the costassociated with CF bulbs. The rationale for this activitywas to prompt students and their families to discuss thefeasibility of switching to green technology.

    Next, teachers provided the students with recentnewspaper articles highlighting legislation around theglobe, which called for a ban on the production ofincandescent bulbs (see the Resources section for elec-tronic access to articles). Using the data they collectedfrom the previous activities, students discussed the im-plications of the legislation for individuals in societyespecially those who are impacted by poverty. Somestudents even made the case that banning the incan-descent bulbs might cause job losses in industries. Theteachers and students weighed the benefits and poten-tial drawbacks of green technology.

    The Cost of Going Green

    Using the newspaper circular advertisements, record the price of each bulb below.

    Incandescent______________ Compact Fluorescent______________

    Calculate the cost to replace each incandescent bulb in your home with compact fluorescent bulbs.

    Price of bulb number of bulbs =________

    Calculate the cost to operate each type of bulb.

    Electricity used = hours of use X (wattage of bulb divided by 1000)

    Cost = electricity used electric rate

    FIGURE 4 Sample handout used for mathematical comparison of bulbs.

    Activist-Oriented Student Communities 57

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  • For the culminating activity, students were urged touse their science knowledge from these activities to takea stance on the accessibility of CF bulbs. Students tookaction and wrote persuasive essays to their state gover-nor or created posters that educated the student bodyon the science and accessibility of green technology.In their letters, students presented the data that theycollected and urged the governor to create programs tomake CF bulbs more affordable for all individuals.

    As we reflect about refining this unit extension, sev-eral issues surface. First, we would incorporate a discus-sion about possible environmental implications fromthe manufacturing of both incandescent and CF bulbs.We would also incorporate the disposal of and recy-cling issues associated with both types of bulbs. Fi-nally, when considering the possibility of using newimproved LEDs for household lighting, we now haveanother important variable to include.

    ASSESSMENTWe assessed the unit extension by evaluating the let-

    ters that students wrote to their state governor. Studentswere required to use facts about green technology andcosts of CF bulbs and incandescent lightbulbs in theirletters. We also assessed classroom participation whenstudents were conducting their experiments, collectingand analyzing data from these experiments, and shar-ing their results with their classmates. We have sinceconsidered using a line debate to engage students in amore formal discussion with regards to lightbulb choicewhen we teach this unit extension again.

    CONCLUSIONWe designed this unit extension not only to teach

    students about the fundamentals of electricity, greentechnology, and experimental design, but also to pro-vide students with an opportunity to take an activestance as part of a science community and a memberof society. These activities underscored how scienceis intertwined with economics, politics, and studentslives. But even more important, students learned to usetheir science knowledge and skills to take action. Stu-dents were enthusiastic and vocal about their interestin this aspect of the electricity unit. This unit exten-sion provides an example of how elementary teachers,in their own classrooms, can step outside the tradi-

    tional approaches to teaching electricity to encouragean activist-oriented school science community.

    SAFETY CONCERNSIt is important for the teacher to carefully prepare

    the incandescent bulbs for dissection by ensuring thatall glass is removed. Although it is possible to see a bro-ken filament without breaking the glass, dismantling thebulb allows students to unravel the tungsten filament tounderstand the importance of this structure to the cir-cuit. In addition, burned-out bulbs sometimes darken,making it difficult to view the filament. When workingwith electricity, the teacher can plug and unplug theelectrical cord, after lightbulbs have been screwed intothe socket, or use a power strip to turn the bulbs onand off. Students can screw and unscrew the bulbs intothe sockets; just remind them to do so carefully and tostop at the first sign of resistance. Make sure that thestudents and teacher are wearing eye protection. Theteacher can remind students not to have water near theapparatus. Remind students to watch carefully for elec-trical cords in the classroom so that they do not trip.Finally, disposal of both incandescent bulbs and CFbulbs should be discussed. Neither kind of bulbs shouldbe placed in household trash. Instead, they should betaken to an acceptable disposal center in your area. Ad-ditional information on disposal options can be foundon the following United States Environmental Protec-tion Agency Web site, http://www.epa.gov/cfl/.

    APPARATUS FOR LIGHTBULBCOMPARISON

    To replicate the apparatus depicted in Figure 2, linea large cardboard box with aluminum foilwith theshiny side facing into reflect all the light back intothe box. Place the light fixture in the bottom centerof the box. Make a hole in the box lid and insert thethermometer from the outside, sealing the entry withduct tape on both the inside and outside of the box.Inside the box, construct a radiation shield with twosheets of aluminum foil suspended between the lightand the thermometer. Leave space above and below theshield so the heated air can rise to the top of the box.

    RESOURCESBarrie, J. 2004. Kilowatt ours: A plan to re-energize Amer-

    ica, DVD. Nashville, TN: Jeff Barrie. Film length:

    58 J. Haun-Frank et al.

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  • 38 minutes (60-min version available on the sameDVD). Grades: 512 (easily modified for youngerand older students). Time needed: One class pe-riod to several class periods. Curriculum contentstandards: Science, social studies, math, languagearts.

    Kanter, J. 2009. Europes ban on old-style bulbsbegins. The New York Times, August 31. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/01/business/energy-environment/01iht-bulb.html.

    New York Institute of Special Education. n.d.Compact fluorescent lightbulb fact sheet.http://www.nyise.org/earthday/bulb.html.

    U.S. Department of Energy. n.d. Energy edu-cation and workforce development lesson plans.http://www1.eere.energy.gov/education/lessonplans/default.aspx

    WorldNetDaily. 2010. Congress bans incandescentbulbs. http://www.wnd.com/?pageId=45156.

    ACKNOWLEDGMENTThe authors would like to thank Dr. Norman R.

    Miller, Mechanical Engineer, Associate Professor Emer-itus, University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois, for his sug-gestions on their experimental design used to test in-candescent and CF light bulbs for energy efficiency.

    REFERENCESAmerican Association for the Advancement of Science. 1993. Bench-

    marks for science literacy/Project 2061. New York: Oxford UniversityPress.

    California Center for Sustainable Energy. 2010. How does one defineefficiency? https://energycenter.org (accessed July 19, 2010).

    National Research Council. 1996. National science education standards.Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

    . 2007. Taking science to school: Learning and teaching sciencein grades K-8. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

    Regents of the University of California. n.d. FOSS 3-6 modulesFOSS (Full Option Science System). http://lhsfoss.org/scope/folio/html/MagnetismandElectricity/1.html (accessed January 12, 2010).

    Smith, H. 1993. Energy: Sources, applications, alternatives. Tinley Park,IL: Goodheart-Willcox Company.

    World Energy Council. 2011. Energy efficiency policies around the world:Review and evaluation. http://www.worldenergy.org (accessed Jan-uary 12, 2010).

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