The Long Island Power Authority and USA TODAY Education have collaborated on a series of lessons about green energy, with a focus on green building. Each lesson offers discussion questions, vocabulary, a USA TODAY Snapshot® and two activities — all based on USA TODAY articles.


A more energy-efficient home can turn up the heat on your savings

APPLICATIONS: analysis, geography, economics, language arts

DISCUSSION: Why shouldn’t homeowners expect relief from rising energy bills?What are some short- and long-term solutions to high energy costs? What energy saving home improvements are eligible for tax credits? Why are tax credits more valuable than deductions? Why does the government want to encourage the use of solar energy? Which of the improvements mentioned in the article do you think your family could make?

ACTIVITY: Photovoltaic (PV) panels convert sunlight into electricity. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, “the optimum orientation for a PV module in the northern hemisphere is true south.” However, homeowners must also consider the condition and orientation of their roof, the landscape features that shade their home and the weather conditions in their area that could affect the PV module’s functioning (e.g., fog).* With these factors in mind, evaluate your home or one in your community. Decide where the best place for a PV system would be. Explain your decision in writing, and create a diagram that illustrates it.

Off the grid or on, solar and wind power gain

APPLICATIONS: environment, economics, problem solving, evaluation

DISCUSSION: What factors motivated Dale and Michelle Doucette to “live off the power grid”? Will their solar and wind energy systems ultimately save the family money? How are states and the federal government encouraging residents to opt for clean energy systems? Why are some people attracted to properties without utility hook-ups? How do solar panels and turbines work? What other measures help homeowners conserve energy? How has California made solar systems attractive to consumers? If your entire city began using clean energy, what would the social, environmental and economic impact be? After considering these questions, use the concept map on the following page to enhance your understanding of renewable energy.

ACTIVITY: In small groups, identify an economic or environmental problem mentioned in USA TODAY that could be alleviated if more Americans adopted clean energy systems (e.g., solar or wind power). Next, identify three strategies (other than those mentioned in the article) that the government, environmentalists, businesses and/or other groups could use to encourage citizens to convert to clean energy. Then,list the factors that might make implementing each strategy difficult.Finally, present each idea and its pros and cons to classmates.Ask your peers to choose the most effective strategy.

One family takes on carbon dioxide

APPLICATIONS: cooperative learning, problem solving, analogy, environment

DISCUSSION: What steps has the Toor family taken to reduce the carbon emissions their household generates? How does carbon dioxide from fossil-fuel combustion cause global warming? According to David Hawkins, head of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s climate center, what two changes are critical to combating global warming? What kinds of electricity does the U.S. need to develop? What are the benefits of a low-carbon lifestyle?

ACTIVITY: Hawkins says that combating global warming is “not rocket science. The tools are in the toolbox. The challenge is to get them out of the toolbox and into people’s hands.” In small groups, use the article and outside resources to identify at least three “tools” (e.g., solar panels, hybrid cars, etc.) that can help reduce global warming.Then, in the space below, explain how each of the tools you identified is similar to one of the tools pictured. (Think creatively.) Finally, explain how businesses, environmental groups, citizens and/or the government can get each tool out of the box and into citizens’ hands.

Buildings designed in cool shades of green

APPLICATIONS: environment, synthesis, creative thinking

DISCUSSION: What are the main characteristics of “green”buildings? Why is the green building movement attracting the attention of various city governments? Why are developers also eager to capitalize on the trend? What is “sustainability?According to the article, what effect do well-lit, eco-friendly environments have on people? What are some examples of large energy saving design features? What “low-tech basics” do developers also incorporate?

ACTIVITY: Review the insert entitled, “‘Green’ design elements.”Then, with a partner, develop a list of five additional features that architects and developers could incorporate into their designs to help promote environmentally conscious living. If possible, include a sketch of drawing alongside the summary. Share your ideas in class.

Danny Seo, rolling in green

APPLICATIONS: environment, cause & effect, analysis, research

DISCUSSION: Who is Danny Seo? What is his environmental philosophy? What ventures is Seo in the process of starting?When did he have his “eco-epiphany”? On what is Seo primarily focused? How does he prompt consumers to make eco-conscious choices?

ACTIVITY: ENERGY STAR is a government-supported program that encourages individuals and businesses to protect the environment by helping them make energy efficient choices.* Make a list of all of the appliances and other items in your home that use energy (e.g., ovens, toasters, TVs,clock radios, curling irons, etc.). Take an inventory of the brands and model numbers you are currently using. Then,through research, identify an alternate brand or model that meets ENERGY STAR’s approval. Create a graphic organizer that compares and contrasts the results of your findings.

GM, Honda see future in fuel cells that power homes
Building green reaches a new level
States curb reliance on fossil fuels
Calif. planning green power revolution
Global warming roils Congress