Eco Schools: energy

Students can help identify ways their school can save energy.

Energy projects can improve your school’s energy efficiency and reduce its carbon footprint. They’re also an opportunity for students to learn about the environmental impacts of generating energy.

Project tips

An energy audit will show how much energy your school uses and which appliances use the most energy.

Students can monitor the school’s energy use to see how it changes with the seasons. They can also promote ways to save energy, both in school and at home.

A Sustainable Schools environmental education centre can help you deliver activities and integrate them with the curriculum.

Link your project to the curriculum

Learn how you can link environmental projects with the curriculum in key learning areas for student outcomes at all stages.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures

  • causes and effects of use of non-renewable resources
  • learning maps e.g. mapping causes and effects

Sustainability

  • consider environmental, cultural and economic systems in sustainability decision-making
  • conserve energy

Literacy

  • research, analyse, evaluate, communicate
  • comprehend texts
  • compose persuasive texts

Critical and creative thinking

  • think deeply and creatively
  • seek possibilities
  • consider alternatives
  • solve problems

Personal and social capability

  • make responsible decisions
  • question, solve problems, explore and display curiosity
  • make informed choices

Ethical understanding

  • be aware of own roles and responsibilities as a citizen
  • create a stance on right and wrong conduct

Asia and Australia’s engagement with Asia

  • impacts of human activities in region and globally e.g. non-renewable resources

    Information and communication technology capability

  • access, create and communicate information
  • spreadsheets and charts

Numeracy

  • construct and interpret tables and graphs
  • interpret and analyse data and statistics

Civics and citizenship

  • be informed and active citizens
  • foster individual and group involvement

Difference and diversity

  • challenge stereotypes
  • engage with opinions different to own

Intercultural understanding

  • respect cultural diversity

    Work and enterprise

  • environmental effects of energy production and consumption
  • sustainable energy companies

Science and technology

Working scientifically
  • questioning and predicting
  • planning
  • investigating
  • processing and analysing
  • communicating
Working technologically
  • exploring and defining
  • generating and developing ideas
  • producing solutions
  • evaluating
Built environments
  • design for specific purposes e.g. shade structures

HSIE: Geography and History

Geography
Features of places
  • ·natural and human features
How places are organised
  • activities that occur within places e.g. lunch in COLA (covered outdoor learning area)
Geographical concepts
  • place
  • space
  • environment
  • interconnection
History
Present and past family life
  • daily life in the past
The past in the present
  • impacts of changing technologies
Historical concepts
  • continuity and change
  • cause and effect
  • significance

Mathematics

Working mathematically
  • problem-solving
  • representation of mathematical ideas
Addition and subtraction
  • mental and written strategies, estimation
Multiplication and division
  • solve multiplication problems
  • problem-solving strategies
Fractions and decimals
  • represent fractions
Data
  • data interpretation

English

Speaking and listening
  • use persuasive language
Writing and representing
  • informative and persuasive texts
  • text structures and language features
  • audience and purpose
  • publish in different modes and media
Reading and viewing
  • comprehension strategies
  • author intent
  • sequencing
  • ·visual elements
  • fact and opinion

Personal development, health and physical education

Communicating
  • active listening
Decision making
  • making safe choices
Interacting
  • cooperating in group activities
Problem solving
  • analysing
  • planning
  • problem solving
Active lifestyle
  • daily activity
Interpersonal relationships
  • cooperating with others
  • caring for others
  • communication skills
Personal health choices
  • environmental health

Creative arts

Visual Arts
Making
  • properties of art media and tools
Appreciating
  • representations in artworks

Science and technology

Working scientifically
  • questioning and predicting
  • planning
  • investigating
  • processing and analysing
  • communicating
Working technologically
  • exploring and defining
  • generating and developing ideas
  • producing solutions
  • evaluating
Built environments
  • environmental considerations in design
Products
  • component parts of solar car kits

HSIE: Geography and History

Geography
The Earth’s environment – perception of environments
  • ways people value environments
Protection of environments
  • sustainable practices to protect environments
Geographical concepts
  • place
  • space
  • environment
  • interconnection
  • sustainability
History
Community and remembrance
  • change and continuity in daily life
Historical concepts
  • continuity and change
  • cause and effect

Mathematics

Working mathematically
  • problem-solving
  • representation of mathematical ideas
Addition and subtraction
  • mental and written strategies
  • estimation
  • calculations with money
Multiplication and division
  • solve multiplication problems
  • problem-solving strategies
Fractions and decimals
  • represent fractions
  • percentages
Data
  • data collection, interpretation

English

Speaking and listening
  • use persuasive language
Writing and representing
  • informative and persuasive texts
  • language features
  • evaluative language
  • audience and purpose
  • express a point of view
Reading and viewing
  • skimming and scanning
  • comprehension strategies
  • summarising paragraphs
  • audience, purpose, context
  • visual elements
  • language choices and devices

Personal development, health and physical education

Communicating
  • communicating within groups
Decision making
  • advantages and disadvantages of options
Interacting
  • contributing in group activities
Problem solving
  • analysing
  • planning
  • problem solving
Interpersonal relationships
  • group participation
  • communication skills
Personal health choices
  • environmental health

Creative arts

Visual arts
Making
  • creating particular effects
Appreciating
  • representations in artworks

Science and technology

Working scientifically
  • questioning and predicting
  • planning
  • investigating
  • processing and analysing
  • communicating
Working technologically
  • exploring and defining
  • generating and developing ideas
  • producing solutions
  • evaluating
Physical world
  • energy sources that can generate electricity
  • scientific knowledge can inform decisions about the use and conservation of sustainable energy sources
Built environments
  • sustainable environmental practices in design and construction e.g. solar energy
  • energy-efficient building design to meet environmental needs

HSIE: Geography and History

Geography
Factors that shape places
Factors that change environments
  • ways people change the natural environment
Humans shape places
  • how people influence places
Geographical concepts
  • place
  • space
  • environment
  • interconnection
  • sustainability
History
The Australian colonies
  • everyday life of post-1800 colonial settlement
Historical concepts
  • continuity and change
  • cause and effect

Mathematics

Working mathematically
  • problem-solving
  • representation of mathematical ideas
Addition and subtraction
  • mental and written strategies
  • estimation
  • simple financial plans
Multiplication and division
  • solve multiplication problems
  • problem-solving strategies
Fractions and decimals
  • represent fractions
  • decimal places in money
Patterns and algebra
  • word problems and number sentences
Data
  • data collection and interpretation

English

Speaking and listening
  • deliver presentations
  • discussions
Writing and representing
  • informative and persuasive texts
  • analyse persuasive devices
  • compose persuasive texts e.g. on environmental issues
  • research
Reading and viewing
  • text structures and language features for purpose
  • impact of first and third person narration
  • evaluative and emotive language
  • multimedia elements
  • audience, purpose, context
  • comprehension strategies
  • summarise texts
Responding and composing
  • compose for purpose and audience
  • strategies to influence

Personal development, health and physical education

Communicating
  • communicating in various situations
  • using negotiation skills
Interacting
  • contributing in co-operative situations
  • caring for the environment
Problem solving
  • selecting alternatives
  • planning
  • enlisting support
Interpersonal relationships
  • working relationships
  • communication skills
Personal health choices
  • environmental health

Creative arts

Visual arts
Making
  • using artistic concepts
  • audience and purpose
Appreciating
  • reasons for artworks
  • audience responses
  • representations in artworks
  • meaning of artworks

Science

Working scientifically
Earth and space

ES3–Scientific knowledge influences the choices people make in regard to use and management of the Earth’s resources

  • renewable and non-renewable
  • features of non-renewable resources
  • strategies used to conserve and manage non-renewable resources
  • viewpoints and criteria in decision making about the use of non-renewable resources

HSIE: Geography

Place and liveability
Influences and perceptions
  • perceptions of the liveability of places
Access to services and facilities
  • influence of accessibility to services and facilities on liveability
Environmental quality
  • impact of environmental quality on liveability e.g. land degradation
Geographical concepts
  • place
  • space
  • environment
  • interconnection
  • sustainability

Mathematics

Working mathematically
Computation with integers
  • compare, order, add and subtract integers in real-life situations
Fractions, decimals and percentages
  • find percentages of quantities and express one quantity as a percentage of another
  • solve a variety of real-life problems involving percentages, interpret and use statements about the environment involving percentages e.g. energy use
Financial Mathematics
  • investigate and calculate ‘best buys’
Data collection and representation
  • identify and investigate issues involving numerical data
  • collect numerical and categorical data
  • collect and interpret information from secondary sources
  • construct and compare a range of data displays

English

EN4–1A Responds to and composes texts for understanding, interpretation, critical analysis, imaginative expression and pleasure

  • structures and features of informative and persuasive texts
  • language of opinion
  • compose informative and persuasive texts

EN4–4B makes effective language choices to creatively shape meaning with accuracy, clarity and coherence

  • create informative and persuasive texts for issues

EN4–5C Thinks imaginatively, creatively, interpretively and critically to respond to and compose texts

  • express points of view and arguments on sustainability and the environment in speech or writing

EN4–7D How texts can express aspects of their world and their relationship within it

  • analyse how words, sound and images create perspectives of the same issue

Creative arts

Visual arts
Artmaking – conceptual framework
  • the world as a source of ideas and concepts to make art
  • use their diaries to research and investigate the world, including the environment
Artmaking – frames
  • cultural frame
  • use their cultural and community identities and social perspectives of interest to them in the development of ideas and interests to represent the world in the making of art

Science

Working scientifically
Physical world

PW3 Scientific understanding of current electricity has resulted in technological developments designed to improve efficiency in generation and use.

  • technological developments involving specialist teams from different branches of science, engineering and technology e.g. low-emissions electricity generation

PW4 Energy conservation in a system can be explained by describing energy transfers and transformations.

  • values and needs of society can influence the focus of scientific research in the area of increasing efficiency of electricity use
  • viewpoints and choices that need to be considered in making decisions about use of non-renewable energy sources

HSIE: Geography

Changing places
Australia’s urban future
  • management and planning of Australia’s urban future, implications for sustainability
Environmental change and management
Environmental change
  • human-induced environmental changes
Geographical concepts
  • place
  • space
  • environment
  • interconnection
  • sustainability

Mathematics

Working mathematically
5.1 Financial mathematics
  • solve problems involving money
5.1 Single-variable data analysis
  • Collect data from secondary sources involving at least one numerical and at least one categorical variable.
  • Evaluate statistical reports in the media and other places e.g. environmental data.
5.3 Bivariate data analysis
  • Investigate reports of studies in digital media and elsewhere for information on their planning and implementation.
  • Critically review surveys, polls and media reports.
  • Investigate the use of statistics and associated probabilities in shaping decisions made by governments and companies.

English

EN5–1A Responds to and composes increasingly sophisticated and sustained texts

  • Analyse ideas, information, perspectives, contexts and ideologies in texts.
  • Create sustained texts that reflect upon challenging and complex issues.

EN5–3B Uses language forms, features and structures of texts

  • Present a point of view on a subject.
  • Use persuasive language and voice effects to argue a point of view or persuade an audience.

EN5–7D Understands and evaluates the diverse ways texts can represent personal and public worlds

  • Use and analyse increasingly complex language features to present a viewpoint on issues.

Creative arts

Visual arts
Artmaking – conceptual framework
  • artworks using an extended range of material and techniques and various investigations of the world
  • make artworks that build a body of work using an extended range of materials and techniques and various investigations of the world
  • the world as a source of ideas and concepts to make art
  • develop research and investigative skills using their diary
Artmaking – frames
  • cultural frame
  • focus on issues of significance (for example, the environment) to generate ideas for artmaking and the conceptual interest of works.

Stage 1

Design and build or plant a shady area for passive play in the school grounds.

Geography

GE1–1

  • Map cool and shady areas in the school grounds and identify activities that occur there and why.
Science and technology

ST1–5WT, ST1–14BE

  • Examine the design of cool and shady areas in the school grounds. design and create models of modifications to existing areas or design a new shady and cool space.

Stage 2

Students examine solar powered model car kits.

Science and technology

ST2–16P

  • Identify the component parts of solar car kits and explain how the parts are designed to work together. Apply this knowledge to solar panels on buildings and their purpose

Stage 3

Students use solar, wind and hydro energy experiment kits.

Science and technology

ST3–6PW

  • Students make a working model to represent ideas about the different ways electricity can be generated e.g. solar, hydroelectric, geothermal, wind and wave-generated electricity.

ST3–14BE

  • Students design and make a model of an energy-efficient building.

Stage 4

Students use energy monitors to measure energy usage of application in real time to make a case for change. Students compare designs of commercially available solar ovens.

Science

SC4–13ES

  • Investigate some strategies used to conserve energy made from non-renewable resources.
  • Implement energy-saving strategies at school. Recommend the installation of energy-saving devices or those that use renewable energy sources.
Technology and Applied Studies (TAS) – food technology

5.5.2

  • Plan, prepare, present and evaluate food solutions for specific purposes that use new and emerging technologies.

Stage 5

Students investigate the school’s carbon footprint. 

Science

SC5–11PW

  • Discuss viewpoints and choices that need to be considered in making decisions about use of non-renewable energy sources.
TAS – industrial technology – engineering

5.2.2, 5.4.2, 5.5.1

Engineering principles and processes
  • Evaluate advantages and disadvantages of alternative energy systems.
  • Plan and construct or simulate a working model, prototype or full-scale alternative energy system.

Case studies

In 2013, Sofala Public School decided to reconsider how it used energy.

With the help of an Eco Schools grant, the school started a student-focused energy-efficiency project that was designed to promote both student learning and sustainable energy use.

The school started by doing an energy audit and learning about why it’s important to reduce electricity consumption. Students identified the everyday appliances that use electricity, such as computers, air conditioners and lights, and discussed how to reduce their use. They also looked at where heat was escaping from their classrooms and how this loss could be reduced. They then:

  • used thermomotors and made a temperature gauge to help them decide if air conditioning was needed or not
  • used iPads to measure light levels to decide if the lights needed to be switched on or not, and made a graph of the weather and the light levels in the classroom
  • studied renewable and non-renewable energy
  • visited a power station to learn more about where power comes from and how it is produced.

The students shared what they’d learned with the community. They made posters to promote practices such as saving water, saving energy and managing waste responsibly. They also shared the results of the monitoring program for their new solar pump. This attracted considerable interest from local farmers.

By the end of our project, our students were demonstrating a heightened awareness of sustainability, and incorporating sustainable practices into their daily lives.

Jaime Medbury, Principal, Sofala Public School

Top Tip

Make student learning the central focus of the project. Looks for ways to provide action-based learning opportunities delivered through the curriculum, and structure the project around student learning outcomes.

Before 2009, the staff and students at Kingswood High had little idea of how much power they were consuming. The school used a 2009 Eco Schools grant to buy 6 plug-in energy monitors called Power-Mates, allowing students to monitor the power being used by various appliances in ‘real time’.

Staff from 3 faculties (Science, Mathematics, and Human Society and its Environment) were trained to incorporate electrical monitoring into their classes.

  • Students in Years 7 and 8 used the Power-Mates to measure the energy consumption of common appliances.
  • Senior science students in the Environmental Science program used the Power-Mates to look at the connection between power demand and environmental impacts such as mining resources, pollution, and greenhouse gases.
  • Mathematics classes used the Power-Mates to illustrate real applications of mathematics by getting students to undertake conversions from power to energy to carbon-dioxide generation.

The Power-Mates were a simple and effective way of studying energy consumption and raising awareness of students about how they can minimise energy use at school and at home. Some teachers used the Power-Mates to measure the energy use of their own home appliances. This gave them further material to teach with.

Students presented the results of their monitoring to the School Principal and the P&C (parents and citizens) Association to support changes in the way that the school used electricity.

One of the biggest challenges the project faced was inertia – it was hard to break this and try to enforce energy reduction in both staff and students. It took quite some time and repetition to get the message across to staff about energy use, consumption and waste. The Power-Mates were fantastic. They were very simple to use, although the cost calculation function was a bit clunky. The only thing was that the students mocked the interface because it was ‘so five years ago’ – no colour screen meant the students thought they were using an old piece of equipment.

Matt Neenan, former teacher, Kingswood High School

Top Tip

Incorporate energy monitoring into a variety of different classes and curriculum areas. You need a team of teachers from a variety of subject areas for a cultural shift to be successful.


Teachers at the Illawarra Environmental Education Centre provide specialist support, expertise and equipment to schools in the Illawarra and Southeast region to help them address sustainability issues. In 2011 the centre received an Eco Schools grant, which helped it outfit a trailer, turning it into a mobile sustainability interpretation centre that helps students learn about energy.

The trailer’s equipment includes weather meters, soil thermometers, solar ovens, light meters, Power-Mate electrical meters and an energy bike which demonstrates the conversion of mechanical energy to electric energy.

The trailer has now reached thousands of students. It has featured at educational expos in southern NSW and travelled to 20 schools across the region.

The trailer gives students hands-on experience in environmental monitoring. It also builds the capacity of students and teachers to identify, investigate and act on sustainability issues. Students and teachers have been trained and helped to monitor electricity use in their schools and take actions to reduce it.

The trailer is a community resource that will continue to inspire students, teachers and the community to engage with sustainability issues in their school and local environment.

Students need to be engaged before they can apply the higher order thinking skills required for investigating environmental issues such as energy. Catalysts for engagement in sustainability education include fun and excitement. Sustainability education around environmental issues such as the reduction of greenhouse gases provides students with the opportunity to demonstrate their motivation and commitment to learning as they develop attitudes and values conducive to environmental citizenship.

Stuart DeLandre, Principal, Illawarra Environmental Education Centre

Top Tip

Make learning fun and exciting by providing a range of hands-on equipment to understand different forms of energy, and how it is created and measured.