Making connections: Elementary students’ ideas about electricity and energy resources

Eileen Merritt, Nicole Bowers, Sara E. Rimm-Kaufman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


The development of energy literacy for all citizens is critical as we face climate change and rapid depletion of existing energy resources. This study explores energy literacy development in fourth grade classrooms. Our team developed a curriculum on energy resources aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards. We then trained teachers how to implement the program and support their students’ engagement in a service-learning project related to energy conservation. We used qualitative methods to analyze students’ open-ended responses from an energy literacy assessment. Students were familiar with solar, hydropower and wind energy, and suggested that solar energy should be used more in the future. Students were more easily able to explain energy transfer in wind turbines and solar panels than in other electricity production systems. Students learned important energy and natural resource concepts in the context of an environmental service-learning program. Discussion focuses on the importance of integrated science instruction that helps students see how their electricity use impacts the environment, and provides them with opportunities to take action. We also suggest important ways that renewable energy companies can contribute to energy and climate literacy initiatives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1078-1086
Number of pages9
JournalRenewable Energy
StatePublished - Aug 2019


  • Climate literacy
  • Elementary science
  • Energy literacy
  • Next generation science standards
  • Renewable energy resources
  • Service-learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment


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