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Day 9: Students debate the pros/cons of government involvement in energy conservation


Language Arts, Science, Social Studies  


7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12  

Title – Do Something about… the Environment 10-Day Unit
Day 9: The Politics of Energy Conservation
By – Jordyn Wells/Do Something, Inc./
Primary Subject – Science
Secondary Subjects – Social Studies, Language Arts
Grade Level – 7-12

Unit Information:

      The following lesson is the ninth lesson of a 10-day

      Environment Curricula from Do Something, Inc.

      Other lessons in this unit are as follows:

Day 1: Introduction

      Introduction to global warming, energy conservation and how rising temperatures affect us locally

Day 2: Its Getting Hot In Here! – The Science of Global Warming

      Students learn about greenhouse gases and the power of language

Day 3: The Consequences of Global Warming

      Students learn about the potential consequences of global warming

Day 4: If the shoe fits… Learning about Ecological Footprints

      Students examine their own energy consumption and conservation

Day 5: How Green Is Your School

      Students learn how schools can participate in energy conservation

Day 6: Energy Hog – Who’s using up all the energy?

      Students compare U.S. energy use to that of other countries

Day 7: Renewable Energy Sources

      Students explore different types of renewable energy sources

Day 8: Renewable Energy – How Do You See It?

      Students discuss the pros/cons of renewable energy

Day 9: The Politics of Energy Conservation (See the lesson below)

      Students debate the pros/cons of government involvement in energy conservation

Day 10: Presentation Day

    Students present their energy conservation projects

Lesson 9: The Politics of Energy Conservation


  • To debate the pros/cons of governmental involvement in energy conservation


  • Geography Standard 14: Understands how human actions modify the physical environment
  • Geography Standard 18: Understands global development and environmental issues
  • Language Arts Standard 8: Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purpose
  • Life Skills Thinking and Reasoning Standard 5: Applies basic trouble-shooting and problem-solving techniques
  • Life Skills Thinking and Reasoning Standard 1: Understands and applies the basic principles of presenting an argument
  • Civics Standard 2: Understands the essential characteristics of limited and unlimited governments
  • Civics Standard 23 : Understands the impact of significant political and nonpolitical developments on the US and other nations


      1. Heat-up:

        Begin your class by asking students if they believe that energy consumption is a problem and if the government should play a role in preventing it? Should the government limit people’s energy consumption? Or should this be up to individuals?

      2. Ask students what techniques can governments use to influence global warming?

        (Policies, taxes, treaties, laws, trade, research)

        Discuss how these techniques can influence global policy and individual people’s actions?

      3. Tell students that global warming has become a very political issue that is often decided through party lines. Explain to students that today students will be exploring both sides of global warming and then having a debate.
      4. Provide Background:

        Split students into two groups: those who want the government to take an active role in preventing global warming and those who do not believe global warming to be a serious enough of a problem that merits government involvement. Have students read the following articles to determine arguments that are pro and con and make notes for their side.
        PBS provides a number of interviews of climatologists, politicians, and those in the business world presenting different perspectives:

        You may want to have your high school student take a look at the following websites to find further information:

        Business organizations that call on strong government action to prevent global warming:

      5. Synthesize: Set up a debate in your classroom.

        Line debate: Create groups of four students – two that are anti- government involvement and two that are pro-government involvement. The groups of four students should face each other. Have one of the sides begin the debate. Only one person may talk at a time. Then have the other side present their ideas. Finally each group can present a rebuttal. During the debate, call a spotlight on certain groups of four by having the rest of the class sit down and listen to the arguments being presented. They can then use those arguments in their own debates. At the very end, ask them quickly to switch positions and argue for the other point of view.

    6. Take Action:

      Continue working on your take action projects and develop a presentation of your work for Lesson 10.

Additional Activities:

  • Social Studies/Language Arts: Research the Kyoto Protocol and discuss the issues around the U.S .signing the treaty.
  • Social Studies/Language Arts: Choose your favorite politician and research their stance on energy conservation.

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