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NOW with Bill Moyers

Wind Power
Starter Execises



The following adaptable classroom activities suggest various approaches for introducing and/or extending learning related to using wind power as an energy source.

1. How Is Electricity Made?
The 12/13/02 NOW WITH BILL MOYERS broadcast features a report about the use of wind power as an alternative energy source in the U.S. (Note: A free transcript of this report is available on the NOW Web site. Teachers may also tape the broadcast off-air and use it in the classroom for one year. Alternatively, programs are available for purchase from http://shop.pbs.org). During the report, the primary method of making electricity — electromagnetic induction — is mentioned. To help students better understand the differences and similarities between traditional and alternative energy sources, begin by exploring the basics of electric energy production. Divide students into groups and assign each an energy source (coal, natural gas, nuclear, wind turbine, hydro-electric). Ask the groups to make a sketch of the major components of an electrical generating station for each type of energy source. Then, ask students to compare and contrast the generating stations. Some suggested sites for information about contemporary electrical generation:

Close-Up with a Wind Turbine - NOW with BILL MOYERS
http://www.pbs.org/now/science/wind.html#turbine

Materials and Links for Helping Teach about Energy - U.S. Dept. of Energy
http://www.eia.doe.gov/kids/cc/index.html

An Energy Primer - National Science Teacher Association
http://www.nsta.org/Energy/find/primer/index.html

Generating Electricity - New South Wales Minerals Council
http://www.nswmin.com.au/education/lesson-plans/Seco-genelectricity.shtml

2. Can We Install a Wind Turbine at Our School? The 12/13/02 NOW WITH BILL MOYERS broadcast features a report about the use of wind power as an alternative energy source in the U.S. (Note: A free transcript of this discussion is available on the NOW Web site. Teachers may also tape the broadcast off-air and use it in the classroom for one year. Alternatively, programs are available for purchase from http://shop.pbs.org). During the report, a number of interviewees discuss the benefits of farming the wind for electric energy. But can a wind turbine be an effective energy producer anywhere in the country? Students can explore this topic by addressing the question, "Could we install a wind turbine at our school?" Have student groups investigate different issues related to siting a wind turbine, such as wind conditions, land requirements, zoning regulations, height requirements, etc. The following sites provide helpful information for this activity:

U.S. Wind Power Map - NOW with BILL MOYERS
http://www.pbs.org/now/science/wind.html#map

Wind Energy Program - U.S. Dept. of Energy
http://www.eren.doe.gov/wind/

Wind Powering America - U.S. Dept. of Energy (See the I Have a Question section)
http://www.eren.doe.gov/windpoweringamerica/

Guided Tour on Wind Energy -- Danish Wind Energy Association (in-depth text)
http://www.windpower.org/tour/index.htm

Wind with Miller - Danish Wind Energy Association (graphic illustrations with text)
http://www.windpower.org/en/kids/index.htm

3. The Cost of Electricity: Reading Your Electric Bill
Most students take the electricity delivered to their homes for granted and don't think much about its related costs. Help raise student awareness about the cost of electricity by turning on a 60 or 100 Watt bulb in front of the class. Ask students to estimate how much it might cost to keep it on for an hour, day or month. Continue by asking them what home appliances they think might consume the most electrical energy. Follow-up with an initial discussion of the basic unit of electrical energy (kilowatt-hour) and the method of determining how much electrical energy a light or appliance uses. Have students calculate the costs for the light bulb you showed them and compare their results to their earlier estimates. Students could also create bar graphs representing the cost to operate common items around their houses (lights, television, refrigerator, etc.) for a month. Finally, have students bring a copy of their electric bill (or record information like number of kilowatt-hours used) to class and talk about steps they might take to reduce costs and energy consumption. The following Web sites provide information and lesson ideas on electrical power costs:

Wind Power Costs v. Other Energy Sources - NOW with BILL MOYERS
http://www.pbs.org/now/science/wind2.html#costs

Electrifying Math - NASA
http://nasaexplores.com/lessons/01-058/5-8_1-t.html

What is Energy - University of Wisconsin Stevens Point
http://www.uwsp.edu/cnr/wcee/keep/Mod1/Whatis/energymeasures.htm

4. How Does the U.S. Compare to Other Countries in Electrical Production?
Coal is the leading method of producing electricity in the U.S. What are the 2nd, 3rd and 4th most common ways of electrical generation in the U.S.? How much electricity is made using wind power? Have students create a bar graph or pie chart illustrating the percentages of each method of electrical generation in the U.S. Then, have students do the same for some other countries. Alternatively, students could indicate on a world map, by color, the major energy method of producing electricity for select countries. Information about energy production is available at the following Web site:

Wind Power Use in U.S. and Europe - NOW with BILL MOYERS
http://www.pbs.org/now/science/wind2.html#compare

Energy Supplies and Production - U.S. Dept. of Energy
http://www.energy.gov/world/sub/supplies_production.html

About the Author

Kevin Murphy is currently a physics and astronomy teacher at Lyons Township High School in the Chicago suburb of LaGrange. Since beginning his career as a classroom teacher in 1986, Kevin has taught math and science in grades 7 through 12 in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois. Kevin has written for the Astronomical Society of the Pacific and his class has been featured in ASTRONOMY Magazine. He was a 1995 Illinois Finalist for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching most recently was selected as Illinois Teacher of the Year 2000.