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MIT Environmental Solutions Initiative


9th, 10th, 11th, 12th


Science, Physics, Earth and Space Sciences, Mathematics

Resource Types

  • Lesson Plans
  • Podcasts, 5 minutes, 6 seconds
  • Articles and Websites
  • Charts, Graphs, and Tables
  • Worksheets

Regional Focus

North America, United States



Energy and Climate Change

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  • This lesson plan teaches students the distinctions between energy and electricity and improves their data analysis skills. 
  • Students will explore graphs of data on the United States' generation and consumption of electricity and energy to help further differentiate the terms and to evaluate climate solutions. 
Teaching Tips


  • The student pages include a glossary of energy sources and if each is considered low CO2  or renewable. 
  • The Educator Guide includes student objectives, standards, skills addressed, what students should already know, a table of contents with time stamps, and other helpful information to effectively teach the lesson.
  • Students make future predictions based on the data.

Additional Prerequisites

  • Teachers can download the full Educator Guide as a PDF at the top of the page.
  • Teachers can scroll down to separately download the teacher pages, student pages, and tips for using the Educator Guide.


  • Try assigning the podcast as homework, as it directly addresses misconceptions around using energy and electricity interchangeably, while the worksheet dives deeper into the data on electricity and energy and can be completed during class in groups.
  • Before teaching the lesson, students can make a prediction about the difference between electricity and energy, and then update their responses after the lesson or podcast.
  • Students can identify which sectors produce the most CO2 and propose policies for the United States based on the graphs they explore in the lesson.
  • Other resources related to these topics include this lesson on the electric grid as it relates to climate change, this interactive map on global access to electricity, and this video on the amount of clean electricity needed to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.
Scientist Notes
This resource is a full lesson plan and includes a short (~5 minute) podcast that examines the difference between energy and electricity. Namely, energy is a catch-all for various forms of energy (heat, electricity, etc.) while electricity is a specific example of energy. Energy is neither created nor destroyed but could be transformed from one form to the other. This resource is intended to ensure that listeners understand the disparity, the process and how energy is produced, transmitted and consumed. In addition, the resource contains educator guide for students to map, analyze and interpret the US energy and electricity data, and also gain deep insights to articulate policies for a just transition to clean energy. This resource is recommended for classroom.
  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • HS-ESS3-4 Evaluate or refine a technological solution that reduces impacts of human activities on natural systems.
  • Common Core English Language Arts Standards (CCSS.ELA)
    • Reading: Informational Text (K-12)
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.9-10.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
    • Reading: Science & Technical Subjects (6-12)
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.9-10.10 By the end of grade 10, read and comprehend science/technical texts in the grades 9-10 text complexity band independently and proficiently.
    • Speaking & Listening (K-12)
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.11-12.2 Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) in order to make informed decisions and solve problems, evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source and noting any discrepancies among the data.
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