Should water power our energy future?

Questions to hold on to

  • Why are the waves described as powerful / big?
  • What would the power of the waves feel like?
  • What does this make you wonder?
  • Could humans harness wave power?  How?

Add to your thinking

The Digital Notebook is a space to hold your thoughts, questions, and growing understanding throughout this Unit.  You will be able to access it from every Module. Use The Digital Notebook to jot your thinking, take notes, or as a space to develop your writing. You can print and export it anytime, and at the end of lesson 8 you’ll be reminded to save a copy for yourself.

Lights On! Ike Hoover Electrifies the White House by Cynthia Simmelink Becker

Read Along with the Video

Roll over to see a synopsis and links to read-along text
In 1890, Ike Hoover was sent by the Edison Electric Company to assist in the wiring of the White House for electric lights. Like many Americans at the time, President Benjamin Harrison and his wife were extremely afraid of electricity. In fact, the Harrisons were so afraid they didn’t want to turn the lights on and off.
Read Full Story

A visualisation from the infographic book for children, Animal Kingdom book which will be published in April. Illustration by Nicholas Blechman

Infographics for children: what they can learn from data visualisations

When my daughter was three and out for a walk on an autumn day, she pointed at a spider’s web and explained what it was. “Daddy, it’s a website,” she said. It was a visual way to describe a word she had heard but didn’t yet understand. And information graphics and visualisations give us a method to do the reverse: use images to describe a story in a way that we can understand. Read More

WSL Big Wave At Large is a new series that tracks swells and deploys strike teams into the eye of the storm to capture the best big wave surfers as they put it all on the line.

Infographics are insanely popular today with the number of available images increasing by 1% every single day, but where did they come from?

Standards & BlueTech Alignment

Anchor Phenomenon The Hoover Dam
Essential Question Should water power our energy future?
Student Action / Outreach Students reach out to civic leaders to campaign for sustainable energy.
Career Connection Engineer, Hydrologist 
Blue Tech Alignment / Ocean Literacy Principles (OLP) OLP 3: The ocean is a major influence on weather and climate. (3-5)
Water Issue(s) Addressed Conservation, Sustainable Clean Energy
Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) Assessment: 4-ESS3-1: Obtain and combine information to describe that energy and fuels are derived from natural resources and their uses affect the environment. [Clarification Statement: Examples of renewable energy resources could include wind energy, water behind dams, and sunlight; nonrenewable energy resources are fossil fuels and fissile materials. Examples of environmental effects could include loss of habitat due to dams, loss of habitat due to surface mining, and air pollution from burning of fossil fuels.]

Link to Evidence Statement

Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)
Literacy Standards CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.4.1

Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.


Determine the main idea of a text and explain how it is supported by key details; summarize the text.


Introduce a topic or text clearly, state an opinion, and create an organizational structure in which related ideas are grouped to support the writer’s purpose.


Develop the topic with facts, definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples related to the topic.

Visual Arts VA:Cr1.1.4a  Brainstorm multiple approaches to a creative art or design problem.

VA:Cr1.2.4a Collaboratively set goals and create artwork that is meaningful and has purpose to the makers.


Progression of Modules 

Link to Phenomena Board

Module 1

Inquiry Launch

Students explore the Hoover Dam and do a home energy audit to consider how we use energy and what role energy plays in our lives.

Module 2

Hands-on Investigation

Students explore different types of energy, ways that energy is transferred, and different systems.

Module 3

Inquiry Deep Dive

Students read texts about different ways humans use energy for a variety of purposes.

Module 4

Career Connection

Students are introduced to different careers in renewable energy such as a hydrologist, mechanical, civil and electrical engineer.

Module 5

Student Action

Students create infographics to share about the use of renewable or nonrenewable energy resources. 

Module 6

Engineering & Design

Students  complete a design project that demonstrates a form of renewable energy with low environmental impact.

Module 7

Reflection & Assessment 

Module 8



In this module, students explore their everyday energy use. They do an energy audit around their home to determine what takes energy, and hypothesize where that energy comes from. They start to notice and wonder about the energy used by different everyday objects and model their theories about how that energy gets to them. 

The following videos are intended to offer students a sense of the sheer power of water.  The first two videos offer waves only, the third features surfers on monster waves.  This provides students a better sense of the size and speed of the waves. Kayaking is a narrative short film and Victoria Falls is a compilation showing the power of waterfalls. The water pressure video shows a demonstration with a firefighters hose and the Jet pack video features a world champion and how water can literally lift someone up into the air.

Note: Both wave videos are quite long, but viewing the entire video is not necessary.


Powerful Ocean Waves

Huge Waves

Big Wave At Large

Kayaking the Most Dangerous Waterfalls

Pipeline Uncontestable

Power of Water Pressure

Jetpack World Champion

Victoria Falls

  • What are you thinking?
  • Why are the waves described as powerful / big?
  • What would the power of the waves feel like?
  • What does this make you wonder?
  • Could humans harness wave power?  How?


After video, capture/chart  – What are we noticing and wondering about the power of water?  

Students will learn about how energy works and how various technologies that use water for power are developing around the world. They will write claims and decide if water should power our energy future, and if so, how. 


Launch the Anchoring Phenomenon 

Image Source – click here


Description of Phenomenon: The Hoover Dam represents both a relic of the past and the future of water power. 

Ask students the following questions about the anchor phenomenon. Be sure not to give anything away at this point. This is a time to elicit students’ wonderings and gather prior knowledge.

  • What do you know about dams?
  • What do you wonder?
  • What does this remind you of?


Introduce the essential question:

Should water power our energy future?

Have students write an initial claim in their inquiry notebooks based on their prior knowledge and give them a chance to use any evidence they may already have on the issue to back up their reasoning.

Explain that they will come back to explain this phenomenon over the course of the unit and their initial claims may change as they gain more information.

In this unit, students will be reading to understand what energy is, where it comes from, and to gather facts and data to help them understand energy usage and the effect on our planet.  Each module will have suggested read alouds to engage them in thinking and talking about the information and issues concerning energy.  If possible, links to digital read alouds are provided.

Independent reading should be designed for immersion in information and issues of energy use.  The understanding students construct and their evolving beliefs about energy use will propel their work in the writing workshop.  For this work, students will need access to a range of texts about renewable and nonrenewable energy sources, energy usage, and the effects on our planet.  Each module suggests print and digital texts as examples of thoughtful options. You will need to check your library, science textbooks, and gather online options to fuel the work.



To build on student prior knowledge, ask students to think about different everyday objects at home and at school that use energy, such as a toaster that heats up when plugged into an electrical outlet, a tablet computer whose bright screen shines using a battery, and a car that moves using gasoline.

Create a class chart of all of the ways that students use energy at home and/or school.


Introduce the Question to Investigate: How do we use energy and what role does energy play in our lives?

Students share what they think as the teacher allows all possible responses. Again, students are formulating their inquiry around what they think they already know and then seeking how they will find out through the unit. 

Students then take a look around their home to guess what kinds of energy vampires (or items that suck out energy) they might have. Here is one example guide for them to use – click here



In this unit, students will be reading a mix of nonfiction and realistic fiction focused on sources of energy.  They  will explore human’s dependence on energy, and understand the distinction between sustainable and unsustainable sources, and preferences for one or the other, with an emphasis on energy generated by water, using details to construct big ideas, and form and state their own opinions about those ideas. 


Read Aloud

In Module 1, the suggested read alouds will open conversations about our growing dependence on energy, using a secondary source of energy we take for granted – electricity – as an example. The suggested texts move children from a time before electricity to the first homes to be lit by electricity, to its prevalence in modern life, and then, times when electricity fails us.  As you read, invite students to think and talk about how we’ve become dependent on electricity, and engage them in thinking about energy sources for electricity, and the implications of our dependence.

  • How has electricity affected our lives?
  • How has electricity use changed over time?
  • How did this change the way we live?
  • What energy sources supply our electricity?  How has this changed over time?
  • Will we always have access to that energy source?


Possible read aloud texts:

Peppe the Lamplighter by Elisa Bartone

Timeless Thomas: How Thomas Edison Changed Our Lives  by Gene Barretta

Lights On! Ike Hoover Electrifies the White House by Cynthia Simmelink Becker

Blackout by John Rocco


Chart student thoughts, and encourage them to hold on to this thinking as they head into independent reading to research energy.  Invite them to add new thinking to the chart based on their research.


Shared and Small Group Reading

Recommendations for leveled and Fourth Grade NGSS-aligned texts for shared and small group reading are included in the Blue Tech materials matrix.  Shared reading instruction for this unit should include the overarching meaning making strategies as outlined in this unit.

Additionally, shared and small group reading should include focus points specific to the nonfiction genre.  This genre specific instruction will support children’s meaning making in both read aloud and independent reading.  Focus points for the nonfiction genre shared and small group reading in Fourth Grade may include any focus points included in the previous grade level which require added support, and:

  • Reading visual representations of data
  • Using data to construct meaning
  • Comparing and contrasting data to infer larger meaning, author purpose, and author point of view
  • Notice the ways visuals create added  layers of information


Independent Reading

As children read independently and research energy, have them keep an inquiry notebook to jot their thoughts, and any intriguing data and facts.  As they will be drawing from their data and facts to develop infographics, teach them how to cite the source as they gather. You might also have them add the page number if pulling data from a print text.  This way, they’ll be better able to double check their data should the need arise.

See #9 in the link below for a sample of how to cite data in preparation for their infographic:

10 Infographic Traits


Possible research support:

NASA Climate Kids: 10 Interesting Things About Energy

KPBS Learning Media Physical Science

DK Find Out! Facts About Energy For Kids



Students add their ideas about where they think energy comes from to their inquiry notebooks after reading the texts and learning from the research supports.


Writing Workshop

In this unit, children will be writing to share compelling information about energy in an effort to persuade readers to consider advocating for sustainable sources.  To entice students to engage with data and information thoughtfully, they will be focused on creating infographics. 

Module 1 begins with explorations of infographics as mentor texts.  Choose a variety of infographics for children to explore.  Give them time to read, reread, discuss and enjoy.  Then, have them begin to sort the infographics:

  • What is an infographic?
  • Which infographics catch your eye?  Why?
  • Which gets you thinking about big ideas, and which are confusing?   
  • What’s the difference?


Next, children dig deeper into infographics, focusing on their elements, inclusive of both information and design:

  • How do the authors of infographics focus their readers on big ideas?
  • What kind of data, or facts, do they include (Compare and contrast? Timeline? All about? What else?)?
  • How does this data back up their big idea(s)?
  • What is the ratio between words and visuals? How is this supportive?
  • How are the visuals arranged on the page? 
  • What is the balance between image and white space?
  • What do you notice about fonts and color schemes?


For more information on infographics – click here

Possible mentor texts for this work include:

Infographics for Children: What They Can Learn From Data Visualization

In the Know About H2O

Are Canadian Children Getting Enough Sleep?

Earth by the Numbers by Steve Jenkins

Insects by the Numbers by Steve Jenkins

Solar System by the Numbers by Steve Jenkins

Infographics: How It Works “Our Planet” by Jon Richards and Ed Simkins 

Awesome Space: 40 Amazing Infographics For Kids by Jenn Dlugos and Charlie Hatton

The History of Infographics


Be sure to study strong examples of infographics, and some that don’t work as well.  Study each to determine the difference:

  • What makes some infographics clear, and others confusing?



Engage students in an energy audit. Identify things you use at home or school that you really need or don’t need energy for. Try this home energy audit from the Oregon Department of Energy – click here

Begin an Earth Hour challenge with students to see if they can reduce their energy use – click here



How does energy affect your everyday life?

Complete the Phenomena Board with the class and share back what they did and what they figured out. They make a connection from their learning in this module back to the Anchor Phenomenon.


Phenomena Board

Investigative Phenomenon Question to investigate What we did What we figured out Connections to the phenomenon Questions we still have
Home/School energy use.


People use devices that require energy to power them.

How do we use energy and what role does energy play in our lives? Explore different things that need energy.

Read about how humans use energy. 

Energy powers things we use everyday. 

Energy use has evolved over time. We use energy everyday in various ways without even thinking about it.

The Hoover Dam provides energy to power many of the devices we use daily. Complete with students.

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