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Energy-Efficient House Design Project with Grade 8 Students

Designing a solution to the real-world issue of excessive energy production requires understanding of different scientific methods. With Middle School Science teacher Paulomi Aldo, eighth-grade students turned their classroom unit study of thermal energy and heat transfer into a project-based learning activity and presentation.

Applying their knowledge of energy concepts, students worked together in small groups to brainstorm and design two energy-efficient model houses that would be pitched to potential investors in a mock investment presentation similar to the television show, Shark Tank.

“Project-based learning allows the students to fully absorb the curriculum and learn it in a fun, but informative way,” said Mrs. Aldo. “The project is rooted in how to make sustainable energy-efficient housing work with the ever-changing temperatures. Letting the students be innovative and decide how they want to build the model houses gives them the opportunity to apply real-world application to a class activity.”

The first model house, also referred to as the “cold house,” illustrated how light colors and materials reflect radiant sun energy rays to keep the house temperature regulated while the second model house, or the “hot house,” used dark colors to trap and absorb heat. Students used different recyclable items such as aluminum, white plaster, and cotton balls to build the first house and foam, black paint, black tape, insulation, and plastic wrap for the second house.

For their presentation, students were given three to five minutes to pitch their homes to the investors. Each group discussed how their model houses promoted energy savings and thermal regulation. Some groups included video demonstrations along with their verbal pitch. All the groups asked investors for a monetary investment for a share of the product. Following the presentation, the groups were welcomed to de-construct their projects and recycle the materials.

Along with the presentation, students were required to complete an individual report detailing their hypothesis on thermal energy transfer, charting the data of the temperature change between the two houses, and concluding what materials are best for creating an energy-efficient house.
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