Bi-annual Stanford Splash classes are a great opportunity for 7-12 graders to gain exposure to a range of topics. The 45 minute, student taught courses are long enough to pique curiosity but short enough to keep students engaged. Luckily, there were no bored faces at the Energy in Your Life class taught by officers of the Stanford Energy Club this past weekend.
Curious students were introduced to the energy that powers our everyday lives. The demonstrations were a big hit, allowing students to see energy conversion in action. Highlights included reacting yeast and hydrogen peroxide to turn chemical energy into thermal energy, causing the system to heat up. On the other hand, a combination of citric acid, baking soda, and water got very cold, since it results in a reaction that converts thermal energy into chemical energy.
Perhaps the largest takeaway from the class was the scale at which everyday activities use energy. A simple energy life-cycle assessment was done for a pair of jeans, from manufacture to transport to regular laundering. Based on some back of the envelope math, our students found that one pair of denim produces approximately 33 kg of CO2.
While many of the students laughed this off, a few really acknowledged the size of their impact. Although a single statistic and some baking soda might not drastically change students’ actions, it might inspire them to be more aware of their impact and of the ways in which energy shapes their world.