Power Grid: Transforming New Hampshire's Energy Future

UNIT TEMPLATE: Text-Based STEM Inquiry

The template used to create this unit provides an approach for creating a science investigation that includes text-based inquiry to build science literacy skills. The template was created to support library media specialists and STEM teacher cohorts in year two of the School Librarians Advancing STEM Learning project, led by the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management (ISKME) in partnership with Granite State University, New Hampshire, and funded by the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

Part I: Unit Title

Power Grid: Transforming New Hampshire's Energy Future

Part II: Background on LMS and Science Teacher Relationship

This lesson was created by Physics teachers Nathan Carle and Charles Swift, and Library Media Specialist Lisa Petrie. Lisa’s strengths were identified as text-based inquiry, location & evaluation of sources of information and presentation of information. Charles and Nathan’s strengths are science content knowledge, development of hands-on inquiry and creation of performance assessments.

Part III: Unit Description

This unit includes approximately 11 lessons that culminate where students will present a plan for the future of their local region’s ideal power grid. Using inquiry-based reading, students will explore an anchor text and then develop their own essential and supporting questions to guide their research. Over the course of the unit, students will develop an understanding of the interaction between electricity and magnetism relating to power transmission through hands on discovery activities and multiple texts. Students will gain a historical perspective of the development of their local region’s current power grid through a variety of texts and videos. Students will understand how electrical power is generated throughout their local region through a variety of texts and a field experience at a local power facility. 

In addition to this document all files and links are on the unit LibGuide

Part IV: Standards Addressed

NGSS Crosscutting Concepts

  • Cause and Effect: Mechanism and Prediction
  • Scale, Proportion, and Quantity
  • Systems and System Models
  • Energy and Matter: Flows, Cycles, and Conservation

NGSS Science Practices

Science Practice 6: Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions  

Science Practice 7: Engaging in Argument from Evidence

Science Practice 8: Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

CCSS Science Literacy Standards


Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of science and technical texts, attending to important distinctions the author makes and to any gaps or inconsistencies in the account. (NGSS Science Practice 8)


Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 11-12 texts and topics.(NGSS Science Practice 8)


Synthesize information from a range of sources (e.g., texts, experiments, simulations) into a coherent understanding of a process, phenomenon, or concept, resolving conflicting information when possible.

CCSS English Language Arts Standards


Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.


Present information, findings, and supporting evidence, conveying a clear and distinct perspective, such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning, alternative or opposing perspectives are addressed, and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and a range of formal and informal tasks.


Make strategic use of digital media (e.g., textual, graphical, audio, visual, and interactive elements) in presentations to enhance understanding of findings, reasoning, and evidence and to add interest.

Part V: Unit Essential Question

What does the ideal power grid look like for New Hampshire?

Part VI: Goals for Using Inquiry

The goal for using inquiry in this unit is to have students examine provided texts, develop their own supporting research questions around electricity generation, locate and use additional sources of information, and determine their own solution to the essential question.The science teacher and the library media specialist have selected an anchor text about a guide to energy in New Hampshire, and provided support for students in a set of texts that guide research around creating an ideal power grid for a particular region of the country.

Part VII: Summative Assessment Description and Rubric

Energy creation and consumption is a major concern both financially and environmentally, particularly with the world’s focus on global warming. Electricity is the form of energy that is most commonly used. Creation of electricity is only one part of the issue; once it is created how do you get it to where it is going to be used? Students will design a plan for the future of NH’s power grid. Their plan will include AC vs. DC power, environmental impacts, types of power generation, etc., based on their research and scientific theory.

Project Sheet


Part VIII: Prior Knowledge Needed

(This description includes both science content and literacy skills.)

  • An understanding of the atom
  • An understanding of voltage, current and resistance
  • A basic understanding of series and parallel circuits
  • A basic understanding of magnetism
  • An understanding of basic research strategies, i.e. locating & evaluating sources of information
  • An ability to read a moderately complex text independently
  • A basic understanding of presentation mechanics

Part IX: Student Learning Objectives

(This breakdown includes both science content and literacy skills.)

  1. The student will be able to describe what a power grid is by presenting scientifically accurate information in their presentation.
    1. The student will be able to accurately incorporate the ideas of power and energy into their final product.
    2. The student will be able to identify the role of AC and DC current, transformers and lines in power transmission by presenting scientifically accurate information in their presentation.
    3. Students will be able to accurately describe the advantages and disadvantages of different types of power generation, including collection of the energy resources and conversion to electrical energy.
  1. Students will be able to make observations, ask questions and analyze graphical representations of data, attending to important trends and to any gaps or inconsistencies in the data by incorporating appropriate graphs into their final project.
  2. The student will be able to support their conclusions by using textual evidence, data and precise details from a variety of texts to design an ideal power grid.
  3. The student will be able to demonstrate new learning by effectively presenting their design to peers and local government officials.

Part X: Text Set Description

(Used by the teacher and library media specialist as they analyze the purpose and goal of each text they provide to the students.)

Text Title & HyperlinkText Purpose (discuss complexity of the text along with its purpose/goal )Text-Dependent Questions (created by the teacher/librarian to help students analyze the text in a specific sequence)Accommodations for Diverse Learners
An Unplugged Guide to Energy in NH

PDF Version

(NOTE: Publisher grants permissions for this text in its original form to be used broadly for educational purposes and linked from this unit of study for use by other educators. Please credit the author appropriately when using this work. The author and publisher retain commercial rights.)
Our anchor text is designed to provide science content about the basic principles of electricity and the electricity grid while provoking student engagement around the essential question:What does the ideal power grid look like for New Hampshire?The Lexile level of the text is 1300L which is at the higher end of the “stretch Lexile band” for students in grade 11-12.Linked here is the Qualitative Analysis of Text Complexity.Anchor Text TDQsTier-Two vocabulary will be chosen ahead of time and a definition will be added as footnotes to copies of the text. 

Specific chunks of anchor text will be chosen ahead to support students in breaking the reading down into manageable sections. 

Copies of the anchor text as it originally appeared in the print (color) version will be provided to students who might struggle with the online format.

Teacher will present students will an additional vocab list that defines the "big ideas" related to unit of study.

Supporting Text #1Understanding the Grid{Optional qualitative and quantitative analysis}1. How does this text provide evidence that supports or contradicts information in the anchor text? 

2. According to the infographic, what are the four basic steps of the electricity "life cycle"? 

3. Which section of the infographic addresses issues related to a smart grid?
Supporting Text #2How much do you spend on energy?Help Students develop NGSS Practice # 1:
Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering)
Make an observation and come up with question based on observation of data.  For example: In NH you notice that the residential cost and the transportation cost were similar before the year 2000 but the residential increases by 30% from the year 2000 to 2008 but the transportation cost increases by 100%. What factors may have resulted in this difference?
 Supporting Text #4
Electric Pole Info-graphic
Students become familiar with parts of an electric poleDay 7 of outline

1. Do you think all poles have this same set-up?

2. What aspects do you think all poles must have in common?  Why?  
Supporting text #5
ISO New England-Key Stats
Students engage in NGSS Practices
#4:  Analyzing and interpreting data; and
#7: Engaging in argument from evidence, while getting an understanding of the current and future energy mix on new England.
 See Day 8+9 of outline 
Supplemental Texts: LibGuide: Power Grid This text set is a collection of readings, graphics and video that can be accessed by students to supplement the anchor and supporting texts. Students may use these texts to reinforce information taught in earlier lessons, and as resources for their final project.Currently there are no text-dependent questions for these texts. These texts are written/produced at a variety of reading and interest levels. Some readings are longer and more scientific; others are brief.

Part XI: Suggested Lesson Breakdown/Pacing

DayStudent Learning ObjectivesAligned Student Learning Task and Suggested TimingFormative AssessmentImportant Accommodations
Day 1: 50 Minute periodTSWBAT implement reading strategies for a complex scientific text by participating in a guided text discussion.Teacher will present Question of the Day (QOD): What is a power grid?

Teacher and LMS will introduce the project. 

LMS will introduce students to LibGuide

Teacher and LMS will introduce strategies for reading and annotating anchor text.

Students will follow along as Teacher and LMS begin a guided reading of anchor text.

Students will annotate anchor text, as needed.

Teacher will ask for group responses to QOD to activate learning and check for background knowledge on the topic of power grids.

The teacher and LMS will monitor student questions looking for areas where students are making connections with the text, looking specifically for when the students highlight areas where they need more information/clarification as well as where they are making connections to their world. Teachers will also note when students are engaging with the text in a thoughtful, inquisitive manner.
The LMS will create an online LibGuide in advance. The LibGuide will include links to the project sheet, rubric, anchor & supporting texts, and supplemental resources for independent student inquiry and exploration.

The teacher/LMS will provide students with a print copy of the anchor text as an alternative to the format of the text as it is published online.

The LMS will provide students access to tier two and tier three vocabulary. 
Day 2: 110 minute blockTSWBAT demonstrate understanding of important vocabulary by answering an exit survey. TSWBAT identify how their home use affects how much energy they use using the energy audit.Students will form small groups to discuss supporting text #1, Understanding the Grid. Teachers will ask students to re-examine their answers to yesterday's QOD based on new information from this supporting text.

Students will follow along as Teacher/LMS conclude guided reading of anchor text. Students make annotations, as needed. 
From text, students will define and discuss concepts of power, energy, and kilowatt hour. 

Working in small groups, students will examine Average Price of Electricity, Monthly chart in the anchor text.

Students will engage in a lab to “audit” their energy use, and will begin to fill out the energy usage chart.

Energy Audit Lab
Teacher and LMS will check for understanding as students work in small groups to revise their answer to QOD #1.

Assess understanding of anchor text by guided discussion. 
Assess understanding of power and energy by exit survey.

Teacher will check for understanding as students share their responses to question: "According to the chart, does NH have the highest average monthly cost of electricity? If so, what is your evidence?"

Day 3:  4:  50+110  minute block

TSWBAT defend claims based on evidence from text by engaging in the claim evidence discussion.

TSWBAT identify how they are billed for their energy usage by examining their energy usage.

TSWBAT create questions based on graphs by creating and sharing questions from the text.

Students will circle back to/complete Energy Audit Lab

Students will refer to the document, Understanding My Electric Bill, as they begin to analyze energy bills brought into class from home.  Students will explore a couple of alternate options for energy providers and the idea of buying "green" energy.

If time allows, clips from Modern Marvels: Mad Electricity, and The War of the Currents, will be shown to preview the coming content.

Teacher will check for understanding while students share responses recorded on the document Understanding My Electric Bill.

Day 5+6+7: 50, 110, and 50 minute block

TSWBAT explain the role of AC and DC current in the long distance transmission of power by completing the transmission lab.Day 5: Question of the Day (QOD): According to the anchor text what are the transformers outside your home doing?  

What is the difference between transmission and distribution?

Transmission Lines

Day 6: QOD Why do transformers only work with AC?

Day 7  
QOD: What's on an Electric Power Pole?: Infographic 

Transmission Line Lab write up.
Day 8: 110 minute blockTSWBAT use texts and graphs to generate questions about power plant usage and distribution.QOD:
Where on the power grid would you find a step-up transformer? What is that transformer doing? How does the primary coil compare to the secondary coil? 

Power Loss Demo

Power Plant Reading

Students will turn in Power Loss Demo paperwork.

Students will work in partners on power plant reading and submit final answers electronically.

Day 9-10: 35 minute and 110 minute blocksTSWBAT research and present information in an online format.QOD:
What types of power plants contribute to New Hampshire's power grid?

How do the power plants get their resources? (LMS introduce presentation format as well as reinforcing source citations and evaluation of information. Kids pick one of three online newsletter formats and introduce “Where does the resource come from?” mini-presentations.)

Online presentation.
Peer Feedback
Day 11: 50 minute blockTSWBAT understand how a reporter gathers and presents information using text and graphs.Discussion with anchor-text author, Sam Evans-Brown.Student engagement and participation.
Day 12-15:TSWBAT defend their plan for the future power grid of New England by presenting their power grid to their peers.
TSWBAT understand the role of policy in shaping the power grid of the future
Role of Politics -(This sheet works well in the election year but will have to be reworked next year)

Final Project -- work time
Summative assessment only.

Week laterPower Plant Field Trip

Part XII: Attachment of Student Work Examples

Student Mini-Presentation on Resources Click on the name of a resource to see the student info graphic.  Each block is a different class.

Student Final Presentations  

Part XIII: Teacher and Librarian Reflection on the Implementation of the Lesson

Physics Teacher: This project has been such a change from what normally happens in physics.  I love the emphasis on scientific literacy and skills over seeing the kids start the year struggling with math.  The students have found it engaging and are asking great questions.  There is a daily blog on the libguide with details about each day

Library Media Specialist: I was surprised how comfortable the students were heading into this really involved unit. They didn't seem intimidated, at all, about the number of lessons, pacing of the unit, complexity of the assessment, or new science content. From day one, they approached each Question of the Day with an open mind, and let discovery for answers to those questions guide their work. I give all the credit to Nathan and Charles for managing the time frame for this unit so well, and providing an inquiry focus every day. Often they would return to previous questions to see if students had gained further insight. 

Regarding open educational resources, I was a bit nervous about the fact that our anchor text isn't traditionally "open ed". We did gain permission from the publisher to use the text in its original form broadly for educational purposes. Still we did include several truly open ed resources in our text set, and they were incredibly helpful to the kids.  We've come to rely on these sources more than we imagined, and students identified some of the organizational websites as great sources of info for their mini-research projects. As a whole, the Open Educational Resources platform was a fantastic discovery for us. We intend to create additional resources and upload them, as well.

This was an outstanding collaboration for the three of us. We already have another collaborative unit in the works! Nathan and Charlie are hands-on inquiry experts, but text-based inquiry is actually pretty new for them. We were all thrilled with the anchor text, and pleased to see that the kids returned frequently to these resources to reinforce their learning. It's a great project!

School Librarians Advancing STEM Learning, Granite State University, Concord, NH, February 2016. Funding provided by IMLS.

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