Hydro-Quebec's Les Zenergetics kit provides teachers with a tool to educate fifth- and sixth-grade students about the advantages of renewable energy sources, including hydroelectricity. Through a variety of activities, students learn that renewable energy sources have minimal effects on the environment and do not produce pollution. Teachers began using the French language version of the kit in classrooms in the fall of 2008, and an English language version was to be available in January 2010.
Why the kit was developed
In the Canadian province of Quebec, 96 percent of all electricity consumed is produced by hydroelectric facilities. And provincial utility Hydro-Quebec is the largest producer of hydroelectricity in Canada, with more than 35,000 MW of capacity. As a result of its significant involvement with hydroelectricity, the utility feels it is important to educate students about renewable energy sources.
By comparing the technologies used to generate electricity, students can learn about the environmental effects of each energy source and develop a better understanding of the environmental issues associated with energy consumption. Through the kit, students discover that renewable energy sources (such as hydroelectricity, wind, and solar) have a minimal effect on the environment and produce no pollution and few greenhouse gases. Students also learn that by using renewable energy sources and making an effort to reduce consumption, each one of them can help save our planet.
Work involved in developing the kit
Hydro-Quebec began work on the Les Zenergetics kit in the fall of 2006. A variety of Hydro-Quebec personnel and outside consultants worked on the kit, including experts in communication and the environment, engineers, educators, and graphic artists. Throughout the development process, Hydro-Quebec provided the kit to teachers and pupils in the target group to test the contents. This testing indicated that the contents of the kit were in line with the province's primary school educational objectives. Both teachers and pupils commented on the originality of the kit and the varied selection of activities. Their input was invaluable in helping Hydro-Quebec make modifications to the contents and visual presentation elements, with a view to making the kit more user-friendly.
The utility determined to focus the contents of the kit on students ages 10 to 12. This group was chosen because, according to a study conducted by a firm that specializes in pedagogical tools, they are generally interested in science and the environment and receptive to learning more about these subjects. Students these ages also tend to share the information they learn with their families and friends, which will extend the reach of the program.
Contents of the kit
The kit includes a variety of materials, intended to appeal to all students in the target age group. Two virtual characters – called Zenon Zebulon and Zoe Zion – move in a cartoon universe. The characters are transformed into apprentice reporters and carry out investigations that make them aware of the place energy occupies in their lives. The characters, and thus the students, are sensitized to the effects of energy consumption on the environment. Through these characters, students also learn about the various methods of producing electricity worldwide.
Contents of the Les Zenergetics kit include:
– Seven video reports that star the two characters, designed to attract students' attention and introduce the activities in a fun and engaging way;
– Miming game that features scenes from prehistory to the present day, intended to teach students about the importance of energy in their daily lives;
– Board game, to allow players to evaluate different energy sources;
– Public consultation quiz, designed to give students a general understanding of the public consultation process, its various participants, and the topics covered; and
– Teacher's guide.
How the kit is being used
Hydro-Quebec launched the Les Zenergetics kit at an educational conference in Quebec in October 2008. Teachers were able to order the French language version of the kit on Hydro-Quebec's website, and they used it in classrooms for the first time in the fall of 2008. About 1,000 kits have been ordered at www.hydroquebec.com/professeurs/zenergetics. Feedback from teachers using the kit indicates they are pleased with the contents and presentation. Hydro-Quebec plans to continue gathering feedback, using meetings or evaluation questionnaires.
Hydro-Quebec currently is producing an English language version of the kit that will be available in January 2010.
The utility is pleased with the results of this work. The kit allows Hydro-Quebec to promote the benefits of hydroelectricity while also publicizing the advantages of renewable energy sources. And students learn how to make a difference in their world by choosing an energy source that may help slow global warming.
Throughout the process of developing the kit, Hydro-Quebec learned several valuable lessons. The first is the importance of involving a wide range of experts in the development of pedagogical tools. In addition, it is vital to hold consultation sessions with teachers and students, to ensure that the final product meets needs and expectations. Finally, you must to allow a sufficient amount of time to develop the final product.
– By Louis-Olivier Batty, media relations, Hydro-Quebec
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