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Wind Provides Electricity for Homes, Schools




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Grades 2-up

News Content

Windmills, which used to dot the landscape, are making a comeback.

Anticipation Guide

Draw a KWL Chart on chart paper or a black/whiteboard. Write the word Windmill at the top of the chart. Invite students to help you fill out the first column with things they know about windmills, how they are used, and how they work. Then solicit from students things they would like to know about windmills and write those things in the second column (the W column) on the chart. Set the chart aside until after students read this weeks News for Kids article, Wind Provides Electricity for Homes, Schools. Revisit the chart when you get to the Comprehension Check part of this lesson.

News Words

Next, introduce these words that appear in the News Word Box on the students printable page: rural, wind turbine, generate, popular, electricity, and landscape.

In order to understand what a wind turbine looks like, and to differentiate it from the old-fashioned windmill with which students might be familiar, you might share this picture.
Discuss the meanings of any of those words that might be unfamiliar. Then ask students to use one of those words to complete each of these sentences:

  • Cars come in many colors, but white and black cars seem to be the most _____ ones. (popular)

  • Does it take more _____ to power a lamp or a toaster? (electricity)

  • Many _____ communities are too small to have their own movie theater. (rural)

  • Cactus plants were scattered over the dry, sandy _____ of the desert. (landscape)

  • The tall _____ towered over the trees and houses of the community. (wind turbine)

  • Powerful waterfalls are used to _____ electricity for people who live in Niagara Falls, New York. (generate)

    Read the News

    Click for a printable version of this weeks news story Wind Provides Electricity for Homes, Schools.

    You might use a variety of approaches to reading the news:

  • Read aloud the news story to students as they follow along.

  • Students might first read the news story to themselves; then you might call on individual students to read sections of the news aloud for the class.

  • Photocopy the news story onto a transparency and project it onto a screen. (Or use your classroom computer's projector to project the story.) Read the story aloud as a class, or ask students to take turns reading it.

  • Arrange students into small groups. Each student in the group will read a paragraph of the story. As that student reads, others might underline important information or write notes in the margin of the story. After each student finishes reading, others in the group might say something -- a comment, a question, a clarification -- about the text.
  • More Facts to Share

    You might share these additional facts with students after they have read this weeks news story.

  • For many years, farmers used windmills to provide power, grind grain, or pump water.

  • Water-pumping windmills enabled farmers and ranchers to work large areas of North America where water was not readily available. They also enabled the expansion of railroads; water pumped from wells was used to power steam locomotives. (This type of power is still used in some remote parts of the world today.)

  • Large numbers of windmills were rendered obsolete when the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) delivered electric power lines to many rural communities between 1930 and 1960.

  • In recent years, increasing energy prices have led to resurgence in the use of wind energy to provide for our electricity needs. Todays windmills are more commonly referred to as wind turbines or wind generators.

  • Wind turbines produce no pollution. Over its life, a small residential wind turbine can offset approximately 1.2 tons of air pollutants and 200 tons of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide and other gases that cause climate change).

  • A wind system will usually recoup its investment through utility savings within six to 15 years; after that, the electricity it produces will be virtually free.

  • Some energy companies are developing "wind farms," which are groups of wind turbines with rotors (propellers) that range from 60 to 100 feet in diameter and sit atop towers of roughly the same height. Wind turbines used for residential or small business purposes are much smaller; rotors are typically 10 feet or fewer and are mounted atop towers of 50 feet or fewer in height.

  • Altamont Pass, a mountain pass in northern California, is home to the worlds largest wind farm; the farm has about 4,500 wind turbines. It is estimated that the turbines, which are located along a bird migratory route, have caused the deaths of 1,000 birds or more each year. As the old turbines are retired, they are being replaced by larger units that turn more slowly and are elevated higher. Experts say the new turbines should be less of a hazard to birds.

  • In December, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would provide grants, low-interest loans, and tax credits for people who install residential turbines.

  • Some towns have banned wind turbines because of the way they look. Some other towns allow them only if neighbors are willing to sign letters of support.

    The following facts come from the American Wind Energy Association.

  • When wind speeds fall below 10 mph, there will be little if any output from a wind turbine; those are the times when homeowners must purchase electricity from a traditional power company.

  • An average home requires approximately 9,400 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity per year, or about 780 kWh per month. It is not uncommon for wind turbine owners with total-electric homes to have monthly utility bills of only $8 to $15 for nine months of the year. In northern parts of the country where less air conditioning is used the bills can be very low year-round. The amount of money a small wind turbine saves you in the long run will depend upon its cost, the amount of electricity you use, the average wind speed at your site, and other factors.

  • A residential wind turbine can be a relatively large device and is not suitable for urban or small-lot suburban homes. Except for very small wind turbines (i.e., with rotors one meter or less in diameter) on very small towers, a property size of one acre or more is desirable.

    Comprehension Check

    Revisit the Anticipation Guide at the top of this lesson. Did students questions (in the W column on the KWL chart) get answered? Complete the chart by filling in the final column (the L column) with facts that students learned about windmill (e.g., wind turbines).

    You might follow-up that activity by asking some of the following questions:

    Recalling Detail

  • Why did most windmills disappear from the landscape many years ago? (Electric power arrived in areas that used windmill power.)

  • What are modern-day windmills called? (wind turbines or wind generators)

  • How does a wind turbine work? (When the turbine [blades] spin, they cause the shaft to spin, which is connected to a generator that produces electricity.)

  • Why is wind energy less dependable than typical forms of electric energy? (If the wind is not blowing, the turbine will not spin to produce electricity.)

  • How can homeowners make money from wind turbines? (If the turbine creates more power than the homeowner needs, the homeowner can sell the excess energy back to the power company.)

  • How much money can a wind turbine save a homeowner on his or her electric bill? (from 50 to 90 percent)

  • Why do some people dislike wind energy? (They say the turbines are ugly, noisy, or harm birds.)

    Think About the News
    Discuss the Think About the News question that appears on the students news page. You might use the think-pair-share strategy with students to discuss this question. If you use this strategy

  • First, arrange students into pairs to discuss and list responses to the question.

  • Then merge two pairs of students together to create groups of four students. Have them discuss and add to the ideas they generated in their pairs.

  • Next, merge two groups of four students to form groups of eight students. Have students create a new combined list of ideas.

  • Finally, bring all students together for a class discussion about the benefits and drawbacks of wind energy.

    Follow-Up Activities

    Math percents. For this activity, ask students to assume that, on average, a wind turbine can save homeowners 50 percent (half) on their electric bill. If that is the case, ask students to calculate the amount of money to be saved on a monthly electric bill that totals $40.80, $72.22, $49.50, $126.34, and other amounts. If you teach older students, challenge them to figure the savings based on the assumption that a turbine would save them 60 percent or 70 percent some months.

    Math create a chart. Some people dont want wind turbines in their neighborhoods because they make too much noise. So how noisy are wind turbines? To provide students with some perspective, invite them to create a graph that shows the noise of a wind turbine compared to some other common sounds. Students might use the free Create a Graph tool to create their own bar graphs to illustrate data in the chart below. [Chart source: British Wind Energy Association]

    Sound Noise Level
    Rural night-time background 20-40 decibels
    Quiet bedroom 35 decibels
    Wind farm at 1,000 feet 35-45 decibels
    Car at 40mph at 300 feet 55 decibels
    Busy classroom 60 decibels
    Truck at 30mph at 300 feet 65 decibels
    Pneumatic drill at 20 feet 95 decibels
    Jet aircraft at 800mph 105 decibels

    Science the environment. Learn more about Spirit Lake (Iowa) Community Schools and Wind Energy. Share with students the calculator that can be used to determine the effects of energy use on the environment.

    Science understanding wind. To help students better understand wind and its power, you might present this Make a Pinwheel Wind Turbine activity (grades 3-5) or this Wind Power lesson (grades 3-5).


    Use the Comprehension Check (above) as an assessment. Or have students work on their own (in their journals) or in their small groups to respond to the Think About the News question on the news story page.

    Lesson Plan Source

    Education World

    National Standards

    National Standards

    LANGUAGE ARTS: English
    GRADES K - 12
    NL-ENG.K-12.1 Reading for Perspective
    NL-ENG.K-12.2 Reading for Understanding
    NL-ENG.K-12.6 Applying Knowledge
    NL-ENG.K-12.7 Evaluating Data
    NL-ENG.K-12.11 Participating in Society
    NL-ENG.K-12.12 Applying Language Skills

    MATHEMATICS: Number and Operations
    GRADES 3 - 5
    NM-NUM.3-5.3 Compute Fluently and Make Reasonable Estimates
    GRADES 6 - 8
    NM-NUM.6-8.3 Compute Fluently and Make Reasonable Estimates
    GRADES 9 - 12
    NM-NUM.9-12.3 Compute Fluently and Make Reasonable Estimates

    MATHEMATICS: Measurement
    GRADES 3 - 5
    NM-MEA.3-5.1 Understand Measurable Attributes of Objects and the Units, Systems, and Processes of Measurement
    GRADES 6 - 8
    NM-MEA.6-8.1 Understand Measurable Attributes of Objects and the Units, Systems, and Processes of Measurement
    GRADES 9 - 12
    NM-MEA.9-12.1 Understand Measurable Attributes of Objects and the Units, Systems, and Processes of Measurement

    MATHEMATICS: Connections
    GRADES Pre-K - 12
    NM-CONN.PK-12.3 Recognize and Apply Mathematics in Contexts Outside of Mathematics

    MATHEMATICS: Representation
    GRADES Pre-K - 12
    NM-REP.PK-12.1 Create and Use Representations to Organize, Record, and Communicate Mathematical Ideas
    NM-REP.PK-12.3 Use Representations to Model and Interpret Physical, Social, and Mathematical Phenomena

    GRADES K - 4
    NS.K-4.2 Physical Science
    NS.K-4.5 Science and Technology
    NS.K-4.6 Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
    GRADES 5 - 8
    NS.5-8.2 Physical Science
    NS.5-8.5 Science and Technology
    NS.5-8.6 Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
    GRADES 9 - 12
    NS.9-12.2 Physical Science
    NS.9-12.5 Science and Technology
    NS.9-12.6 Science in Personal and Social Perspectives

    GRADES K - 12
    NT.K-12.1 Basic Operations and Concepts
    NT.K-12.4 Technology Communications Tools

    See recent news stories in Education Worlds News Story of the Week Archive.

    Article by Ellen Delisio
    Education World®
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