It’s All About Energy – Shell addresses today’s big issues in its popular practice

Few would disagree that two of the planet’s most important and discussed issues are where we get our energy from, and how that affects the world we live in. Perhaps that is why It’s All About Energy is one of the most popular teaching practices to be downloaded from the inGenious website.

In just three weeks, it was viewed 100 times by teachers in the inGenious community, and the figures also suggest that in that time period, around 30 teachers intended to use the practice in class, for around 600 students in total.

What can it do for your pupils?

Shell has produced a detailed series of lessons, featuring over 40 individual assignments, aimed at connecting pupils with the current realities – and future possibilities – of global energy. Where it comes from, where it’s headed – and what the obstacles are.

"We think it’s essential for youngsters to think about the energy mix of the future", comments André van Aperen, coordinator Jet-Net and education Shell Netherlands and a man with a real 360-degree view of the role of business partners in STEM education.

"Very often students don’t understand their own potential. They don’t think that their abilities can change the technology of the things around them – but of course it’s possible: scientists and engineers are just human beings! So we need to inspire students by showing them that they can make a difference and we want them to say 'Wow, that’s why I’m studying, so I can do that!'" he exclaims.

Engaging content, to fit your course

It’s All About Energy is divided into three sections, dealing with the future of energy, looking for and extracting petroleum, and solutions to the problematic issue of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

"The material has been designed to fit around and into curricula. There are possibilities to integrate it into geology and geography classes and chemistry or physics lessons, for example. But also any classes dealing with social and global issues" asserts Andre.

The first section looks at different potential scenarios for energy use – an approach that Shell itself helped to pioneer around 40 years ago. It asks the question: How are we going to deal with the natural limits of our energy supply?

Next, It’s All About Energy addresses the search for more supplies of petroleum, and here André – who contributed to the production of the practice – has personal experience, having been involved in R&D exploration and production research at Shell for around 15 years.

The final section looks at technological solutions for dealing with CO2, taking in such diverse concepts as phase states of compounds, questions of safety and societal impact. As with the other sections, the practice introduces the key concepts behind the current thinking on the subject, explains technical ideas in straight-forward language, and suggests different scenarios and solutions.

Best of all, it encourages students to think creatively about how they might tackle the challenges of climate change and emissions – rather than simply spoon-feeding them ideas.

"It’s important for students to realise they are part of this world (of science and technology)", says André.

The students’ material itself weighs in at nearly 40 pages of fascinating information, questions and background material that can be used for a few hours teaching – or be the basis for several weeks’ worth of lessons. A teacher’s manual is also provided, which justifies the teaching material, and provides a summary and model answers for the three sections.

What do the teachers think?

It all sounds great in theory, but how does It’s All About Energy measure up in practice? The feedback we’ve received so far has been highly encouraging, to say the least.

One UK teacher had this to say about teaching 14-15 year olds in a physics class: "I’m impressed by the quality of the document. This activity generated lots of interesting questions from my students, a sort of reverse teaching activity, a really positive feeling".

An Austrian educator was impressed by the variety of subjects It’s All About Energy touches on, commenting that: "I have used this activity as a source in a webquest concerning energy; my students are 16. They had to treat energy from different points of view (physics, technical, environment, economy) and this document was really good. The questions motivated them to learn more".

For teachers, by teachers

One of the reasons the practice is so effective and popular, is that it was written by a team of dedicated teachers. Matthijs van Vulpen, Cazimir ten Brink and Simon Verwer were part of the Dutch Teach First initiative. During their participation in the Teach First programme, these teachers worked with Shell staff to develop the material, at the company’s request.

More for the environment and STEM

It’s All About Energy is not the only practice from Shell. SuperBenz is a role-play exercise that provides students with the opportunity to debate different technology, energy, safety and environmental issues, in order to improve their communications skills and deepen their knowledge of the issues involved.

Analytical Techniques Workshop puts students in the imaginary shoes of a team in an analytical laboratory, which discovers pollution in a water sample coming from the river Rhine. And there are more practices in the pipeline; It’s All About Energy – part 2 is currently being translated from Dutch into English.

In addition to its practices, Shell is constantly trying to engage the European educational community. A good example of this was André’s participation in a teachers’ workshop in Austria last October, which went down well, and was highly entertaining and educational, according to participants. André will be on the road again soon and may be in a town near you – so watch this space for details.

In the meantime, It’s All About Energy is available now in a variety of languages. Download it and you’ll see that it follows the principle articulated by Andre, that: "Studying science and technology has to be an adventure".