Implications for teaching

It is not easy to change the habits of a lifetime, especially if the ideas we are using work so well - it is so convenient to say fuels contain energy. The reason why we urge a change is simple: if we fail to acknowledge the role played by oxygen, and the exhaust gases that result, we are in danger of perpetuating the myth that matter, at an atomic level, can be destroyed. Few people gain any real idea of the material nature of greenhouse gases, or of the other products of combustion such as the gases that cause acid rain. Once children appreciate the simple picture of the cycling of matter using energy from the sun (Figure 12.5 again), the carbon cycle becomes as simple as the water cycle, and the meaning of our carbon footprint becomes clear.

Note carefully what the Standards site says about energy:

We want to avoid talking about 'energy use' and 'energy consumption', as this might cause problems later when we want to introduce the idea that energy is conserved. We can talk, however, about 'fuel use' and 'fuel consumption' without any inaccuracy. If the word energy is used, it is better to talk about 'using (or consuming) energy resources' rather than about 'using (or consuming) energy'. [. . .] The idea that foods are the fuel for living organisms can also be introduced here.

(National Strategies 2009)

In the sections that follow are some implications for teaching about fuels and energy.

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