The world faces a daunting challenge. Fossil fuels currently make up 82% of global energy consumption, and despite the impressive growth of renewable technologies, this percentage has remained more or less stable for the last 30 years. In order to mitigate the worst effects of climate change, we have to undertake a complete transformation of how we generate our energy, all within the space of a couple of decades. This transformation will require hundreds of thousands of engineers and scientists, who will play a crucial role in shaping a sustainable future. However, there is currently a shortage of skilled workers in the STEM fields, and as educators, it’s our responsibility to inspire the next generation to take on the challenge.
Currently, the UK curriculum covers energy generation across Geography and Physics from KS2 – KS4. When we look at how this is taught at schools, there tends to be a lack of exciting, engaging resources on this topic, which don’t capture how complicated and fascinating the world of energy can be, and the diverse range of careers found in this sector. For example, the ‘energy trilemma’ is a framework of three objectives that energy policymakers need to consider, which are sustainability, affordability and security of supply. Getting the right balance between these three priorities is complicated and requires people from a range of backgrounds, expertise and knowledge to work together. By understanding the pros and cons of each technology, how these interrelate to one other, and how they are affected by political and climate events, energy planners can build a diverse portfolio of energy technologies which work together to keep the lights on, while minimising cost and impact on the environment.
Given the significance of effective education on this topic, how can we engage students both in the classroom and outside of it?
One of the challenges is around framing the complexity of this system in a positive way, showcasing the opportunities and careers this presents. One of the best ways to do this is through games-based learning. Educational games are highly effective because they engage learners in a fun and interactive way, promoting active participation and incorporating challenges, rewards, and feedback. Games provide opportunities for hands-on problem-solving and critical thinking, enabling learners to apply knowledge in practical scenarios, leading to deeper understanding and retention of concepts. Using games to teach about energy generation provides an immersive, memorable learning experience and inspires students to consider it as a career path – and perhaps work a little harder in the class!
“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” – Xun Kuang, Chinese Confucian philosopher
As an educator, it’s worth considering using games-based learning to teach energy topics. There are plenty of free resources out there, but one of the best games is Megawatt, explicitly created for the classroom. Loved by teachers and students alike, it brings the topic of energy to life like never before, with beautiful artwork and clever game mechanics. It’s available both to purchase individually, as part of a workshop, or under a Creative Commons Licence, making it free for schools to print the game themselves and use it in the classroom, covering a range of curriculum topics on energy.