At the most basic level, students recognize that burning fossil fuels makes "pollution," but students may not move beyond this basic understanding to develop more sophisticated ideas about energy use, especially as it is connected to large-scale problems such as global climate change and toxins in our food systems. Furthermore, understanding by-products from burning fossil fuels can be confusing because students may not differentiate between "smoke," "pollution," "carbon dioxide," and "bad gases." Working on improving student understanding of by-products will help students develop more sophisticated ideas about energy impacts.
Watch this video of 4th and 5th grade students in San Diego, California—a working class community. The purpose of this classroom video is to hear student ideas about energy impacts on climate change and biomagnification of toxins.
For additional classroom context, video analysis, and reflection opportunities, read the Picture of Practice page for "Impacts of Using Energy" in the Energy Potential Environmental Literacy Teacher Guide, page 82.