Using Switch Classroom for Middle School Science

James Corboy  ·  SEA Teacher Advisory Council
January 24, 2022

I teach 7th and 8th grade science at Avalon K-12 on Catalina Island, the only rural school in the Long Beach Unified School District. I use a district-provided curriculum in my classes which covers energy, but I wanted students to learn about how we consume energy on a larger scale so they could grasp the future energy challenges we face.

To make students more aware of the various resources that humans use to provide energy around the world, I wanted to use multiple reference sources. I started locally by having my students learn about the Edison Pebbly Beach Energy plant on the island, which uses mainly diesel fuel to not only power the electrical grid for the island, but also powers the desalination facility which supplies the island’s water. This allowed my students to know exactly where the energy they use comes from. 

In addition to learning about local energy issues, I also wanted my students to have a more global perspective on energy. Switch Classroom is an energy education platform created by leading energy experts and scientists, and written by teachers to benefit students. The content is centered around engaging, high-quality videos, which hold students’ attention while they learn about energy. Switch Classroom covers energy basics, so it’s easy to incorporate into any energy curriculum, and it has the global focus I was searching for.

Each morning for over two weeks in the fall semester, I started class by assigning a short video on Switch Classroom, followed by the associated multiple choice quiz to check student understanding. After students finished the video and quiz, we discussed the advantages and disadvantages of each energy resource they learned about. The lessons we used in my class are listed below in the order I assigned them:

  1. Introduction to Energy
  2. The Energy Mix
  3. Introduction to Electricity
  4. Explore How Oil is Used
  5. Introduction to Natural Gas
  6. Coal Formation and Use
  7. What is Nuclear?
  8. How Hydropower Works
  9. Introduction to Wind
  10. Science of Geothermal
  11. Biomass Overview
  12. Biofuels
  13. Science of Solar
  14. Battery Basics

Over the weeks we used Switch Classroom, I placed the information from the videos on a Guided Language Acquisition Design (GLAD) Comparative Input Chart, which are large charts that identify the similarities and differences between or among things or ideas. Students love to color in the diagrams and add text/content representing the different energy resources, which leads to a visually stimulating, collaborative class informational chart. 

By the end of our energy unit, my students have not only learned about the scientific basics of energy and electricity, but also have a more nuanced view of where energy comes from and how it is used at both a local and global level. My students have fun using Switch Classroom while they learn, which is no easy feat.

Next time you are looking for fresh content to enhance your energy unit, regardless of the grade-level you teach, I encourage you to try Switch Classroom! 

James J. Corboy
Switch Energy Alliance Teacher Advisory Council Member
Avalon K-12
7th and 8th Grade Science Teacher


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