NEED Curriculum

Visit the Educators section of the website to access NEED’s curriculum resources.  All NEED guides are available for free PDF download.

The Science of Energy

Students at all grade levels learn about the forms of energy—heat, light, motion, sound, nuclear energy, and electrical energy—with age-appropriate, hands-on explorations that emphasize the scientific process, energy sources, electricity generation and more.

Excelon instructor explaining an electrical transformer
Students using portable solar panels in an experiment

Renewable and Nonrenewable Sources of Energy

The curriculum provides comprehensive, objective information and activities on the energy sources that fuel our country, including each of their economic and environmental impacts. Students explore the history of energy, energy in current events, and consider future energy development opportunities and challenges. They understand that certain energy sources may be better choices for specific energy needs, and they discuss and debate the energy sources we use today and will use in the future. NEED believes in teaching about all energy sources and helping students understand that there are many things to consider when making decisions about resource use.

Recently added to NEED’s suite of materials: Energy Escape Room – this fun sampler will show you how to use energy content to create your own escape room-style puzzles, Sidekick Circuits – developed to help students understand how electricity flows through a circuit, Energy Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow – this set of activities will take students on a virtual trip through time as they look at how energy production, consumption, and even conservation has evolved in the past 100 years or so, H2OMG! – students will get hands-on as they explore how water can do work, design a wave-powered energy generator, and even explore how temperature differences in the ocean can be used to generate electricity!


NEED students learn about the atom and the particles that make up the atom. They understand electricity as an energy carrier, learn about electrons and how they move, and they build batteries and electromagnets. Students also explore circuits, learn how electricity is generated and measured, as well as research fusion and fission, photovoltaics and superconductors, electricity regulation, and politics and policy.

Students consider cleaner-coal technologies, renewable electricity, and natural gas fired electricity generation. They research nuclear energy as a growing option for generating the nation’s electricity.

They work with SmartMeters to understand how electric and natural gas meters are utilized by many utilities nationwide. Understanding the technology of the meters and their impact on energy conservation efforts is important to how the nation’s Smart Grid and Smart Meter infrastructure grows. NEED believes in bringing a discussion of new technologies to the classroom. NEED kids learn, they teach others, and communities begin to understand.

Student working on a solar installation next to a bucket truck
Students at a science fair display table


NEED’s transportation materials cover the transportation fuels and vehicles in use today and the fuels and vehicles of the future. Students learn about gasoline, diesel, hybrid electric vehicles, and plug-in hybrids. Students learn about hydrogen with the DOE-sponsored H2 Educate curriculum, expand their knowledge of petroleum and its uses, and consider the advantages and disadvantages of the fuels we use to transport people and products from place to place. They are actively engaged in learning about transportation technologies while using Transportation Expo, and challenged by pieces like Transportation Enigma and Transportation Debate.

Efficiency and Conservation

Learning to use energy wisely is the capstone component of the NEED program. Students learn to read utility meters, use light meters, investigate phantom loads, and evaluate information from EnergyGuide labels and make the most use of the SmartMeter installed on their home. They learn about caulking, weather-stripping, and programmable thermostats. They monitor energy consumption and explore ways to reduce it—like using ENERGY STAR® products at home and at school. In Building Science, students come to understand how homes and buildings can be built with maximum energy efficiency in mind.  Be sure to check out our efficiency and conservation curriculum available – School Energy Inspectors (Elementary), School Energy Experts (Intermediate), and School Energy Managers (Secondary)!

The NEED Project energy training

Synthesis of Energy Information

NEED’s curriculum incorporates activities to help synthesize energy information and create valuable connections between science and social science and the application of knowledge to decision making. Students undertake problem-based learning activities and explore possible opportunities and challenges for many energy decisions.

With NEED’s newly designed Next Generation Science Standards Correlation Chart, these activities help students explain, conceptualize, and practice standards required in the classroom.