UCCI Course Description

The Power of Language: English and Issues in Energy & Justice

Overview Course Content Course Materials Related Resources
Length of Course
Full Year (2 semesters; 3 trimesters; 4 quarters)
Subject Area - Discipline
English (B) - English
UC Honors Designation
CTE Sector
Energy, Environment, and Utilities
CTE Pathway
Energy and Power Technology
Grade Level(s)
Successful completion of English 10 or equivalent


This course allows students to connect the standards of 11th grade English with the ethical, political, economic, and environmental implications of the Energy, Environment, and Utilities industry. Students conduct in-depth research, closely read and analyze complex texts, determine appropriate audience and purpose, and participate in presentations and simulations in order to build an authentic classroom experience. The Power of Language: English and Issues in Energy and Justice increases student engagement with the academic rigor of English, while also allowing students to learn relevant technical knowledge and skills to prepare for further education and careers in the Energy and Power Technology pathway. Students leave this course with a more comprehensive understanding of an increasingly relevant career field and gain a sense of purpose as a functional, contributing member.

This course allows students to learn and apply Common Core English skills to the study of alternative energy sources and ultimately provides students with the skills and knowledge needed to advance English coursework and pursue a career in the Energy, Environment and Utilities Industry. Students establish a schema for this course as they explore the question of Can vs. Should, first examining the theme as it relates to their personal lives and the literary world (specifically that of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) and then transferring that critique to the ethical, political, economic, and environmental consequences of energy use in today’s society.

Students develop an understanding of the historical context of energy and its social impact through research, analysis and the writing of complex texts. They research and analyze the complex interaction between industry, consumer and environment and the emerging trends.  Students then examine how the culture of energy consumption has changed over the years, composing an in-depth research report highlighting skills in organization, purpose, and clarity of voice. Through the analysis of Silent Spring, students discuss the benefits and drawbacks of activism. After developing and refining their own skills of persuasion and argumentation, students compose informational publications to be disseminated to a variety of audiences. Students build an electronic portfolio as they advance their research through the various units, compiling their breadth of knowledge of the energy industry for future reference and job opportunity.

The culminating work of the course requires students to promote an energy source of their choice, conduct research to analyze business models and career expectations from within the Energy, Environment and Utilities Industry, and then develop a multimedia pitch intended for a specific target audience. Students then create a Public Service Announcement which includes a written publication and a multimedia artifact, as well as an oral presentation.

Course Content

Unit 1 : The Temptation of Availability- CAN vs. SHOULD

Unit 1 Description

In this unit, students analyze literary and informational texts and personal experiences to determine when it is ethically, politically and socially appropriate to exercise power in a specific situation or utilize resources in a given environment.

Reflective Essay

Working collaboratively, students create a list of factors within their community that encourages economic, social, and political imbalances. Factors may include intelligence, wealth, geographical region, political leaders, access to education, technological or scientific resources, etc.  Students brainstorm the ways in which personal choices may manipulate factors that impact the community and their environment in both positive and negative ways. Students construct their response in a 2-page reflective essay.

Character Analysis Essay- The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Students analyze the novel with a focus on ethical, political, and social responsibility. In a 3-4 page essay, students determine the impact of the characters’ motivations and how manipulation of accessible power drives the plot of the story. Students develop their response with the use of concrete details, quotations, and other information appropriate to the audience's knowledge of the topic and theme.

Character Role Play- The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Students adopt the persona of a designated character, interacting with their peers to further question character choices and the motivations that drive them (ex: greed, fear, insecurity, allegiance to a party or philosophy, external pressures, etc).  Students then anticipate their character’s understanding of the ethical, political, and social implications that acting on those motivations may have on today’s society (specifically in regards to consumption of energy, waste, and environmental sustainability).  Mastery is demonstrated through the use of relevant facts, concrete details, and a clear link between the character and the broader, more complex theme: temptation of availability - can vs. should. Upon completion of activity, students compose a 2 page reflective essay that demonstrates understanding of key environmental issues in their society and the characters/setting of the novel.

Comparative Essay

Students read and annotate an article on the pros and cons of ethanol. After class discussion, students apply knowledge and critical thinking skills developed from the prior role-play and character analysis to ethanol. Comparative essay (3-4 pages) focuses on how ethanol is both a “Dr. Jekyll” and “Mr. Hyde”. Students’ responses showcase knowledge of this energy source and its potential positive and negative environmental effects.

Unit 2 : The Power of Research! What is the Best

Energy Source in the Industry?

In this unit, students engage in MLA research writing strategies.  Using a 1st person perspective, students analyze energy-related articles and choose an energy source to answer the essential question, What is the best energy source?  Writing strategies include cited paraphrased and quoted information integrated with  personal assertions in reaction to author’s arguments. Upon conducted research, students make an informed opinion to justify why their chosen energy source is the best in the energy industry.

Source Evaluation Guide

Using a set of carefully selected sources from a variety of perspectives, students a source evaluation method (such as the Core Concepts and Essential Questions of Critical Media Literacy [adapted from Center for Media Literacy’s MediaLit KitTM  - see resource below] in order to explore the concept of point-of-view and participate in a discussion regarding how the author’s background and unique perspective may affect the reliability of a source. Students work in groups to analyze a set of sources, identifying purpose and bias, and ranking a set of sources in order of their reliability. Students defend their decisions citing evidence from the sources. As teams, students create a rubric for evaluating sources; rubric will also serve to guide students’ future writing assignments. Students will place their rubrics in their Resource Portfolio.

Key Instructional Strategies for Source Evaluation

  • Core Concepts and Essential Questions from Critical Media Literacy Resource 
  • Core Concepts
    1. All sources are “constructed”, within a context, for a purpose
    2. Different people (audiences) experience the same source differently
    3. All sources have embedded values and points of view
  • Essential Questions for Analysis and Evaluation of sources
    1. Who created this source?
    2. What techniques are used to attract my attention?
    3. How might different audiences react to this source?
    4. What lifestyles, values, and points of view are represented or omitted in this source?
    5. Why was this source created?
  • SOAPSTone Subject-Occasion-Audience-Purpose-Speaker-Tone: This is a strategy for initially teaching students how to approach and evaluate a source, recognize perspective and bias. The SOAPSTone strategy is taught in the College Board workshop for Advanced Placement Language and Composition.
S peaker: the individual or collective voice of the text
O ccasion: the event or catalyst causing the writing of the text to occur
A udience: the group of readers to whom the piece is directed
P urpose: the reason behind the text
S ubject: the general topic and/or main idea
T one: the attitude of the author

Point of View Informational Report

Using an article similar to “Positives and Negatives of Coal Energy Sources”, students launch an inquiry by examining two opposing points of view in the article.  Students choose one of the two perspectives and develop a one page report detailing the advantages or disadvantages from that perspective. Students then repeat the assignment from the opposing perspective. Students hone skills of paraphrasing, making inferences, and citing research while composing reports and preparing themselves for further research in assignments 3 and 4. Both reports are placed in the student’s Resource Portfolio. Web article: Positives and Negatives of Coal Energy Sources

Research Proposal

Given the article, “The Top 10 Sources for Energy,” students choose 2-3 energy sources about which to develop further inquiry. Answering the essential question, “What is the best source of energy?” students write a one-page argument justifying each energy source choice (2-3 pages total) using research found on the internet and through past assignments. Students will collect research sources in a working annotated bibliography format. This work allows students to conduct some preliminary research. Students then choose one of the sources investigated in their preliminary research and address the prompt: “Why Is This Energy Source the Best for Humanity?” Students develop their response into a 2-page research proposal to guide further discovery. All research, research proposal, and working annotated bibliography are placed in the student’s Resource Portfolio. Web article: Top Ten Sources for Energy

MLA Research Paper (8-10 pages which includes at least one relevant graph/chart).   Students address the prompt: “Why is This Energy Source the Best for Humanity?”  Students’ research focuses on the ethical, political, economic, and environmental impacts of their chosen energy. Parameters of the assignment include 16-20 different sources and at least one interview with the energy sector representative.  Final draft is placed in the student’s Resource Portfolio.

Multi-Media Presentation

Students develop a 7-8 minute multi-media presentation informing peers on the chosen source of energy. Multi-media presentations may include combinations of PowerPoint, Animoto, Prezi, News videos, etc.

Unit 3 : What’s Happening in Our Community?

Now that students have learned about multiple energy sources, in this unit, students will address media literacy by researching and examining energy providers, issues, and controversies in their assigned community. They will examine the needs of their immediate community and surrounding area. They will demonstrate that they can translate knowledge into different forms including diagrams, press releases and other genres that reflect the language used by both the industry and the media, and how to choose the most effective way to reach a given audience.

Getting the Word Out: How to Disseminate Information

After viewing teacher created PowerPoint or Video on ways that information is given to the public, including Press releases, Talking points, PSA, newsletters, FAQs, Fact Sheets,  Briefing Documents, and Flow Charts, students will research to discover the main energy source and power provider for their assigned geographical region. Students partner up and find three articles that discuss multiple views of one energy issue in the assigned area. They create a flowchart for the dominant energy source showing where it is produced, how it is produced, how it is distributed and how it is delivered. They synthesize the information from the flow chart and the articles in a one-page brief (outline the problem, who is affected, potential outcomes and solutions).

Press Release

Switching point of view, students assume the role of a representative from the power company and prepare a press release addressing one of the community issues from the Energy Controversies brief. They may reference any one of these websites for examples (teacher discretion).

This assignment provides practice in relaying clear and concise information in a structured format for a target audience.

Town Hall Panel Discussion

Students extend their research into alternative energy sources for their community. Students take on an assigned role in a simulated town hall meeting in which the discussion centers on the viability of bringing this new energy source into use. For example, roles might be the mayor, a business investor, an environmentalist, a concerned parent or contractor. After completing their research (a minimum of three articles), they determine what their assigned community member’s position would be and prepare two pages of comments for their character to deliver at the town hall meeting. They must anticipate questions and feedback as this will be a discussion. The mayor will act as moderator. Afterwards, students write a two page reflection on the discussion and the effectiveness of both their own research and the comments of others in convincing the mayor of the benefits of adopting this energy source. This work allows students to continue to refine their research skills, as well as skills related to crafting messages for a specific audience/domain, anticipating and developing counterarguments and determining the effectiveness of an argument.

Unit 4 : Everything Is an Argument

Students establish and maintain a formal style and objective tone while creating fact based arguments positive and/or negative concerning an energy source chosen by teacher. Students add additional research to teacher provided articles to form a point of view on an energy source and write an article for a science based online journal.  To develop a counter-argument, students read a peer’s article containing an alternate point of view and write a letter to the editor of the science journal.

Finding the argument: Pro and Cons

Students read Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. To establish a research scientist’s point of view, students will examine the controversies that emerge when a miracle scientific practice or discovery has dire consequences. While reading, students also analyze and document the steps a research scientist, such as Carson, can take to bring to public knowledge the negative consequences of a positive scientific discovery in the face of powerful opposition. Students will then research two(or more) articles on a subject, such as fracking or ethanol, one giving a positive and one giving a negative point of view. Students should be encouraged to investigate an energy source not already researched (see unit two). Students demonstrate an understanding of each position and attempt to arrive at a nuanced position through a 4-5 page paper, utilizing the knowledge they have garnered from the book and articles concerning scientists, their research and consequences discovered by their research.  Students are encouraged This paper should have a focus that re-establishes the essential question: just because we can, should we? and will be added to the resource portfolio.

Links to Silent Spring and Study Guide

Writing a Persuasive Argument

Students establish their point of view on fracking (or other energy) and research additional articles and or book sources to provide evidence to support and to oppose the argument. They will write a two page article suitable for submission for a class energy journal (using MLA format and works cited page). Sample articles can be found at smartplanet.com. This will be included in the Resource Portfolio.

Writing Counter Arguments

Students select an article from the class energy journal and write a counter argument in the form of  letter to the editor of the journal. Letters should be 250-300 words long. Original article and letter to the editor should be included in the resource portfolio.

Rapid Fire Debate

Students participate in a rapid fire debate in which the teacher pulls a submission from the energy journal at random and reads to the class while students make quick notes. A pair of students are then randomly selected to address the issue from the opposing point of view in a 2-minute verbal response. Journal entries and student response continues until all students have had the opportunity to participate.

Unit 5 : Getting Ready to Work (Optional unit)

This unit strengthens student understanding of what it takes to answer the question How do I apply for a job in the energy sector? Students develop writing and presentation skills necessary to gain employment in a desired career field. 

Analysis of Resumes

Students research existing resumes (available online) to identify commonalities of individuals within a specific career field. If possible, students should interview individuals working in the desired career field and attain a copy of the individual’s resume to compare it with those found online, once again focusing on commonalities. Students complete a one to two page summary of their findings.

Researching Employment Opportunities & Internships

Utilizing online career sites such as Monster.com, LinkedIn.com, etc., students research employment opportunities in a career field related to assignment 1 of this unit. Students will also research internships related to the specified career field, applying when applicable. Students will create a brief report of their findings.

Resume & Cover Letter

To create an authentic resume and cover letter, students utilize common word processing applications (i.e. Word, Google Docs, etc.). Students compare and contrast online resume and cover letter templates to determine the template/s best suited for a position they would like to apply for in the future. Students save the document in electronic form and in their resource portfolio, to be updated as needed, as well as submit a final copy to be evaluated.

Mock Interviews - Preparation and Participation

To become familiar with industry jargon and norms (pertaining to behavior, dress, grooming) students research and identify the accepted standards within an assigned industry. In a whole-class discussion, students compare and contrast the similarities and differences of the accepted jargon and norms of multiple career fields. Utilizing common websites, such as jobs.com, monster.com, pge.com/careers, etc., students identify common eligibility requirements for similar positions, including but not limited to experience and education. Students role-play positions in various mock interview formats (i.e. one-on-one, panel, etc.) to gain experience in the interview process. It is highly recommended that members of the business community be included in the mock interview process to provide students with real-world experience and authentic feedback. Students should dress appropriately based on industry standards identified in previous assignment/s.

Unit 6 : Promoting My Industry

Students now take on the role of an industry professional while working with their peers to promote a specific energy source for consumption within their community. Students utilize knowledge obtained through past research opportunities and showcase skills of persuasion, argumentation and presentation of self.

Public Service Announcement (PSA)

Demonstrating knowledge obtained throughout the entirety of the course, student groups develop a professional presentation for a target audience (elementary students and parents, industry professionals, energy consumers, state officials, etc). Students showcase an energy source of their choice, based on prior work, organizing complex ideas, concepts, and information to create a unified presentation. PSA must include a written publication/informational text (proposal, legislative bill, etc.) and multi-media component. Students must provide concrete details and significant facts appropriate to the audience’s knowledge of the topic and the current state of events from within their audience’s community. In order to understand the components of the chosen written document, student groups will research existing texts of the same type as model/mentor texts in order to determine the relevant components of the document and decide which components are necessary in their own written document. This assignment provides students the opportunity to demonstrate knowledge of their energy source and the overall positive impact of its consumption, while further utilizing research to counter the presentations of their peers. Student groups must present themselves as potentially functioning, knowledgeable members from within the industry.

Course Materials

Primary Texts:

Title: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Publication Date: 1886 (Original)
Author(s): Robert Louis Stevenson

Title: Silent Spring
Publication Date: 1962
Publisher: Fawcett Publications Inc.
Author(s): Rachel Carson

Supplemental Instructional Materials:

Title: Everything’s an Argument
Edition: Sixth
Publication Date: 2012
Publisher: Bedford/St. Martin's
Author(s): Andrea A. Lunsford, John J. Ruszkiewics, Keith Walters

Title: Doctor Heidegger’s Experiment
Author(s): Nathaniel Hawthorn
URL Resource(s): 

Title: Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus
Author(s): Mary Shelley
URL Resource(s): 

Title: Anthem
Author(s): Ayn Rand
URL Resources(s): 

Title: The Lorax
Author(s): Dr. Seuss
URL Resource(s): 


Title: Jekyll and Hyde video clip
URL Resource(s): 

Title: The Lorax
URL Resource(s): 

Title: Gasland Part 1 (2010)
Description: Documentary
Available on Netflix and DVD

Title: Gasland part 2 (2013)
Description: Documentary
Available on Netflix and DVD

Title: GasLand Documentary Maker Arrested At Congressional Hearing On Fracking

Title: ErinBrockovich’s First Meeting with Julia Roberts

Title: Official Erin Brockovich

Title: Bill Moyers on Rachel Carson and Silent Spring

Title: Pesticides - DDT - Rachel Carson - Silent Spring

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