Energy Management Activity

Students will use an online simulation to experience how cities can be sustainable, plan energy production, monitor public and environmental health, and balance a budget.

Lesson and student guide developed by Shelly Grandell, Middle School Teachers, Cherry Creek School District, Colorado, utilizing an online simulation developed by Filament Games for National Geographic’s Jason Project.

Grade level: 6-8

Time Required
One block period (100 minutes) or two 50-minute class periods

Learning Goal
Students will learn that managing a city’s energy resources to utilize sustainable forms of energy, keep citizens happy, stay within a budget, and maintain a healthy environment is no easy task.

Lesson Format
Online simulation with reflection writing assignment


Next Generation Science Standards

MS-ESS3-4 Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth’s ecosystems.

MS-ESS3-3 Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment.   



  • Print student guides
  • Students should have some background knowledge of renewable/nonrenewable energy sources and have an idea of what sustainability means before running simulation.

Show the class pictures of two cities that are visibly different (in terms of population size, landscape, or climate). Ask student whether the two cities would have similar energy needs. Does one city require more energy than the other? Why? Does population impact the amount of energy a city needs? Does climate?

Have students brainstorm what factors affect how much energy a city needs.

Have students consider where that energy can come from. Review renewable and nonrenewable energy sources and have students sort the energy sources into those that are renewable and, thus, sustainable, and those that are nonrenewable and thus need to be replenished. This can lead into a discussion about what sustainable means and why it is important.

Tell students that in this activity they will be managers of the energy resources in a simulated town. Their goal is to utilize sustainable forms of energy, keep citizens happy, stay within a budget, and maintain a healthy environment.


  • Pass out the Energy City Student Guide to students
  • Have students access the simulation website:
  • Read the directions to the students
  • NOTE: On the student guide, the first step is to go through the tutorial. (You can choose to go through this as a class, and then students may start simulation independently.)
  • Students will fill in information about the simulation on the student guide as they go through the tutorial.
  • After the tutorial, students will go through steps and simulation at their own pace, they will have to answer questions and fill in information on the student guide as they work.
  • Before a student can go on to the 20-year simulation, they need to show you that they completed the 10-year (if time is an issue, have students do the 10-year run only).

Student reflection question answers should demonstrate an understanding of the relationship between the modeling in the program and the real world. They should recognize that there are many components to energy management and that population and consumption impact the amount of energy their city needs.

Background information:
Since the Industrial Revolution in the 1800’s and the advent of mass production, human need for electricity has driven us to increase production of oil, natural gas, and coal. With increasing realization of the impacts fossil fuels have had on our environment, countries have invested in more sustainable sources of energy such as wind and solar. Fossil fuels, however, are still used to produce most energy in the world.

Sustainability means living in ways that can continue into the future without depleting resources. This ensures that we keep our planet habitable into the future. Becoming a more sustainable world means making important decisions, collaboration and thoughtful planning. Planning for future energy development requires taking into consideration many different aspects that will affect the present and the future.

This simulation gives students a big picture experience. However, it does generalize and does not include water resources, ecosystem services, jobs, and other aspects of a sustainable landscape.