Hi I’m Georgia and I’m about to move to the city to start an apprenticeship. I’ll be joining a share house with three others.

There’s heaps to plan and moving will be really costly. Luckily my Gran is helping me out. We’ll need to watch that we spend our money wisely and with the environment in mind.

Help me make some informed decisions about which appliances to buy for the share house. We shouldn’t just go for what’s new and cool—we need to consider price, running cost, life span and warranty, as well as sustainability. Also help me explore the science behind wise and sustainable choices.

First of all, check out the helpful advice I got from my talk with dad. View Transcript of talk with dad.

E3 Program

Georgia stands in front of an energy rating sign with 5 coloured stars

Dad mentioned the Australian Government’s E3 Program. I found out that this stands for Equipment Energy Efficiency (E3) Program and it:

  • is responsible for the red, yellow, black and white stickers you see on some electrical appliances

  • allocates a number of stars across the top of these stickers with some coloured in and a star rating given to the nearest half star up to six stars

  • reports the average usage energy consumption in kilowatt hours (kWh) per year

  • helps the consumer reduce the running costs of appliances and the greenhouse gas emissions by encouraging the use of more energy efficient appliances

  • provides a website which gives detailed consumer information.

Find out: What do the stars mean?

Do you understand the star system? Take the Consumer and Financial Literacy quiz. Alternative: Consumer and Financial Literacy quiz (.pdf 354kB)

The carbon cycle


The star system is a great help when making decisions. Everyone needs to know about it. However, we also need to understand a related topic: the carbon cycle.

Listen to my carbon cycle talk with dad. View Transcript of carbon cycle talk.

Dad and I did some research and recommend checking out these links:

How well do you understand the carbon cycle after investigating the links?

Test your understanding in the Carbon cycle quiz. Alternative: Carbon cycle quiz (.pdf 111kB)

Making informed choices


Now that we’ve explored the carbon cycle and understand the star system, we’re ready to select our appliances.

Choose a refrigerator. Alternative: Choose a refrigerator (.pdf 116kB)

Choose a television. Alternative: Choose a television (.pdf 143kB)

Making sustainable choices will allow me to spend Gran’s money wisely and I’ve got my dad to thank for some good advice. View Transcript of good advice.

It’s great that Gracie is joining us. I told her about our refrigerator and television so she is going to choose a third appliance we need for the house. I can’t wait to see which appliance and model she goes for.

What would you choose? Your task is to choose an appliance and research the models for the best option.


  • the household’s needs and wants

  • energy consumption

  • star rating index

  • kilowatt hours per year

  • financial implications

  • running costs

  • budget

  • appliance cost including warranty and expected life span.

After making an informed choice, report back to your classmates justifying your decision.


In working through this resource, you have:

  • developed an understanding about how the star rating scheme compares appliances based on their energy efficiency

  • read and interpreted an energy star rating label

  • related energy transformations to efficiency in refrigerators and televisions

  • outlined how carbon cycles through the atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere and lithosphere

  • calculated running costs and carbon dioxide emissions from energy consumption

  • drawn a logical conclusion

  • evaluated benefits of star ratings for consumers and manufacturers.

Discuss the following with your classmates, friends or family:

  • What factors influence people making decisions when purchasing electrical appliances?

  • How important is it to be an informed consumer?

  • What other ways can electricity consumption and greenhouse gas emissions be reduced?

  • How do your individual decisions affect others in your family, community and the world?

Teaching notes

The information below supports the implementation of Decisions by the stars, a resource for Science Year 10.


Decisions by the stars is designed to engage students to learn about energy efficiency in appliances and explore how star ratings are used to help us buy more efficient appliances, and save electricity and greenhouse gases. Students also learn about the carbon cycle.

Students use the quizzes to clarify and explain the science behind the carbon cycle and the star rating scheme.

They elaborate by making decisions based on choosing between three fridges and three television sets. They evaluate the use of star ratings in making their decision.

Display the Outcomes tab to read how this resource links to the National Consumer and Financial Literacy Framework and to the Australian Curriculum.

Display the Activities tab to read a description of each section in the resource, along with suggestions for class or group discussions and important points to bring to students’ attention in order to support their learning and make the context more authentic and relevant.


Note: the student learnings in the National Consumer and Financial Literacy Framework (.pdf 6.9MB)are divided into, and are applicable over, bands covering two chronological years. The Year 10 band covers both Years 9 and 10.

Year 10

Knowledge and Understanding

  • Analyse and explain the range of factors affecting consumer choices


  • Investigate the financial decisions required at significant life-stage events

  • Analyse relevant information to make informed choices when purchasing goods and services and/or resolve consumer choices

Responsibility and Enterprise

  • Demonstrate awareness that family, community and sociocultural values can influence consumer behaviour and financial decision making

Earth and space sciences

  • ACSSU189 – Global systems, including the carbon cycle, rely on interactions involving the biosphere, lithosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere

    • Students develop a deep understanding of the processes in the carbon cycle, the effect of human activity on the composition of the atmosphere and hydrosphere and the impacts of this on the biosphere.

Nature and development of science

  • ACSHE192 – Advances in scientific understanding often rely on developments in technology and technological advances are often linked to scientific discoveries

    • Students develop their awareness of how technological developments have contributed to burning of fossil fuels and of the role technology plays in assisting the understanding of resultant problems and developing options for solutions.

Use and influence of science

  • ACSHE194 – People can use scientific knowledge to evaluate whether they should accept claims, explanations or predictions

    • Students use their scientific understanding to appreciate the value and effectiveness of star rating labels to compare appliances for sustainable use.

Processing and analysing data and information

  • ACSIS204 – Use knowledge of scientific concepts to draw conclusions consistent with evidence

    • Evidence from calculations is used to make informed decisions.

This unit of work contributes to the bolded sections in the following aspects in the Achievement Standard of Science in Year 10.

By the end of Year 10, students analyse how the periodic table organises elements and use it to make predictions about the properties of elements. They explain how chemical reactions are used to produce particular products and how different factors influence the rate of reactions. They explain the concept of energy conservation and represent energy transfer and transformation within systems. They apply relationships between force, mass and acceleration to predict changes in the motion of objects. Students describe and analyse interactions and cycles within and between Earth’s spheres. They evaluate the evidence for scientific theories that explain the origin of the universe and the diversity of life on Earth. They explain the processes that underpin heredity and evolution. Students analyse how the models and theories they use have developed over time and discuss the factors that prompted their review.

Students develop questions and hypotheses and independently design and improve appropriate methods of investigation, including field work and laboratory experimentation. They explain how they have considered reliability, safety, fairness and ethical actions in their methods and identify where digital technologies can be used to enhance the quality of data. When analysing data, selecting evidence and developing and justifying conclusions, they identify alternative explanations for findings and explain any sources of uncertainty. Students evaluate the validity and reliability of claims made in secondary sources with reference to currently held scientific views, the quality of the methodology and the evidence cited. They construct evidence-based arguments and select appropriate representations and text types to communicate science ideas for specific purposes.

Literacy – Students learn vocabulary to do with financial literacy. They explore and understand financial texts, engage with financial data to extract meaning and use literacy to explain and discuss this meaning.

Numeracy – As students become financially literate they are developing their numeracy skills and deepening their understanding of the relationship between science , consumerism and finance.

ICT – Students learn to use ICT to investigate and inform decision making in a financial context. They engage with multimodal technology to collect and analyse information. They engage with spreadsheets as a tool to calculate and promote understanding of key concepts.

Critical and creative thinking – Students are challenged to question choices and engage in investigations to clarify concepts and ideas, seek possibilities and consider alternatives in a financial and sustainable context. They are encouraged to look at alternative ways to be smart consumers and financially responsible citizens.

Personal and social capability - By becoming financially literate students are adding to their personal and social capability. They engage with activities that relate to learning about their own lives to do with budgeting and financial management.

Ethical understanding – As students investigate financial concepts, they are continually being asked to analyse materials in an ethical way by finding appropriate comparisons, evaluate general statements and interrogate financial claims and sources.

Intercultural understanding – As students investigate their own financial decisions they are encouraged to understand how difference in cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds can affect the financial decisions of others, broadening their awareness and understanding of issues related to living with diversity.

Sustainability — Sustainability provides a rich, engaging and authentic context in which students can explore financial literacy and science concepts, and the idea that sustainable choices and financial responsibility are often very closely related both for individuals and society in general.


The headings below relate to the sections within this resource. Expand each one to read a description of the section content, along with suggestions for class or group discussions and important points to bring to students’ attention in order to support their learning and make the context more authentic and relevant.

The suggested marking rubric (.pdf 98kB) addresses student assessment relating to the Australian Curriculum Content Descriptors — Science Year 10.

Students are introduced to the scenario of this resource and the related learning content. Georgia is about to move to the city to start an apprenticeship. Her Grandmother has given her some money to help with getting set up in a share house with three others but she must plan carefully considering her needs and wants and make informed decisions about household appliances.

Students could discuss:

  • needs and wants for living in a share house

  • how we choose appliances

  • what we need to consider when choosing appliances.

Georgia decides to buy a refrigerator. Students work through the introduction to Georgia, her conversation with her father and her move to the city. They need to appreciate the constraints of her grandmother’s generosity and her wish for Georgia to make environmentally responsible choices.

Students could discuss:

  • why Georgia considered the refrigerator to be important

  • what life was like before household refrigeration

  • how the development of refrigeration has influenced what people eat and how they obtain food

  • how shops might have changed with the development of refrigeration. (Small local shops easily accessed on a daily basis have changed to supermarkets with many choices serving larger geographic areas. People tend to do large shops to last a long period of time. This then necessitates transport, larger fridges and sometimes buying unnecessary items and food wastage)

  • whether a refrigerator is a need or a want in today’s world.

As an extension activity students could:

  • explore the Coolgardie safe, how it works and how a simple safe can be made

  • participate in a group challenge to build a ‘model refrigerator’ to keep a small block of ice from melting for as long as possible

  • give each ‘model refrigerator’ created a rating (based on a Likert scale of one to five stars)

  • discuss how heat is transferred and why the most successful ‘model refrigerator’ worked so well.

Georgia decides on what she needs in the short term and what she wants in the longer term and dad introduces the concept of energy efficient appliances and their ratings. Dad plants the seed that by investigating the E3 Program Georgia could work out how to save some money to go towards her longer term wants.

Students learn about the Australian Government’s E3 Program (Equipment Energy Efficiency Program) and its four key responsibilities. They explore star ratings and the differences in appliance labels. Different appliances have different numbers of maximum stars but sometimes the maximum number is not used. At present most refrigerators/freezers rank up to 4 so they would only display the 6 stars, even though their maximum is 10. Star ratings also exist for cars and some electric and gas appliances which relate to energy efficiency, carbon dioxide emissions and sustainability. There are also water efficiency labels for dish washers and washing machines.

Throughout the following activities students will be asked to explore websites, conduct research and gather information. Encourage students to analyse the sources using their knowledge of scientific concepts to draw conclusions about the claims, explanations and predictions presented. Students could discuss whether they think sites they visit are reliable sources for information and give evidence for their belief.

Assist students to explore the E3 Program website, navigating to areas such as Comparing appliances. Complete a class activity where all students bring details of their television brand and model for class comparison.

Students could:

  • brainstorm the range of goods and services that receive rankings and the various criteria for the ranking schemes

  • discuss the purchase of appliances that students and their families may have recently made and whether they used the star rating scheme to inform their purchases

  • study star ratings for appliances in their homes to discover how to estimate the running costs of appliances with or without star ratings. An electricity bill is required for information about usage

  • revise the terms watt, kilowatt and kilowatt hour and relate these to the use and cost of electricity

  • compare a range of light globes and discuss how technology has improved energy efficiency. Students complete the activities within this section culminating in the quiz on the E3 star rating label scheme.

Students complete What do the stars mean? Students take the Consumer and Financial Literacy quiz (Alternative: Consumer and Financial Literacy quiz (.pdf 354kB)) to test their understanding of the star rating system. There are 11 multiple choice questions and 1 hot spot. Students receive a score at the end of the quiz and can retry the quiz if they wish.

After completing the Consumer and financial literacy quiz, teachers can use Consumer and Financial Literacy quiz—Responses and feedback (.pdf 360kB) to check student answers or give a copy to students so they can check their own work. This PDF gives the correct answer to each quiz question with some feedback.

Discuss with students the crisis related to the hole in the ozone layer, its cause and how the world has responded to overcome the environmental problem. Identify how technology helps, identify the problem, contribute to and overcome it.

Students revise their understanding of the element carbon, using this resource for added reinforcement. Download the NASA video Keeping Up with Carbon for students to view and discuss. Students play The carbon cycle game. Other useful sites might be found at Sites2See: The carbon cycle and us.

Students could explore sites such as:

Students test their understanding of the carbon cycle and related environmental issues in the Carbon cycle quiz. (Alternative: Carbon cycle quiz (.pdf 111kB)). The quiz is designed to determine the students’ understandings and knowledge of the:

  1. carbon cycle

  2. causes and impacts of current changes in greenhouse gas levels

  3. lithosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere and atmosphere and their global interactions

  4. impacts of different ways that electricity is generated

  5. fact that energy is not destroyed (just transferred and transformed).

After completing the Carbon cycle quiz, teachers can use Quiz responses and feedback (.pdf 95kB) to check student answers or give a copy to students so they can check their own work. This PDF gives the correct answer to each quiz question with some feedback.

Now that students have explored the carbon cycles and understand the star system they will complete activities to apply their knowledge and make informed choices.

Students work through the scenarios choosing between three fridges and three televisions. They complete calculations that affirm the best options and then apply their understanding to the purchase of a washing machine. Students complete the activities Choose a refrigerator (Alternative: Choose a refrigerator (.pdf 116kB)) and Choose a television (Alternative: Choose a television (.pdf 143kB)).

Students could enter the monthly savings into a spreadsheet and calculate the savings over time. They could also calculate the interest over a year if this money was placed in a compounding account (See smart consumers 4 a smart future, Money Matters—Mathematics Year10).

After completing the activities, teachers can use Choose a refrigerator—Responses and feedback (.pdf 129kB) and Choose a television—Responses and feedback (.pdf 113kB) to check student answers or give a copy to students so they can check their own work. These PDFs give the correct answers to questions with some feedback.

The scenario introduces Gracie who is going to move into the share house. Georgia tells Gracie that they have a refrigerator and a television.

Students could:

  • brainstorm other appliances that Gracie might choose

  • discuss and categorise the appliances as needs or wants

Students make an informed decision about an appliance they would choose if they were Gracie and then research one to purchase based on:

  • energy consumption

  • star rating index

  • kilowatt hours per year

  • financial implications

    • running costs

    • appliance cost, warranty and expected life span

    • budget.

Students report to classmates about their choices and justify their decisions. Encourage students to consider and include how:

  • electricity usage relates to the carbon cycle and interactions of the lithosphere, atmosphere and hydrosphere

  • applying scientific understanding can support consumers to evaluate claims and make informed choices.

Note: The resource focuses on two appliances only and one of the students’ choice. This could however be extended to include other items which do not have star ratings such as furniture. Students could consider the advantages and disadvantages of purchasing new furniture and of recycling and reusing furniture. Attention should be drawn to the effect on the carbon cycle.

It is important that students reflect on their learning. Five discussion questions are included to facilitate this reflection. Other questions may be relevant to individual classroom settings.