Eco Guardians and Nikki's Energy Assignment

How to Use This Program

Duke Energy and The National Theatre for Children (NTC) invite you to use these e-learning resources to teach your students about energy efficiency. The digital materials below are designed to get your students excited about understanding this important subject. These virtual offerings are included with both the Eco Guardians live in-school show and the Nikki's Energy Assignment on-demand video.

Want to know the best way to use the related videos, games, activities and hands-on lessons to educate your class? Watch this short video and learn how to easily add Eco Guardians or Nikki's Energy Assignment to your curriculum.

Student Activities

These student activities include games, e-books, downloadable PDFs and more. Access in the classroom or at home to learn more about energy conservation!

Access Student Activities

Educational Standards

We know your class time is extremely valuable. That’s why NTC ensures that all of our materials are aligned with state and national educational standards. It’s important that Eco Guardians and Nikki's Energy Assignment add to your existing curriculum and keep students on track with their ongoing learning.

Click here for details about how each activity aligns with educational standards and corresponds with your state’s curricula.

Educational Standards

About the Program

Live In-School Performance

Our live in-school performances feature two actor-educators who lead your students on an energy efficiency adventure.

In the 25-minute Eco Guardians show, K-5 audiences learn about energy resources with the help of energy-saving superhero Nikki Neutron. Nikki’s boss, U.R. Fired, informs her that the wasteful supervillain The Sneaker is on the loose. With the help of characters like Thunderstorm and Bert the Dirt Expert, Nikki (and your students) learn all about energy conservation and set out to convince The Sneaker why protecting our planet is important.

For more information about our live in-school shows, visit

Online Access Video

For schools or classrooms unable to attend a live in-school performance, the program also offers an online access video that students and educators can view anytime. The 15-minute Nikki’s Energy Assignment video offers a hilarious story about energy efficiency that focuses on the same educational content as the live performance.

The online access video can be viewed in classrooms or from home, either synchronously or on individual devices. It’s an entertaining and convenient alternative to the live theatrical show.

Educator Assessments

Below are some suggestions for how you can assess your students’ ongoing learning quickly and effectively.

These assessments are easy for you and your students to complete and help ensure your class is getting the maximum educational value from the related activities.

Elementary Educational Assessments Livestream Hands-on lessons Digital games E-book Graphic novel Interactive activities Print materials
Ask students to reflect on the topic and draw their thoughts on paper x     x x    
Write one or two sentences identifying the main point x x   x x    
Think-pair-share x     x x    
One-question quiz     x     x  
Journal reflection x     x x    
Have students discuss three things they learned, two things they still want to learn, and one question they still have x     x x    
Hand in completed activity   x       x x
Submit screenshot of completed activity     x     x  

Interactive Activities

Words to Know

Hover over the image to reveal the definition.

A small attachment on a faucet to save water in kitchens and bathrooms
To save or use wisely
Producing very little waste
A useful source of energy used in many ways
The ability to do work and the force that makes things change
A lightbulb that uses less energy than an incandescent bulb
A showerhead that saves water and energy
A card that shows the temperature of your water to help you save energy
One thousand watts of electricity
Things we use to make electricity, like coal and natural gas
Using 1,000 watts of electricity for one hour
To use thoughtlessly or carelessly
A unit of electricity

Hands-On Lessons

Your students can enhance what they learn from the program with these fun, hands-on lessons and experiments. These lessons can be done in the classroom or easily adapted for students to do at home with their families.

They’re a fun and educational way for students to learn with family members. The materials needed for these lessons are basic supplies that most people have at home. Follow up with your students to make sure they enjoyed and learned from these activities.

Lesson 1:
Build a Pizza Box Solar Oven

Students will use the engineering process to build a solar oven out of a pizza box.

Purpose of Activity
Read or Listen, Identify Details, Apply Skills

21st Century Skills
Critical Thinking, Collaboration

Cognitive Level
Strategic Thinking, Extended Thinking, Skills and Concepts

Class Time
1 hour


  • One pizza box from a local pizza delivery store
  • Newspapers
  • Tape
  • Scissors
  • Black construction paper
  • Clear plastic wrap
  • Aluminum foil
  • One piece of notebook paper
  • One pencil or pen
  • One ruler, wooden dowel or stick
  • Edible treat, such as a cookie or s’more


  1. Make sure the pizza box is folded into its box shape and closed.
  2. Place the piece of notebook paper in the center of the lid of the box and trace its outline on the lid. Put the piece of paper aside.
  3. Carefully cut the two long edges and one of the short edges of the rectangle that you just traced on the lid of the box forming a flap of cardboard.
  4. Gently fold the flap back along the uncut edge to form a crease.
  5. Wrap the underside (inside) face of this flap with aluminum foil. Tape it on the other side so that the foil is held firmly. Try to keep the tape from showing on the foil side of the flap. The foil will help to reflect the sunlight into the box.
  6. Open the box and place a piece of black construction paper in so it fits the bottom of the box. This will help to absorb the sun's heat.
  7. Roll up some newspaper and fit it around the inside edges of the box. This is the insulation that helps hold in the sun's heat. It should be about 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick. Use tape to hold the newspaper in place, but only tape it to the bottom of the box, not the lid.
  8. Open the box again and cut two pieces of plastic wrap an inch larger than the flap opening on the box top. Open the box again and on the inside of the box lid, tape one piece of plastic wrap so that it covers the hole in the lid. After taping one side, BE SURE TO PULL THE PLASTIC WRAP TIGHT, and tape down all four sides so the plastic is sealed against the cardboard. Then close the box and tape the other piece of plastic wrap to the top of the flap opening. Again, be sure the plastic wrap is tight and tape down all four edges to form a seal. This creates a layer of air as insulation that helps keep the sun's heat in the box.
  9. On a sunny day, pick a treat to warm up and carry it and the box outside to a sunny spot. If it's cold outside, put a towel or blanket under the box so the bottom doesn't get cold. Open the box, put the treat in the center and close the box. Now open the flap and turn the box so the foil is facing the sun. The shadow of the flap should go straight back from the back of the box. Move the flap up and down and note how it reflects the sunlight. Use a dowel, ruler or stick to prop up the flap so that it bounces the sunlight into the box.
  10. Wait about thirty minutes for the box to warm up in the sun. Then enjoy your warmed-up treat!

Critical Thinking Questions

How can we use solar power to generate electricity?

  • Two ways. One – solar panels can turn sunlight directly into electricity. Two – solar reflectors, like this oven, can be used to heat up molten salt. The molten salt can then be used to boil water to create steam which can spin a turbine and generate electricity.

What role did the insulation play in this oven?

  • The insulation prevented a heat transfer from the oven and helped keep it warm.

Adapted from:

Lesson 2:
Matter, Heat and Insulation

Students will use the engineering process to develop an insulated container to minimize the loss of heat energy.

Purpose of Activity
Read or Listen, Identify Details, Apply Skills

21st Century Skills
Critical Thinking, Collaboration

Cognitive Level
Strategic Thinking, Extended Thinking, Skills and Concepts

Class Time
2 hours


  • Hot water
  • Plastic cup
  • Thermometer
  • Bubble-wrap, wool, cotton and other items to be used for insulation
  • Timers
  • Thermos
  • Laptops or digital device for research
  • Student sheet


  1. Show the thermos. Explain that heat energy can be gained or lost due to the cooling or heating effects of the environment. Ask students why they think this thermos can keep something hot on a cold day and have them write ideas down.
  2. Students will conduct an investigation with hot water. The students will try to keep the hot water as warm as possible for the designated time. For the investigation, students will use the cup. They will use other insulating materials to help the container be as effective as possible.
  3. Students then make modifications to the container for a second test.
  4. Students will use the student sheet to record observed temperatures under the evidence portion and will also give reasoning. They will then formulate a claim on how these experiments work and also an explanation.

Critical Thinking Questions

Which insulation worked best to insulate the water?

  • The wool.

What role did heat transfer play in the design of the insulation?

  • Heat transfer was being prevented.

Adapted from:

Expanded Information

Energy is neither created nor destroyed. To scientists, conservation of energy does not mean saving energy. Instead, the law of conservation of energy says that energy is neither created nor destroyed. When people use energy, it doesn't disappear. Energy changes from one form of energy into another form of energy.

A car engine burns gasoline, converting the chemical energy in gasoline into mechanical energy. Solar photovoltaic cells change radiant energy from the sun into electrical energy. Energy changes form, but the total amount of energy in the universe stays the same.

Energy efficiency is the amount of useful energy obtained from a system. A perfectly energy-efficient machine would convert all of the energy put into the machine to useful work. In reality, converting one form of energy into another form of energy always involves a conversion into usable and unusable forms of energy.

Most energy transformations are not efficient. The human body is a good example. The human body is like a machine, and the fuel it requires is food. Food gives a person energy to move, breathe and think. However, the human body isn't very efficient at converting food into useful work. The human body is less than 5% efficient most of the time. The rest of the energy is converted to heat, which may or may not be useful, depending on how cool or warm a person wants to be.

Adapted from: