Explaining energy to future citizens

Taken live by Total in 2005, aims to serve as a reference site for all things energy. That makes children a core audience, since they'll be the movers and shakers of the future. Working with educational publisher Nathan, Total has developed a set of tools for teachers. And it's a hit!

The site has been making sense of and explaining energy to the general public for ten years. High-level expertise and an openness to many viewpoints enable it to provide reliable, practical information. Young people are a core target audience for the site because, as Yamina Saheb, Senior Energy Policy Analyst at OPENEXP, member of's editorial committee and contributor, puts it: "Children are the decision-makers of the future. Given all the energy-related changes we're witnessing and the major development and climate challenges we face, the information we provide is meant to help them understand and act. We're in a transition period: our generation must make changes, but also pass them on to the next." has a clear educational focus and the teams that work on it are upfront about their goal of making it the go-to site for knowledge and facts about energy — every type of energy.

• For more on the subject:

Learning About and Understanding Energy

This goal did not go unnoticed by a major French educational publisher, Nathan, which has worked with since its inception.

Stéphanie Dizel-Doumenge has been an editor at Nathan for ten years. She's been involved since the partnership began: "When debuted, Total asked us to think about ways we could provide content for it. We came up with educational content based on exploring energy for primary, middle and high schools. All fully digital and aligned with school curricula."

The publisher's job is to act as a bridge between the site's content and teachers, inundated with teaching kits and not necessarily up to speed on what can be done in the realm of energy. "Our role is to promote the kits produced for Total in schools using our contacts in the teaching world, where Nathan is a trusted authority with educational know-how neither Total nor any other business particularly has. That's what our partnership is all about," says the editor.

A la carte learning

Energy is approached differently in schools depending on whether the subject is being taught to primary school students or high school seniors in the science track. "In primary schools, the curriculum calls for hands-on learning and experimentation," comments Ms. Dizel-Doumenge. "So teachers are always looking for science content they can incorporate into their classwork. Provided it's good content!"

Learning about energy and energy knowledge are part of the program in middle and high schools. "At this level we take an innovative approach to teaching, through very different materials, topics and projects."

And it's a hit. Questionnaires sent to teachers supplied with teaching kits show that they're fans of the content's quality.

Teachers are free to pick whatever teaching kit they prefer on the topic of their choice. Their selections are also guided by a company's image or by biases, justified or not. "True, Nathan provides academic credibility," says Ms. Dizel-Doumenge, "but [choices] are based mainly on know-how and expertise. When Nathan cites Total, it is citing an article written by a recognized energy expert, an unquestioned scientific authority. Our author teams are teachers who know what can and can't pass muster in schools. I can tell you that the authors who work on these kits were amazed at the rich content of A goldmine for middle and high schools!"

In addition, the new middle school curricula stress developing students' critical thinking skills. That means acquiring the habit of cross-checking information sources, such as the French Environment and Energy Management Agency (ADEME), Total and business, institutional or NGO sites. These same curricula emphasize educating students about the business world and professions, especially in high school. In Ms. Dizel-Doumenge's opinion, "These overlapping requirements confirm and lend credibility to our own approach."

Proud to teach

Teaching about energy is part of fostering general knowledge in children and young people. In other words, helping them to understand the world we all live in and how it works. They need such knowledge to grow up and become responsible citizens in today's world and tomorrow's. In fact, talking about energy explores the diversity of energy sources, consumption, conservation, efficiency and future needs, while keeping climate issues in mind. "Behavior is learned young and education molds kids into future responsible citizens. Although all subjects are worthwhile, it's pretty gratifying for a team to know that it is making its own small contribution to this mission," says Ms. Dizel-Doumenge in conclusion.

This page was paid for by Total. The editorial staff of CNBC had no role in the creation of this page.