In a year when Americans experienced record high prices at the gas pumps and winter heating costs are projected to soar nearly fifty percent, consumers are looking for ways to lower their energy costs for businesses, homes, schools, and transportation. Our primary energy sources today are fossil fuels, which are being depleted at an alarming rate. According to some, if consumption continues at the current rate, the fossil fuel supply could be gone before the end of the century. In addition to the cost and supply issues, scientists have long warned of the environmental damage caused by burning fossil fuels. In short, we are at a crossroads. Americans must use and develop alternate forms of energy to help us power our homes, automobiles, and businesses into the future without destroying the Earth's environment. Exploring the use of renewable and alternative resources is a must in today's world.
1. Introduce the idea of exploring alternative energy sources by asking students the following questions and allowing 2-3 minutes to discuss each one.
2. Distribute and/or share the NewsHour Extra article entitled, "High Gas Prices Could Mean Cold Classrooms and Canceled Trips" available at. As a class, read the article and discuss what some schools are being forced to do because of the rising cost of fuel for buses and heating school buildings. Make the impact of the rising cost of gasoline and providing heat by having students complete the following equations.
3. Using the chart entitled "American Energy Sources" available at, (scroll down to Charts and Graphs and click on U.S. Fuel and Energy Sources), discuss the fact that the vast majority of U.S. energy comes from fossil fuels. At this time, conduct a short class discussion that includes information such as:
4. Pose a question such as:
5. As a class, make a list of all of the renewable resources that students can think of and record them on the board or overhead for all to see. NOTE: A list of renewable resources and related words along with their definitions appears below for use with this activity.
6. Once the list has been recorded, ask a questions such as:
Facilitate a discussion about the reasons why renewable energy sources are not widely used. Be sure to include information about cost, reliability, and access.
7. Now that students have a basic understanding of the difference between renewable and nonrenewable resources and some of the issues surrounding U.S. energy needs and consumption, present them with the following scenario:
8. Go further into the simulation by telling students:
9. Using thehandout, assign each pair of students a specific topic to research. Students should record their research findings on the handout. Encourage them to visit the Web sites listed in the Online Resources section of the guide.
10. Once research is completed, students must then create a model, experiment, diagram, or some type of interactive or multimedia type of display that they can use to teach classmates about how a specific renewable resource or new form of energy can be used to power America. Students should use their persuasive speaking skills to convince their classmates that their source of energy/power is better than the current fossil fuels being used.
11. After all groups have presented their projects, facilitate a final class discussion about the development of alternative energy sources. Include questions such as:
1. Have students research and discuss ways that they can be actively involved in cutting their own energy consumption. Each student should create a chart describing what he/she is doing to conserve energy and should track how much energy they are saving each day or week by changing their behavior and usage patterns.
2. Invite a panel of local energy experts to visit the classroom to discuss and show students examples of alternative energy sources that are being developed for use in the community.
3. Hold an energy fair in the school and invite students from other classrooms or grade levels to visit a booth showcasing each pair of students and their project. Encourage students to share what they have learned about alternative and renewable energy sources with others as they look at the displays created by each pair.
4. Create an energy awareness campaign in the school and encourage all students to learn more about energy conservation and alternative energy sources through a series of announcements, commercials, flyers, etc.
Compendium of K-12 Standards Addressed:
Standard 7: Knows the physical processes that shape patterns on Earth's surface
Standard 11: Understands the patterns and networks of economic interdependence on Earth's
Standard 14: Understands how human actions modify the physical environment
Standard 16: Understands the changes that occur in the meaning, use, distribution and
importance of resources
Standard 18: Understands global development and environmental issues
Standard 9: Understands the sources and properties of energy
Standard 3: Uses basic and advanced procedures while performing the processes of computation
Standard 1: Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process
Standard 3: Uses grammatical and mechanical conventions in written composition
Standard 4: Gathers and uses information for research purposes
Standard 5: Uses the general skills and strategies of the reading process
Standard 7: Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of
Listening and Speaking
Standard 8: Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes
Working with Others
Standard 1: Contributes to the overall effort of a group
Standard 4: Displays effective interpersonal communication skills