Renewable and Non-Renewable Energy Sources

56 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT describe the difference between renewable energy and non-renewable energy.

Big Idea

What is the best energy source? Can renewables be the future?


10 minutes

I start by giving the students a pre-test, I call "What I Know".  My strategy is to determine what they know about each energy source. I explain, "I want to see what you know about energy sources because a lot of you read the paper, watch TV and know a lot about energy." I'll use the pre-test to assign energy sources for later exploration.

After they turn in the pre-test, we do a Vocabulary Dig. I ask students to work in groups and write words associated with energy sources on "bricks" to add to our Word Wall. Many of my students know the difference between many of the terms including non-renewable and renewable. My Group Discussion strategy works well because students help one another learn.Typically one student remembers a word and others say, "Oh yea! That's right!" I use lab white boards to share out the words. 

We make bricks of any word to add to the wall. The Word Wall is a great strategy for vocabulary. It grows as the year commences and students have a visual reference for additional activities.


15 minutes

Using the pre-test, I group students in differentiated groups assigning students to energies in which there was no evidence of understanding. The energy sources we are covering are solar (photovoltaic), solar (concentrated), geo-thermal, biomass, hydro-electric (fresh water), hydroelectric (salt water tides and tidal rivers). I also put in oil, coal, and natural gas. I explain coal is used for electricity, oil for transportation, and natural gas for our homes.

Students will work in groups of common energy sources. My intention is to allow the students the opportunity to use one another as a reference. Students go to computers and do a Goggle image search for their energy source. My intention is to support understanding through visual learning. Many of the energy sources have fantastic visual models that help students understand. 

As soon as they have an image, students plan their learning. Student groups create a list of questions to research about their energy resource. I direct the class to consider how the energy source works, disadvantages and advantages, how the source impacts the economy and  how it impacts the environment. My strategy is to allow the students to form their own questions. I want to give the students the opportunity to find their own information.

The class then examines one another's research questions to share good questions.  I add content specific questions and ask, "Why do you think we do not want the same answer for two different questions? " Why do you think we don't want Yes or No answers?" Students go to the computers and print information about their energy source. They answer their questions based upon the research. I work with individual students, checking for understanding.



After I assess all of the questions and the answers, students are given the opportunity to change answers to record better information.

My work assessing their questions and answers makes the next step much more powerful. 



10 minutes

Using their research, students become the experts and share what they learned in posters. Check out the Energy Posters- Student Samples. I display all the posters of one energy source near the others of the same energy source. This way there are 6 posters of each source and students can read every poster to get information.   


60 minutes

I ask the students to compare and contrast the different energies. I want the students to think about the economic impact and the environmental impact.  Students go to each set of posters with Energy Source Comparison. My graphic organizer strategy provides structure as they learn about energies in which they are not the experts. My Energy Posters- Student Samples show how the students also create a position statement about the energies they compared. 

At the end of the lesson I give the students an authentic scenario. I explain that as the President of the United States I have 25 million dollars to spend on energy. They are my Senators and Representatives. They have 3 million dollars to spend in any way they want. If they feel I should spend it on Solar, give all the money to solar. If they feel they should break it into several energy sources, they can divide it among different energy sources. I then collect their dollars and share the results. The students complete a 3-5 sentence summary, in response to these questions:

  1. How did you spend your energy money? Explain why you made your choices.
  2. What information on the poster or that you investigated help make the decision?  
  3. Did your choice change from the first time I asked what energy source is the best? 


15 minutes

 One of my favorite TED talks is a little over the heads of some of my students but I like how David Mackey uses math models to indicate the value of non-renewable energy sources.

Before showing the video I review meters so students have a better idea of the sizes Mr. Mackey refers to in the video. Some of my students remember the terms 5K and 10K because they have run races and their prior knowlege helps them understand the video better. 


After the movie I ask the following discussion questions. 

How does math make it easier for politicians to make decisions?