Plaid Pete Knows His Resources, Naturally!

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SWBAT identify renewable and non-renewable natural resources within their community.

Big Idea

What is a natural resource? What makes a natural resource renewable or non-renewable? Students use maps of natural resources within their communities to explore these questions.

Setting Up the Investigation

Connection to The Next Generation Science Standards

In this investigation, students begin the work that will lead them to explore the Disciplinary Core Idea of Earth and Human Activity -  that human activities in agriculture, industry, and everyday life have had major effects on the land, vegetation, streams, ocean, air, and even outer space.  But individuals and communities are doing things to protect Earth's resources and environments. (5-ESS3-1);

Disciplinary Core Ideas of Engineering Design:

  • Solutions to a problem are limited by available materials and resources.
  • Success of a designed solution is determined by considering the desired features of a solution.
  • Proposals for a solution can be compared on the basis of how each one meets the specified criteria for success or how well each takes the constraints into account.
  • Research on a problem should be carried out before beginning to design a solution.
  • Testing a solution involves investigating how well it performs under a range of likely conditions.
  • At whatever stage, communicating with peers about proposed solutions is an important part of the design process.
  • Shared ideas can lead to improved designs.
  • Tests are often designed to identify failure points or difficulties, which suggest the elements of the design that need to be improved. 
  • Different solutions need to be tested in order to determine which of them best solves the problem, given the criteria and constraints. 


Crosscutting Concept of Influence of Engineering, Technology, and Science on Society and the Natural World  - People's needs and wants change over time, as do their demands for new and improved technologies (3-5-ETS1-1), and Engineers improve existing technologies or develop new ones to increase their benefits, decrease known risks, and meet societal demands (3-5-ETS1-2).

Please Note:  The Lexile Level for Plaid Pete Engineers A Solution - Lab Scenario Sheet Lesson 2 is 870 (5th Grade Range is 740 - 1010).

The Preparation Time for This Investigation is approximately 10 minutes.  An additional 10 minutes was required to print and laminate the maps.  You will also need to include sufficient time to search and locate maps for your individual community.

Materials Needed:

One copy for each student of Plaid Pete Engineers A Solution - Lab Scenario Sheet - Lesson 2

One copy for each student of Plaid Pete Engineers A Solution Lab Sheet - Lesson 2

One copy of Plaid Pete Engineers A Solution Word Wall Cards - Lesson 2

One paper copy for each student of Plaid Pete Engineers A Solution Word Wall Cards - Lesson 2

One copy each of What Are Natural Resources? student fact sheet produced by the San Francisco Environment Kids website.

One copy  for each student of Plaid Pete Engineers A Solution - Lesson 2 Check-Up

One color set of each of the following maps for each team:  Wetlands in Whatcom County; Wildlife Habitats in Whatcom County; and Water Ways in Whatcom County (Note:  You will want to substitute these maps with maps from your own community.  I obtained these from the website of my local county planning and development agency.  Your state department of natural resources is also another source for these types of maps.)


Focus & Motivation

5 minutes

Introduce the Scenario

My students have enjoyed reading the lesson scenarios as a reader's theater in their teams.  They are excited to hear that we will be using this procedure again for this unit.  I tell them there will be 3 parts in the scenario today, Plaid Pete, his friend Seth, and a narrator.  Students work in their teams to determine who will read today.  They have become very good at taking turns to ensure that everyone has a chance to read a part.

I pass out the Plaid Pete Engineers A Solution - Lab Scenario Sheet - Lesson 2 and my students get out their highlighters.  Students read the parts in their teams, as I circulate and listen in.

As before, we are continuing to work on aspects of Reading Fluency, so I listen in for teams that are doing a great job of using appropriate phrasing, intonation, and rate, so that I can give high praise after the scenario is read.

Learning Objective & Success Criteria

Note:  Consistent with the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol, I am now including a language objective with each lesson.  These objectives were derived from the Washington State ELP Standards Frameworks that are correlated with the CCSS and the NGSS.

I share the learning objective and success criteria:  

Learning Objective:  I can identify renewable and non-renewable natural resources within my community.

Language Objective:  I can gather information from print and digital sources to answer a question.  [ELP.4-5.5]

Success Criteria:  I can correctly complete my lab sheet that provides examples of renewable and non-renewable natural resources within my community.

Once I have shared the learning objectives and success criteria with my students, I tell them it is time to get ready to begin our work.

Vocabulary Instruction

10 minutes

Consistent with the 5E Model for Science Instruction, I will usually provide a hands-on opportunity before introducing vocabulary.  However, in this particular instance students will need these words in order to adequately benefit from this lesson.

Introduce Vocabulary

I present the words from the Plaid Pete Engineers A Solution Word Wall Cards - Lesson 2 using the following instructional routine.

  1. Say the word to students.
  2. Ask students to repeat the word at least 5 times.  For example, I will say, "Say it to the window.  Say it to my hand.  Say it to the door.  Say it to the ceiling."
  3. I say the word in context.  For example, I will say, " The position the plants were placed in was one of the controlled variables in the video."  
  4. I will then randomly call on a student to use the word in a sentence, giving successive prompts to assist them, if needed.

Science Notebooks

I use the following routine to have students write these words into their Science Notebooks:

After introducing the words, I demonstrate for students how to make a three column table with rows for each of the eight vocabulary words.  I model for them in my own Science Notebook how to write the word in the first box, a non-linguistic (e.g. picture) representation of the word in the second box, and work with the class to generate an example sentence for the first word in the third box. Students cut out their copies of the cards and place in the envelope, which they glue on the page behind their table.  They will finish sentences for the remaining seven words either for homework, or for seat-work later.  A completed notebook will look like this Example.


20 minutes

Introduce the Text

Although the understanding of natural resources are precursor concepts in the Next Generation Science Standards for students at the 5th Grade Level, the pre-assessment revealed that many students do not have the understanding they will need to be successful with grade level content without additional instruction.

I pass out a copy of What Are Natural Resources? a student fact sheet produced by the San Francisco Environment Kids website.

Introduce the Strategy

Using my teacher copy of a Science Notebook, I demonstrate for my students how to construct a T-Chart in their notebooks.  On the left side we will write the main idea for each paragraph, and write the supporting details on the right side.  

I read the first paragraph, using a "think a loud" to identify the main idea and supporting details.  In this way, I model for my students the thinking and analysis that good readers go through to closely read and process text.  

We work through the text, reading each paragraph, identifying the main idea, and adding the supporting details.

A completed T Chart looks like this.

When we have finished reading the text, I tell my students, "Now we are ready to do exactly what Plaid Pete and Seth were going to be doing - use maps to identify natural resources within our own community, and determine which of those are renewable, and which are non-renewable.  You will be working in your teams to complete this activity."

Team Activity

20 minutes

Introduce the Task

I pass out the Plaid Pete Engineers A Solution Lab Sheet - Lesson 2 to each student, and one color copy of each of the following maps:  Wetlands in Whatcom County, Wildlife Habitats in Whatcom County, and Water Ways in Whatcom County.  The Next Generation Science Standards specifies "individual communities" in the performance standards for the Disciplinary and Core Idea of Earth and Human Activity.  In order to meet these requirements, I know it is important that my students become familiar with the natural resources that are present in our local area.

I read through the directions on the lab sheet with my students. I am anticipating some lively discussion when students have to decide which resources are renewable, and which are not.

Oh my!  What I am not anticipating is that my students are so unfamiliar with the places on the map that are a part of their everyday lives.  I am not sure why this has not occurred to me - but it hasn't.  However, it is very clear that a good chunk of my students don't understand what the Lummi Reservation is, although it is adjacent to our community.  They are also unfamiliar with the river that is the major source of water for our community.  I have come to the startling realization that they are just pulling names off of the map and writing them on the sheet.  This is a disconcerting place to be as a teacher - indeed.  You can see my consternation in this Video Clip


I end up having to pull my students together and back track!  I first have to work with them to clarify the difference between a natural resource and a landform - because they are confused!  Then, we go back to looking at the maps Together and identify not only natural resources that are present in our area, but the actual needs that are fulfilled by these resources.  You can see the results of our efforts in this chart we co-constructed.  The next time I do this lesson, I won't make the assumption that my students have the background knowledge of understanding what natural resources are found in our specific area.  I will pre-teach those.  Lesson learned!

Reflection & Closure

10 minutes

Check -Up

I tell my students that I want them to remember the difference between a landform and a natural resource.  I share that I foresee a Check-Up in their future!

I have prepared the following Plaid Pete Engineers A Solution - Lesson 2 Check-Up for my students to complete a few days after this lesson.  I want to be sure that going forward, they understand the difference!