I had my students glue the Classifying Energy Sources Advance Organizer into their science notebooks. Students need to understand that any kind of electricity generation with the exception of solar depends on capturing movement. I demonstrated this idea using a wind up flashlight. It allowed me to easily demonstrate that the light wouldn't light until I turned the crank. As a bonus, this light also had an emergency radio, so I was able to show two different uses for the electricity. I gave my class a few moments to share their experiences with similar devices and toys before asking them if they thought someone downtown was just turning a crank really quickly so that we could have electricity here at school. They shared a few ideas before I had them complete the top half of the organizer. I told them their job for the day was to find different energy sources and determine how they are classified. I chose to focus on classifying, I created a higher order think task than just asking them to find energy sources.
I directed my students to my class website where I had linked to a collection of energy resources. As students were working, they found many different examples of energy sources, but they really had a challenge figuring out the main categories, renewable and non-renewable. My coaching was something along the lines of "You're right, solar and wind do go together, but not coal. Why not? What do solar and wind have in common that coal does not?" As time got short, I encouraged them to try Energy Mice. By reading the very short instructions, and noticing that the renewable energy sources come back while the non-renewable does not, they could really get everything they needed.
When students finished, I encouraged them to give Energy City a try. Simulations like this help students understand complicated issues with a variety of interdependent variables in a way few other ways can.
Finally, I called students to report back to make sure we had some common understandings, and encouraged them to make any corrections in their science notebooks. There were a few interesting debates that came out even this early in our unit, including where to classify biofuels and solar.