Renewable and Nonrenewable Resources

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SWBAT differentiate between renewable and nonrenewable energy sources and identify advantages and disadvantages of both.

Big Idea

Students learn the difference between renewable and nonrenewable energy resources and then classify given examples of each.

Rationale and Preparation

The Why Behind Teaching This 

Unit 7 covers standard 5-ESS3-1: Obtain and combine information about ways individual communities use science ideas to protect the Earth's resources and environment.  In this unit students research how science is related to various professions.  They also research ways to conserve energy and ways that communities work together to keep their environment clean.  

In this specific lesson, students learn the difference between renewable resources and nonrenewable resources.  They watch a video that explains how fossil fuels are formed and why they cannot be replaced in our lifetime.  Through this lesson students gain an understanding of advantages and disadvantages of both renewable and nonrenewable resources, as well as examples of both.  The next lesson in this unit, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, goes into more detail on how we can conserve our resources. 

Lesson Goal:

The goal of this lesson is for students to be able to differentiate between renewable and nonrenewable resources by providing examples of each and advantages and disadvantages of using each. 

Success Criteria: 

Students will demonstrate success on the lesson goal by correctly completing all sections of the Venn Diagram on the exit ticket. 

Preparing For The Lesson:

Warm Up:

  • A piece of chart paper used as a poster throughout the lesson.  The poster begins with definition of a resource, then branches off to Renewable Resources and Nonrenewable Resources. Definition for Resource: A supply of materials that can be drawn on by humans to provide energy. 

Guided Practice:

  • Computer and overhead for showing the video 


  • A copy of the cards cut out from the resource example sheet for each group and an extra copy to tape onto the poster

Wrap Up:  

Warm Up

10 minutes

Word Meaning 

Today's lesson begins with having students identify the meaning of the two main vocabulary terms by breaking them apart.  I have a piece of chart paper hanging on the front board with the definition of the word resource written on it.  For the purpose of this lesson, I used the following definition.  

Resource - A supply of materials that can be drawn on by humans to provide energy.  


I read the definition to the class and then point out the two types of resources below, Renewable Resources and Nonrenewable Resources.  I point out a word that students are familiar with "renew" in both words.  I then point out the suffix "-able" on the end of each word and the prefix "non" on the front of nonrenewable.  This is a prefix and suffix that they have worked on in language arts class so they should be able to figure out the meaning of a word using these as clues.

I ask groups to discuss the meaning of both words and record them on a whiteboard.  As they spend the next 2 -3 minutes discussing and recording I circulate to listen to conversations.  I hear groups saying that "renew" means to get again, some compare it to renewing a library book.  I hear that the suffix "-able" means able to.  Groups put this together and define renewable resources as those that we are able to get again.  The prefix "non" is pretty easy for groups, all of them know that this prefix means not.  They put this together and describe the meaning of nonrenewable resources as resources we are not able to get again.  


Why Use This Strategy 

By having students break apart the words to come up with the definitions on their own, I am connecting what they have learned in language arts to science.  Sometimes students don't see the importance of what they are learning or how it is relative.  By having them apply their understanding of prefixes and suffixes to these words, they are able to see that it is helpful.  All groups were able to come up with the correct definitions on their own.  By doing it through peer discussion and seeing that all groups got the same thing, students are more likely to retain the information.  If I had just read them to definition from the poster, they are less likely to remember them. 

Guided Practice

20 minutes

Adding to the Poster 

After going over the definitions that each group had written on their whiteboards, I go back to the poster in the front of the class and add these definitions.  

Renewable Resource - A resource that can be replaced or never runs out

Nonrenewable Resource - A resource that cannot be replaced at the same rate it is being used, takes a long time to replace. 


I explain to students that most of the common nonrenewable resources we use are called fossil fuels.  I show the following video to explain what fossil fuels are, how they formed, and advantages and disadvantages of them.  I chose this video because it is under 10 minutes so students will not lose interest and it covers a lot of points related to fossil fuels, not just what they are.  I also like this video because it ties together topics previously covered in this unit.  For example, this video discusses how there are advantages and disadvantages to fossil fuels similar to our discussion on technology helping or harming the Earth.  It also discusses pollution caused by fossil fuels which is one thing mentioned in our lesson on pollution.  Students identified cars as a factor for air pollution but we did not go into detail about what actually causes the pollution so this video helps deepen their understanding. 


Video Follow Up

It is important to review key details of a video after showing it so that it has a purpose.  This can be done throughout the video, if it lend itself to pausing it at certain points, or at the end.  I review at the end of this video because there weren't clear points to stop at and there is a review already built in at the end of the video.  

I ask students the following questions:

  • What are the 3 fossil fuels? coal, oil, and natural gas
  • Why are they called "fossil" fuels? They are formed from fossils (remains of dead plants and animals)
  • What are some advantages of fossil fuels? Relatively cheap, they are in abundant supply, provide a large amount of energy for the world
  • What are some of the disadvantages? Add carbon dioxide into the atmosphere which causes global warming and acid rain, coal mining is dangerous, oil spills are harmful 
  • What do you think would be some advantages of renewable energy resources? They do not pollute the Earth, they are always available, it is not dangerous to get them
  • What do you think are some disadvantages to renewable energy resources? They are expensive and more abundant in certain areas.  For example you couldn't use hydroelectric power in deserts. 

The last two questions we discussed were not in the video but after learning about the advantages and disadvantages of fossil fuels it is important to have them compare that to renewable resources.  Students were not always able to give me the answers I was looking for above so would ask more leading questions and give examples when needed. 


20 minutes

Identifying Renewable and Nonrenewable Resources

Now that they have learned the definitions for both renewable and nonrenewable resources, watched a video about nonrenewable resources, and compared the advantages and disadvantages of both types of resources, it is important for them to see examples of both side by side. I provide each group with a set of the card pictures that have been cut out of the resource example sheet.  Groups spend the next couple of minutes discussing the pictures and separating them into two categories, renewable resources and nonrenewable resources.  I circulate to listen to the discussions taking place.  

Once all groups have separated them we compare the sorts.  All groups correctly separated them, the only error was with the water bottle.  A few groups put the water bottle with the renewable energy resources.  We looked up how plastic is made so they would know that it is made with petroleum, or oil.  They told me that they thought it was nonrenewable but they thought there was the same number of each type of resource so they put it in the renewable group.  I made the cards with four renewable resources and six nonrenewable, not for any purpose, that is just how it ended up.  This actually proved to be a good thing because many students were not aware of how plastic is made and by groups making this error it lead us to research it.  If I had told them how many pictures were in each category they may not have made the error and would have left this lesson still unsure as to why plastic is nonrenewable.    

Finishing the Poster

To provide students with another visual, I add a copy of the picture cards to the bottom of the poster hanging in front of the room.  I have been continuously returning to that poster throughout the lesson as a way to review each part over and over.  As I go back to the poster, I reread the definition for each and then hang the picture cards.  As I am hanging the cards, I am asking for some advantages and disadvantages for each type of resource as another review.  This will be the second or third time students are hearing the information which helps prepare the ESE and ELL students for the assessment.


Wrap Up

10 minutes

Exit Ticket Assessment 

I provide each student with a Resource Exit Ticket.  The exit ticket is a Venn Diagram having students compare and contrast renewable and nonrenewable resources. I asked for specific comparisons so I could assess mastery of the lesson goal.  I want to make sure they are able to provide examples of both renewable and nonrenewable resources and list advantages and disadvantages of both.  If I had just left the circles of the Venn Diagrams blank and allowed them to fill in any information, they may have only given examples, then I would know if they understand that both have advantages and disadvantages.  

Students turn in their exit tickets when complete and I check them at the end of the day to help guide my review the following day.  I am able to quickly assess student understanding by separating the exit tickets into three piles, students who "mastered the goal" meaning they got all correct, students who were "approaching" meaning they were not able to correctly give 1 or 2 pieces of the information required, and students who "need development" meaning they were not able to provide information on 3 or more areas.

I had the majority of students fall in the mastery grouping.  I had 4 out of 20 in the approaching section and 2 in the needs development pile.  The 4 in the approaching pile were all able to give examples of each, they either left off a similarity in the center or were not able to name an advantage or disadvantage of one of the resources.  

Examples from each pile are below:



Providing an Opportunity for Enrichment 

I offered my students that demonstrated mastery of this lesson goal to earn an Exemplary mark.  This means they are able to go above and beyond, what was expected of them, go more in depth in explaining their understanding.  I posed the question Do you think transitioning the world to run on all renewable energy would have a positive impact on life or negative?  In order to earn Exemplary students have to write a page essay with evidence found from researching to support their argument.  

I did not have any students attempt this. I believe no one attempted this because this unit was taught in the last 2 weeks of school, this lesson being in the last week.  Students were not motivated on doing much work at all at that point.  Had this been offered earlier in the year I believe I would have had a few students attempt it.