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This renewable energy unit uses a Promethean Board, a streaming video website, MS Word, Excel and PowerPoint


Computers & Internet, Science  



Title – We Have the Power!
By – Elisa Latreille
Primary Subject – Science
Secondary Subjects – Computers / Internet
Grade Level – 3


      This lesson plan is centered on the concept of renewable energy. It is a science unit that includes lessons on wind and solar power, as well as basic electric circuitry. The lessons will also cover some Earth Science concepts, as we will explore the earth’s supply of natural resources and discuss the importance of renewable energy both now and in the future. We will examine our power consumption and explore the idea of using renewable energy to fill our electricity needs. The unit will culminate with group investigations and presentations of renewable energy plans for our school. The duration of the unit is 4 weeks

(20 days, one hour per day)

      Why should our students learn about renewable energy and energy conservation?
      Because their future depends on it. Nicole Sands of Greenpeace summarizes the hazards associated with our nation’s current energy trends:

Our excessive reliance on fossil fuels feeds not only excessive air pollution, destruction of pristine areas and global warming, it also increasingly contributes to economic and regional instability around the globe. Continued fossil fuel use also contributes to the effects of global warming seen in rising temperatures, altered weather patterns and unseasonable droughts, floods and fires. (The Green Ribbon Pledge website) .


  • Students will be able to identify renewable and non-renewable energy sources.
  • Students will build and test basic electrical circuits.
  • Students will be able to explain the importance of using renewable energy.
  • Students will apply their knowledge of power consumption and resource availability to address a local issue.
  • Students will work in small groups to improve collaboration and cooperation skills.

Colorado Model Content Science Standards addressed:

  • Standard 1: Students apply the processes of scientific investigation and design, conduct, communicate about, and evaluate such investigations.
    • 1.1: Design, plan and conduct a variety of simple investigations (for example: formulate a testable question, state a hypothesis, make systematic observations, develop and communicate logical conclusions based on evidence).
    • 1.2: Select and use appropriate tools and technology to gather and display related to an investigation (for example: length, volume, and mass measuring instruments, thermometers, watches, magnifiers, microscopes, calculators, and computers).
  • Standard 2: Physical Science — Students know and understand common properties, forms, and changes in matter and energy.
    • 2.5: There are different types and sources of energy (for example: light, heat, motion).
    • 2.6: Electricity in circuits can produce light, heat, sound, and magnetic effects.
  • Standard 4: Earth and Space Science — Students know and understand the processes and interactions of Earth’s systems and the structure and dynamics of Earth and other objects in space.
    • 4.3: Many of the Earth’s resources can be conserved, recycled and depleted.

Tasks Included:

  • Create and test basic electrical circuits.
  • Build and test small wind turbines.
  • Investigate energy usage at school and at home.
  • Research renewable energy options.
  • Record findings and information in personal Science Journals.
  • Synthesize information to develop a “Renewable Energy Plan” for the school.
  • Create a PowerPoint slideshow and present the Renewable Energy Plans to parents, teachers, and other classes.

Materials/Resources (30 students) :

  • Computers (30). You may need to reserve your school’s computer lab to give all students access to a computer .
    • Internet Access
    • Internet filters
    • Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint)
    • Promethean Board (“Smart Board”) with laptop and speakers
    • Access to Discovery Education’s United Streaming website (If your school does not subscribe to this service, the lessons can be modified with other online informational sites or books from your library.)
  • Digital Camera (optional) – I have an old Canon PowerShot S330 that I would let my students use. Any “point-and-shoot” digital camera would suffice.
  • KidWind Kits (6) (KidWind Basic PVC Wind Turbine kits are $40. Available at the KidWind website)
  • Basic Electricity Kits (6) — You will have to get these materials and create the kits.
    • Each kit should include a battery pack, 4 AA batteries, and wires (Available online or at a local hobby shop.)
    • Kits will also include a small DC water pump, a simple multimeter, and an LED board (All are available through KidWind.)
  • Solar Modules (6) (Available online at Hobby Engineering or at local hobby stores.)
  • Cardboard and/or cardstock
  • Large box fans (6)
  • Stopwatches (6) (Oslo by Robic 6 Pack Stopwatches available at Dick’s Sporting Goods, or you can use any other basic stopwatches that your school may have.)
  • Calculators (30) – You can use basic calculators provided by the school or buy enough of these for the class (Available at Staples) .
  • Glue and/or tape
  • Scissors
  • “Paperclip Challenge” Supplies (paper bags, paper, paperclips, string, stickers)
  • Copy of class list for each student
  • Science Journals — one for each student
  • Copy of the school’s power bill (to determine how much power is used on an average day.)
  • Digital camera (optional) — students may want to take pictures to record data or procedures.

Step-by-Step Procedure:

  • Day 1: Collaboration & Teamwork activities and discussion.
    • Human Knot. (10 min.)
      Have groups of 8-10 students stand in a circle. They must close their eyes, and reach across the circle and grab the hand of someone across from them. They will then take their other hand and grab the hand of someone else (who is not next to them). The group will then attempt to untangle the “knot” without letting go of one another’s hands. Teams can compete against one another to see which team can untangle their knot the fastest.
    • Paperclip Challenge (15 min.)
      Working in teams of 4-5 students, each team will be handed a paper bag containing the following items: a piece of paper, 10 paperclips, a piece of string, and five circular stickers. Teams will have five minutes to make the longest object, without talking at all.

      Afterwards, have students use a tape measure to measure their object. Graph results on board. Look at the longest, and shortest, and some in between. Discuss what was easy and what was hard about creating their object. How did they communicate? What would they have done differently?

    • Group Discussion (10 min.)
      As a whole class, talk about the importance of listening to others, offering suggestions, and being respectful of others’ ideas. Talk about how teams are able to succeed at a task when everyone works together. Discuss how everyone has different strengths, and how these strengths can be used to benefit the group. Most importantly, talk about the importance of respecting one’s peers and working together to achieve a common goal.
    • Recognizing Strengths in Others (25 min.)
      The students will receive a class list, and will write one positive thing about each of their classmates. The teacher will then compile a list (on his or her own time) for each student with their classmates’ comments to be distributed on Day 2.
  • Day 2: Introduction to energy and electricity.
    • Hand out positive comments lists from Day 1. Reiterate the value of respecting others so that the group can succeed. (5 min.)
    • Divide the class into groups of 4-5 students. (You can do this however you see fit…) Keep a record of which students are working in each group. These teams will be working together for the remainder of the unit. (5 min.)
    • Give students a brief overview of what they will be learning/doing over the next 4 weeks, and your expectations. (5 min.)
    • Discovery Education: United Streaming Video Clips (Use Smart Board to display video clips.)
      • Basics of Physics: Exploring Energy (Approx. 22 min.)
      • Examples of Energy (1:08)
      • Energy from the Sun (3:19)
      • Nonrenewable Resources (5:47)
      • Problems Associated With Our Dependence on Fossil Fuels (3:52)
      • Renewable Resources (5:52)
      • Conserving Energy (1:35)
      • Real World Science: Electricity (Approx. 7 min.)
      • What is Electricity and Where Does it Come From? (1:08)
      • Current Electricity: Circuits (2:28)
      • Series and Parallel Circuits (2:11)
      • Electricity in the Real World (0:34)
    • Talk about renewable and nonrenewable resources. What are they? Why are they important? What are the benefits and drawbacks of each? Also discuss the ways that we use electricity, and where it comes from. Answer any questions about the videos. Let the class know that there will be a quiz the next day on renewable and nonrenewable energy. (15 min.)
    • Homework: Write in Science Journals – write about at least two things that you learned today.
  • Day 3: Energy Quiz & Basic Electric Circuitry
    • Quiz (See “Assessment” below) (10 min.)
    • Watch The Magic School Bus Gets Charged – available through United Streaming. (If you don’t have access to this website, you can either borrow the video from the library or check out the book.) (24 min.)
    • Give each team a battery pack, wires, an LED board, and a motor. Have students work together in their teams, and see if they can figure out how to get the LED board to light up (they can draw on what they learned from The Magic School Bus Gets Charged to help them). Can they get the motor to run? (25 min.)
    • Optional: If some groups figure it out quickly, help them to set up a small water pump. Can they make the water pump work too?
  • Day 4: Measuring Voltage
    • Whole-class demonstration: Voltage and Multimeter use. Draw a circuit diagram on the board (you can use the Smart Board or individual handouts if you prefer). Explain what voltage is. Demonstrate how to safely use a multimeter to measure the voltage of each load. Tell students which setting to use and where to touch the positive and negative ends of the multimeter to the circuit. (10 min.)
    • Have each student draw a basic circuit diagram in his or her science journal. Make sure they label the battery pack, wires, and load so that they have a reference to look at as they conduct their tests. (5 min.)
    • Teams will then create circuits using their battery pack, LED boards, motors, and water pumps. They will measure the voltage of each electrical load and record their measurements in their science journals. (20 min.)
    • Have students answer the following questions: What requires the most voltage? The least? Why? Students can discuss the questions as a group, then write the answers in their individual Science Journals. (15 min.)
    • As a class, discuss group results. (10 min.)
    • Homework: Have students finish answering the questions if they didn’t get to them in class.
  • Day 5: Introduction to Solar and Wind Power
    • Watch introductory wind video: Wind Farming (Available at this website) (Approx. 6 min.)
    • Watch Solar Energy video clips from United Streaming. (Approx. 10 min)
      • The Sun’s Energy (2:13)
      • Trapping the Sun’s Energy (2:58)
      • Green Tips: Using the Sun’s Energy (0:39)
      • Running on Empty Parade: Fueled by Solar Power (3:49)
    • Use Promethean Board to show students pictures of solar modules and wind turbines. Discuss how energy from the sun and wind can be harnessed and converted into electricity. (5 min.)
    • Give each team a small solar module. (This exercise will work best outside on a sunny day.) Have teams use the same loads (LED board, motor, pump) to experiment. Which loads can they run with the solar module? Why? Record findings in Science Journals. (30 min.)
    • As a class, discuss the results. (5 min.)
  • Day 6: Field Trip to NREL Visitor’s Center in Golden, Colorado.
    • Reservations and information about free education programs for kids is available at the Visitor’s Center website. (If this field trip is not possible for your class, you can choose a local renewable energy venue or lead your class on a Virtual Tour of the National Wind Technology Center.)
    • Don’t forget Permission Slips.
  • Day 7: Wind Turbine Construction
    • Use Promethean Board to show basic diagrams of wind turbines, and explain how they work. Show pictures of different styles of turbines (# of blades, size, shape, tilt of blades) . Explain that the students will be building and testing small wind turbines in class, and that they should be thinking about how they want to design their blades. (Pictures and information can be used from this Wind Turbine Introduction PowerPoint presentation.) (10 min.)
    • Pass out KidWind Turbine kits and assembly diagrams. Demonstrate basic construction process. Cardboard and cardstock should be available for students to create turbine blades. Students should label the parts of their turbine in their Science Journals. Groups should sketch their blade designs in their Science Journals and build their turbines as a team. (50 min.)
  • Day 8: Wind Turbine Testing
    • Set up fans that the students can use to test their turbines. Once the turbines are built, teams should test their designs and see if their turbine is powerful enough to run the LED board, motor, and water pump. How fast does each turbine spin? (Time revolutions with stopwatches.) Why does this make a difference? Record results in Science Journals. If time allows, groups should make changes to improve their blade design. Record changes and results in Science Journals. (50 min.)
    • Have groups share their design and results with the rest of the class. (10 min.)
  • Day 9: Begin Energy Consumption Research
    • Classroom discussion about how much energy devices need in order to function. Show Energy Demand Calculator on Smart Board and demonstrate how to calculate energy usage with this spreadsheet. (5 min.)
    • Talk about watts and kilowatts (units of power) . Example: 60-watt light bulb. Record classroom electrical usage, number of lights, computers, radios, refrigerators, electric pencil sharpeners, overhead projectors, etc. that are on. Demonstrate how to plug these numbers into the Excel spreadsheet (use Promethean Board). (10 min.)
    • Divide students into groups and send them to other classrooms (be sure to talk to the other teachers first) to record how many devices are running in other classrooms. (25 min.)
    • Groups will enter their data into the spreadsheet. (20 min.)
    • Student Homework: Record the electrical devices that are running in their homes, and how long each is on.
  • Day 10: Discuss differences in electrical usage among classrooms. As a class, consolidate the data and discuss the school’s daily usage.
    • Class discussion: Are there other things in the school that use power that we did not account for? What are they? What is the difference between our estimated energy consumption and the actual consumption? (20 min.)
    • Present students with the actual power usage of the school for one month. Divide this out to determine the average amount of energy used per day.
    • Review renewable vs. non-renewable resources.
    • Have students share their household energy usage and discuss similarities/differences. Record class results on the board.
    • Let students explore kid-friendly websites about renewable energy. This can be done in groups if there are not enough computers for the entire class. (40 min.)
      • EIA Kid’s Page
      • Dr. E’s Energy Lab
      • Energy Story – Solar
      • SEI Kid’s Info
      • Roofus’ Solar and Efficient Home
  • Days 11-12: Online research instruction and practice.
    • See Addendum F: Student Research and Analysis Plan Overview for this lesson plan.
  • Day 13: PowerPoint Tutorial
    • Have students navigate through this kid-friendly tutorial so they will know how to create PowerPoint presentations for their group project.
  • Days 14-18: Group projects. (60 min. each day)
    • Groups will be given their final assignment: to develop a “Renewable Energy Plan” for our school. The students will work together in their groups and create plans to reduce the school’s electricity consumption +/or get power from renewable sources. They will be responsible for creating the plan as well as a presentation. Hand out copies of the assignment and the grading rubrics.
    • Assignment: Create a “Renewable Energy Plan” for our school. Use information that you have learned over the past two weeks and do some research (using the websites from Day 9 or other appropriate resources) to develop your plan. It can include solar modules, wind turbines, energy conservation tips, and/or any other ideas that you may have. Make sure you explain how much energy each source would provide for the school. (For wind or solar power, please choose from the options listed in Appendix 2.) Will it be enough to power the whole school? How much would it cost? Create a 3-5 minute PowerPoint presentation to share your plan and your data with the class, your parents, and other teachers. It might be helpful to assign a role for each team member to ensure that everything gets done.
    • Grading Rubric or “Look For’s”
      • Team Participation
        • You will fill out evaluations on yourself as well as your teammates. These will be incorporated into your grade. As the teacher, I will also be monitoring your participation level and teamwork in the project.
      • Clarity of Ideas
        • Have you used what you have learned over the past two weeks to help guide your plan?
        • Could your plan be implemented? What are the necessary steps?
        • How much would it cost?
        • What problems might arise? (examples: solar panels might get covered with snow, or the wind might not blow for a week)
        • How would you address these problems?
        • Is your plan complete?
      • Presentation
        • Oral presentation
          • Did you speak clearly so that everyone can hear and understand you?
          • Were you making eye contact with the audience?
        • Visual Aids
          • Does your PowerPoint presentation provide valuable information?
          • Does it clearly show your ideas?
          • Have you checked to make sure that spelling is correct?
          • Does your presentation have at least 5 slides?
            • Computer and internet resources will be available so the students can do some additional research (with supervision) that will help them with their project.
        • Try to have Paras or adult volunteers available to help answer questions, aid in research, and offer guidance during these five days.
        • Encourage students to “dress professionally” for their presentation. It often helps them feel more confident. Give other presentation tips as you see fit (Examples: make eye contact, don’t fidget, speak clearly) to help students prepare.
  • Day 19: Groups should be wrapping up their presentations and rehearsing.
  • Day 20: Group Presentations.
    • Invite other classes, school personnel, and parents to see the presentations.
    • Draw group names out of a hat to determine the order of the presentations.
    • Have students impress you with their projects!

Special Needs Adaptations:

  • Speech Students: Adjust scoring of the oral presentation portion of the project accordingly.
  • English Language Learners: Provide vocabulary lists that they can refer to. If necessary, pull them aside in a small group to give directions or explain ideas in terms that they can understand.
  • Physical disabilities: Ensure that these students have access to all of the same resources that their classmates do. This may mean moving projects from the floor to a table, or vice-versa. It may mean providing information in Braille or sign language. Consult your students’ IEP’s for more specific suggestions and accommodations.

Energy Quiz (Day 3) — 10 pts. total:

  • What are nonrenewable resources? (1 pt.)
  • Give 2 examples of nonrenewable resources. (2 pts.)
  • What are renewable resources? (1 pt.)
  • Give 2 examples of renewable resources. (2 pts.)
  • What is one problem with burning fossil fuels? (1 pt.)
  • What are three things that people can do to conserve energy? (3 pts.)

Science Journal review (throughout unit) :

  • Review students’ journals at different times throughout the unit. Do they seem to understand the concepts? What are they missing? Use this information to adjust the lesson plan accordingly.

Class Discussions (throughout the unit) :

  • Ask questions to get an idea of how well students understood the day’s concepts and activities. Answer questions and fill in gaps as necessary.

Group Projects (Day 20):

  • Take notes on individual and group achievement. Record performance based on the “Look For’s” delineated above, under Days 14-19.
  • See Rubrics for scoring students’ participation and presentations.

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