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Day 7: Students explore different types of renewable energy sources


Language Arts, Science, Social Studies  


7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12  

Title – Do Something about… the Environment 10-Day Unit
Day 7: Renewable Energy Sources
By – Jordyn Wells/Do Something, Inc./
Primary Subject – Science
Secondary Subjects – Social Studies, Language Arts
Grade Level – 7-12

Unit Information:

      The following lesson is the seventh lesson of a 10-day

      Environment Curricula from Do Something, Inc.

      Other lessons in this unit are as follows:

Day 1: Introduction

      Introduction to global warming, energy conservation and how rising temperatures affect us locally

Day 2: Its Getting Hot In Here! – The Science of Global Warming

      Students learn about greenhouse gases and the power of language

Day 3: The Consequences of Global Warming

      Students learn about the potential consequences of global warming

Day 4: If the shoe fits… Learning about Ecological Footprints

      Students examine their own energy consumption and conservation

Day 5: How Green Is Your School

      Students learn how schools can participate in energy conservation

Day 6: Energy Hog – Who’s using up all the energy?

      Students compare U.S. energy use to that of other countries

Day 7: Renewable Energy Sources (See the lesson below)

      Students explore different types of renewable energy sources

Day 8: Renewable Energy – How Do You See It?

      Students discuss the pros/cons of renewable energy

Day 9: The Politics of Energy Conservation

      Students debate the pros/cons of government involvement in energy conservation

Day 10: Presentation Day

    Students present their energy conservation projects

Lesson 7: Renewable Energy Sources


  • To learn the difference between renewable and nonrenewable energy
  • To explore various types of renewable energy sources


  • Geography Standard 14: Understands how human actions modify the physical environment
  • Geography Standard 18: Understands global development and environmental issues
  • Science Standard 1: Understands atmospheric processes and the water cycle


  • Geothermal Energy : Energy that is created by heat below the Earth’s surface
  • Hydropower : Energy that is harnessed from moving water for some useful purpose
  • Landfill gas : Energy produced by fermentation or anaerobic digestion of organic matter
  • Photovoltaic solar power : Energy that is harnessed from the sun and converted directly into electricity
  • Renewable Energy : Energy from sources that are not in danger of running out such as sunlight, wind, tides or geothermal heat
  • Wind power : Energy harnessed from the conversion of wind energy


      1. Heat-it up:

        Hide a bunch of M&M;’s or pennies around the classroom. Ask for a few volunteers. Give the volunteers ten seconds to find them. Count the number of objects retrieved. Ask the volunteers to continue searching in ten second intervals, recording the number of candies that are found each time. As the supply of M&M;’s or pennies drops, the number of objects found should get less and less. Connect this to your discussion about renewable energy.

      2. Begin a discussion on

renewable and non-renewable energy


        Explain to students that the objects you hid were symbolic of non renewable energies. As the students found them, the amount available throughout the classroom dropped. This is the case with fossil fuel. Discuss America’s reliance on fossil fuel. Fossil fuels – coal, oil and natural gas – provide more than 85% of all the energy consumed in the United States. According to the U.S. Department of energy, nearly two thirds of our electricity and almost all of US transportation fuels come from fossil fuel. It is likely that the need for fossil fuel will increase over the next decade.

      3. Ask students to think of some other sources of energy. Once you have exhausted their list, review alternate sources of energy that they might not know about.

Geothermal energy

        : electricity generated by naturally occurring geological heat sources


        : energy obtained from flowing water

Wind power

        : using the kinetic energy of the wind or wind turbines to extract the wind’s energy

Landfill gas

        : utilizing emitted gases from landfills to produce electricity

Photovoltaic solar power

        : gaining energy from sunlight using solar panels

      4. Synthesize:

        Put students into pairs and give them a type of energy source to research. They should describe each source and list the pros and cons of using this type of energy and provide examples of where this energy source is currently used. Have students create large charts that demonstrate the pros and cons of each of these sources to the class.

For students in middle school, you may want to have them use a worksheet to take notes as other students present.

        • How expensive is each type of energy source?
        • Is it difficult to create?
        • Discuss and provide examples of these alternative forms of energy for preparation for the next day.

    5. Take Action:

      Have students continue working on their action projects.

Additional Activities:

  • Social Studies/Civics: Have students investigate how their town/city gets energy. On what type of energy plants does their area rely?

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