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Fueling Our Future, grades 3-5

Energy, Global Citizenship, Transportation
3, 4, 5
Essential questions
What is energy?
How does energy flow throughout a system?
How do I use energy?
Why should we conserve energy?

Facing the Future’s Fueling Our Future: Exploring Sustainable Energy Use presents an opportunity for you to engage your students in a relevant and authentic exploration of sustainable energy use. This unit contains six student-centered lessons that cover important energy concepts from basic energy science, to the economics of oil, to the characteristics of a successful energy conservation project.

Just as energy is an interdisciplinary topic, Fueling Our Future presents energy concepts from multiple academic perspectives. Throughout these 6 lessons, students explore content from different disciplines and have the opportunity to demonstrate understanding in many different ways. In the first two lessons, students learn foundational energy science. They design a Rube Goldberg machine to observe energy transfer and transformation, create an energy flow diagram to show that the sun is our primary source of energy, and analyze patterns in different food chains to draw conclusions about energy flow through ecosystems. In Lessons 3 and 4, students observe how they use energy in their daily lives and learn about the natural resources used to provide us with energy. They distinguish between human wants and needs, create a visual representation of their personal energy use, and read nonfiction texts to learn about and compare renewable and nonrenewable energy sources.

Lesson 5 hones in on one of the primary energy resources used to supply the world with energy—oil. In this lesson, students journey through the supply chain of gasoline from oil well to gas station. Students identify countries with oil reserves on a map, summarize each step of the supply chain, calculate the number of miles a petroleum product may travel from well to wheel, and discuss how supply and demand relates to gasoline production. By learning the steps of this supply chain, students gain a more complete mental model of where fuel comes from and our current energy context. With a more accurate understanding of this context, students will be better able to evaluate the sustainability of this energy system.

In the culminating lesson, students analyze case studies that showcase young people from around the world implementing energy conservation strategies in their homes, schools, communities and beyond. Students read advice from these young people about how to make a difference and learn how perseverance, collaboration, and a sense of responsibility are related to successful action projects. This lesson provides a launchpad for a class or school energy action project.

In addition to 6 fully planned lessons, Fueling Our Future includes formative and summative assessments, lesson extensions, and resources for a comprehensive service learning project. Each lesson is guided by inquiry and critical thinking questions and concludes with discussion questions. This unit includes a pre and post assessment designed to show students’ growth in content knowledge, ability to analyze energy concepts, and personal energy-related attitudes and behaviors toward energy consumption and energy resources.

Additionally, each lesson in this unit has been aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards and the fundamental concepts presented in The U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Literacy: Essential Principles and Fundamental Concepts for Energy Education:

The unit guides students to reflect on how energy is connected to their own lives and to investigate paths toward energy consumption that ensure access to energy for all people for generations to come. By engaging youth with authentic and relevant activities to explore energy issues, we foster the understanding and critical thinking skills needed to make thoughtful personal and collective decisions about energy. We hope that Fueling Our Future will prepare students to navigate the complex real-world issues of energy resources and consumption and will motivate students to participate in positive energy solutions for a sustainable world.

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