General Science and Teaching

Lesson on Renewable and nonrenewable resources

Sun Feb 12, 2012 12:22 AM

Hello, I am Jamilynn and I am an aspiring Elementary teacher currently working towards my degree. For one of the courses I am taking I am to create a Unit Plan on a topic of my choice in science. I have chosen the subject of recycling, renewable resources and nonrenewable resources as the topic to be taught to middle school students. I am having a little trouble trying to think of lessons to teach renewable and nonrenewable resources that are more hands on or experiment based. If anyone has suggestions about lessons, or any resources available, that would be greatly appreciated.
Thank You

Jamilynn Mrozinski
Jamilynn Mrozinski

Mon Feb 13, 2012 7:02 PM

I did a couple searches here in the Learning Center using the terms "plastics", "Alternative energy", "energy resources", and "recycling" and it brought up a number of articles, I have listed a few of each below that might be useful. You might consider keeping any you like and find in addition to these in a collection you can draw on in the future - I have several of these I keep for ideas on topics I teach. There are also some additional references here in the forums on alternative energy if you do a search.

In addition, you may find things that are helpful at the following websites. However, I should warn you, while there are a lot of good resources at these locations, they were both developed by the industries (plastics for Hands-On and the Petroleum Industry is a major funding source for NEED). As long as you recognize inherent bias, you can bring that up with students in discussions and such and make critical evaluations of the data. They both provide good information anyway, or I wouldn't recommend them.

Hands-On Plastics is provided by the American Chemical Society and has interesting labs and information on the properties of different types of plastics and where plastic comes from. I have used the 5-8 kit in my classes and we got interesting results and the students were surprised by the fact that all plastic isn't the same. I got my kit free for attending a training session on how to use it at NSTA one year.

Need: National Energy Education Development Project has lessons on a variety of energy resources at different grade levels. You can buy the materials, but most of them are free downloads from the website and in addition to information, there are some sample lessons and worksheets. I also got this kit free from attending a training and I found the supplemental books to be a big help.

Energy: Fuel for Thought (Journal Article)
My Summer Vacation (Journal Article)

Tina Harris
Tina Harris

Wed Feb 15, 2012 5:29 PM

Thank you for the suggestions, I really appreciate it.

Jamilynn Mrozinski
Jamilynn Mrozinski

Wed Feb 15, 2012 11:37 PM

Hi Jamilynn and welcome to the discussion forum! Tina provided some excellent resources. I would like to share another thread with you that is at Physical Science > Tidal Energy: Researches and Actual Existing Technology
It is specifically about tidal energy, but it is very interesting. If you do a search community/people at the top of this page, you will find other threads that have similar information. Also, I did an advanced search in the NLC using the keyword, 'renewable'. Two articles in particular seem to have great ideas/activities:
1. This journal article popped up for middle school: Powering the Future
2. This article for elementary school popped up: Breezy Power: From Wind to Energy , which was included in Tina's collection above.
I really love the NEEDs materials that Tina mentioned. I went to a week long workshop one summer, and my students really benefited from my training. NEEDs usually has workshop presentations at the NSTA conferences, too. If you ever have the opportunity to go, it will be well worth your time and efforts.
Perhaps others reading this thread will share specific lesson plans they have used in their elementary classrooms to teach this topic. For example, I would love to hear what teachers emphasize in Hawaii.

Carolyn Mohr
Carolyn Mohr

Wed Feb 22, 2012 9:40 PM

I just completed a unit on wind energy. I located some kits on Amazon from Thames & Kosmos Wind Power that I bought to use with my middle school students. The cost of the kits was just under $40.00. I live in Washington State, and we have a windmill farm in Ellensburg which is 3 hours from us. Many of my students had seen them. The kits allowed us to compare the use of the 3 long blades to the shorter, 5 paddles in terms of efficiency and energy output. The student learned so much, it was amazing. The only caveat I would give is, build the kits yourself, or have very experienced lego users make them. Most of the kit is based on legos and lego instructions. You end up creating a gear box with three separate gear ratios and if you don’t build it carefully, the gears don’t mesh and the blades don’t turn.

In conjunction with the unit, I used several of the articles from NSTA I had my students read and take notes on. My middle school students found them really intriguing. I am attaching the articles I found useful.

Wind Collection
(4 items)
Science Shorts: Wind at Work
     -Journal Article   -Elementary School
Breezy Power: From Wind to Energy
     -Journal Article   -Elementary School
Science 101: How do windmills generate power?
     -Journal Article   -Elementary School

Sandy Gady
Sandy Gady

Sun Feb 26, 2012 7:41 PM

As I was perusing the forum topics this one caught my eye, not only for my use in school but also I'd like to learn more about the topic as it seems to constantly have new input with all the neat things being discovered. I think we need to groom our future stewards of our natural resources in order to help preserve and care for our natural world. Seems as the students are getting farther and farther away from nature and they are the ones who will be taking care of it.
I'd like to gather more hands-on activities of how students can help do their part in using our natural resources more responsibly. Everyday things like around the house water conservation. I saw a neat section on this in the Human Impact on the Environment unit I believe. It listed how much water is used with a dishwasher, a washing machine, a regular shower vs. a bath, brushing your teeth, watering the lawn, etc. really an eye opener. Water is something we take for granted daily - but yet, we cannot survive without water for only a few days. I'd like my students to do some kind of water usage audit in their own home - look at their family, and themselves specifically. I will return to this community forum topic for more idea and thoughts.

Deborah Clevenger
Deborah Clevenger

Mon Feb 27, 2012 5:43 PM

I took a workshop one summer and they showed us some EPA sites we could use to discuss water topics. They have changed since then, but one that is similar is the EPA water homepage at
another is EPA Watersense at
and there is another site for water pollution that has links to the state level programs at
Our state (Indiana) actually has a rather nice online GIS program where we can bring up a local map with point-source pollution locations marked (IN Map).

And a search using the term "water conservation" brought up 15 interesting articles at all levels - one that was high school, but that could be adapted, had students designing public service announcements that I could see students doing and publishing on YouTube at

Still another for middle level students to get them thinking about the issue of water conservation was at

I agree, water is one of our most under-appreciated natural resources except possibly in states where it is scarce - I know that before we discuss water sources, my students don't know where their drinking water comes from (groundwater) or that of the two large neighboring cities (surface) and it makes them think about their actions more.

Tina Harris
Tina Harris

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