PrintTwo 50-minute class periods; Plus time to carry out advocacy plans

The learner will:

  • research renewable energy resources.
  • develop an action plan for using renewable resources.
  • publish a print piece, create an informational film, or present a plan to a group in the community.
  • participate in a demonstration, sharing data about the project and reflecting on the experience.
  • Piece of coal (or charcoal if coal is not available)
  • Piece of wood
  • Small container of clean yard clippings
  • Motor oil that has been poured into a glass container (representing the oil found in the earth)
  • Container of water
  • Child’s toy pinwheel
  • Picture of the sun (click for sample images)
  • Picture of a geyser (click for sample images)
  • Access to research materials, including the internet
  • Copy of Handout One: Renewable Energy Report for each group
  • Copy of Handout Two: Energy Action Plan for each group
Teacher Preparation 

A small coal sample may be available from a local power plant. Many science classrooms (and science supply companies) have mineral sample kits with a small coal specimen. For the purpose of this lesson, a piece of charcoal or a burned piece of wood may be used to represent the coal.




  1. Day One: Anticipatory Set: Hold up a pinwheel toy and blow on it to make it spin. Remind the students that an electric motor needs a source of power to turn a turbine and generator. Tell them that in this case, the pinwheel is like the turbine and your breath, or wind, is the source of power. Ask the students to propose other ways to make the pinwheel spin. They may suggest putting it under a stream of running water, near a fan, or over a candle flame, etc. There are many renewable resources that can make the turbine and generator spin. They just mentioned a few (wind, water, heat). Tell the students that in this lesson, they will explore the pros and cons of a variety of energy sources. Then they will choose the most responsible energy resource for the common good and the future of the planet and promote its use in the school or community. Through this, they will attempt to make a difference in the world.

  2. On a central counter or table, display the following objects, pictures, and containers: a piece of coal, a piece of wood, a small container of yard clippings, motor oil in a glass jar, a jar of water, a child’s toy pinwheel, a picture of the sun, a picture of a geyser. Ask the learners to observe these objects and think about their attributes and uses. Ask for a volunteer to sort the objects into two groups and verbally label the groups. Allow several students to sort and label in meaningful groups. Acknowledge each attempt if it makes sense. Stop asking for volunteers when someone sorts and labels the groups as renewable and non-renewable energy sources.

  3. With the students' help, write on the board the energy resources represented in this demonstration. Renewable: yard waste/biomass, toy pinwheel/wind, water/hydro power, wood for burning, sun/solar power, geyser/geothermal and Non-renewable: oil and coal. Ask volunteers to briefly describe each term. Tell them that they will be doing some further research with a small group to learn what these types of energy are used for, how they are made, and the pros and cons of each.The teams will also develop an action plan to promote the use of one of these resources.

  4. Ask the learners to reassemble into their groups from the previous lesson. Assign each group a renewable resource to research.Allow a few minutes of organizational time for the groups to decide on responsibilities for conducting research on the topic. Or they may get together outside of class time, if necessary, to do the research. (See Bibliographical References.)

  5. Distribute Handout One: Renewable Energy Report. Tell the learners that they will be asked to complete this reporting form with their groups the next time the class meets.

  6. Adaptation: To simplify the activity, assign research topics and provide the research materials to groups. For example, assign the topics of wind power, hydro power, solar power, and wood power. In the Day Two activities, simplify by holding a discussion rather than assigning handout two.

  7. Day Two:

    Anticipatory Set:

    Before students arrive, set up the desks in a semicircle to simulate a city council chamber. Put tent nametags on the desktops with students' last names (e.g., Ms Cruz, Mr. Brown). When students are seated, tell them to imagine that they are a city council that has to develop an alternative energy plan for their city. As members of the council, they are elected officials who are entrusted with watching out for the common good. Tell them it is their responsibility to make the best choice about energy resources for the community, financially and as stewards of the earth's resources. Encourage them to use titles and last names for this discussion.

  8. In the city council setting, discuss how making individual and community changes in energy use is an example of responsible citizenship.

  9. In order to make an informed decision, the council members will be put into energy task force subcommittees that research and report back to the entire city council. Remind the students of the groups they formed in the last class period. Identify each subcommittee by naming the alternative energy source they researched. Give each city council subcommittee 15 minutes to compile the research gathered since the last class period. As a group, they should fill out Handout One: Renewable Energy Report. Their goal is to clearly inform the rest of the council about their energy resource so they can make the best choice for the community.

  10. Post the reports around the room and invite the "city council" to do a “walk about” in their subcommittees (3-5 minutes at each report) to read and informally discuss each group’s findings. Subcommittees should take notes of the pros and cons of each energy source so they can make recommendations for their Energy Action Plan.

  11. Give each group a copy of Handout Two: Energy Action Plan. Allow approximately fifteen minutes for the groups to discuss the alternatives. Each group makes a decision about the best energy source(s) for the city and creates an action plan.

  12. Then bring the council back together and have each subcommittee present their information to the city council. After all subcommittees have presented, the city council discusses the proposals together.

  13. Read aloud to the students and discuss the following quote by Margaret Mead: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

  14. Tell the students that in a civil society, individuals and governments are expected to be advocates for what is best for the common good. Discuss how they can make a difference in the real community by sharing information they have learned in this lesson and/or the previous two lessons. As a group, they should come to a consensus and make a plan for sharing their knowledge about alternative energy sources with the school or larger community. They may create a presentation as an act of advocacy, or the class may propose other ways to take action to promote conservation of energy. The class may work in teams, individually, or as a whole, depending on the projects chosen.

  15. The teacher should help students contact the local city council or school board to present their plans. Or students may write a newspaper article, create a short film, design posters or flyers to distribute at school, create a PSA (public service announcement) or find other means of advocacy. Make sure each student is empowered to take personal responsibility in some form with a real audience.


Observe the learners working in groups to make sure they all participate in research and completing their action plan. All students must participate in the final project and demonstration.

Cross Curriculum 

The learners will research and develop an action plan for the responsible use of alternative/renewable energy resources. They will present their plans to other groups in the school or the community. The objective is to become advocates for alternative/renewable energy resources.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 03. Philanthropy and Economics
      1. Benchmark MS.5 Define <i>stewardship</i> as a trust of common resources held by a community for citizens.
      2. Benchmark MS.7 Give examples of common resources in the community.
    2. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark MS.3 Identify the relationship between individual rights and community responsibilities.
  2. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.5 Describe the responsibility students have to act in the civil society sector to improve the common good.
  3. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 01. Needs Assessment
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Identify a need in the school, local community, state, nation, or world.
      2. Benchmark MS.2 Research the need in the school, neighborhood, local community, state, nation, or world.
    2. Standard VS 02. Service and Learning
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Select a service project based on interests, abilities and research.
    3. Standard VS 03. Providing Service
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Provide a needed service.
      2. Benchmark MS.2 Describe the goals of the project and their impact.
    4. Standard VS 04. Raising Private Resources
      1. Benchmark MS.3 Develop a service plan.
    5. Standard VS 05. Integrating the Service Experience into Learning
      1. Benchmark MS.2 Evaluate progress on the service-learning project before, during, and after the project.
      2. Benchmark MS.3 Identify outcomes from the service.