To Renew, or Not to Renew

Author: Mark Roland
Editor: Stephanie Nardei

Time: 1 class period
Preparation Time: None



During this lesson, students have a chance to explore available options of renewable energy. There are many they will have already heard of, but a few will undoubtedly be new to almost everybody. The readings selected provide a balanced view, including both idealistic advantages of renewable energy, and also realistic challenges to switching over to more and more renewable energy.

Purpose: Allow students to explore the ideas of renewable energy, including their pros, cons, and hurdles to development.

Students will be able to:
1. Define renewable and non-renewable energy, and give examples of both.
2. Discuss the advantages and challenges associated with renewable energy.

National Science Education Standard
Content Standard D- Earth and Space Science

  • Earth systems have internal and external sources of energy, both of which create heat. The sun is the major external source of energy. Two primary sources of internal energy are the decay of radioactive isotopes and the gravitational energy from the earth's original formation.

Content Standard F- Science in Personal and Social Perspectives

  • Human populations use resources in the environment in order to maintain and improve their existence. Natural resources have been and will continue to be used to maintain human populations.
  • The earth does not have infinite resources; increasing human consumption places severe stress on the natural processes that renew some resources, and it depletes those resources that cannot be renewed.
  • Humans use many natural systems as resources. Natural systems have the capacity to reuse waste, but that capacity is limited. Natural systems can change to an extent that exceeds the limits of organisms to adapt naturally or humans to adapt technologically

Teacher Background

Related and Resource Websites
Renewable Energy vs. Fossil Fuels http://www.energyquest.ca.gov/story/chapter17.html
Solar Tower of Power Finds Home http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,66694-0.html
EnviroMission: http://www.enviromission.com.au/index1.htm
Researchers explore using glucose as fuel: http://energybulletin.net/731.html
How Fuel Cells Work: http://www.howstuffworks.com/fuel-cell.htm
New Advance In Fuel Cell Technology May Help Power Medical Implants: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/03/030328073035.htm
Energy Kids Page: http://www.eia.doe.gov/kids/energyfacts/sources/renewable/renewable.html
Renewable Energy Sources: http://www.teachers.ash.org.au/jmresources/energy/renewable.html
Renewable Energy on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renewable_energy


1. As students enter the classroom, have these questions posted for them to answer:

  1. What is meant by renewable energy?
  2. List as many examples as you can of renewable energy sources.
  3. Why are we not using more renewable energy? What obstacles are preventing us from using more?

2. Discuss answers to these questions and ensure students have a firm grasp on what constitutes a renewable resource. Generate a list of renewable sources on the board. If it’s possible, make the list somewhere that it can remain for a while and be added to. See what ideas students have as to why there isn’t greater use of renewable energy sources.

3. Have students look at websites on information about different renewable energy sources. Some list pros and cons with renewable energy sources, and the problems with attempting to switch over to these sources. Allow students to read the articles.

4. Discuss the readings with students. Why is the cost of electricity so important? Remind them of lesson from last quarter in which they traced the energy use involved with a consumer product. Besides higher home electricity bills, what do they think will happen to the cost of living?

Have students fill out an exit card including some facts about each of the technologies that were researched, and a quick definition of renewable energy.

Not Applicable.

Embedded Assessment
Assess students for their participation in classroom discussions. The exit card can be marked as well, and should be checked to ensure students understand renewable energy.











PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:

NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award


Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694

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Last update: November 10, 2009
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