What’s your least favorite science unit to teach? For us, it was renewable and nonrenewable energy resources. This standard was added to our grade level after a new science standard revision. At first we really struggled with ways to get our students engaged and excited with this topic; there’s only so much you can do to make petroleum interesting to an 8 or 9 year old.
That’s how our Renewable and Nonrenewable Energy Stem Activities unit was born! Read on to find out how we completely transformed this unit and grab two FREE resources—a reading passage AND a STEM activity that you can use with your students.
Energy Resources Passages and Notes
The first thing we needed to do was find information about each of the 10 energy sources written in a kid friendly format. We checked our libraries and looked for websites but came up pretty empty handed. We decided to write out own passages for each resource and included interactive notes that our students could fill out. These really helped to lay the foundation of knowledge they needed. Grab posters for each of the renewable and nonrenewable resources, as well as a passage about coal with interactive notes for free here and check out the full resource below.
Energy Resources STEM Activities
Now that our students had the background knowledge they needed, we could add in the hands on STEM activities. We purposefully created activities using materials that you probably have at home already or in your classroom. Each activity started with a planning sheet so students could complete them independently. All of the planning sheets include a list of materials and step by step directions for students to follow.
Nonrenewable Energy Resources:
Coal: We recreated a coal mine using a chocolate chip cookie. Students had to remove the chocolate chips using only the toothpicks. The goal is to remove as much “coal” as they can with as little damage as possible to the cookie.
Petroleum: There has been an oil spill and it’s your students’ job to clean up as much oil as possible from the wildlife (feathers) and the water.
Natural Gas: During this challenge your students will create a pipeline using only the straws and tape. Their pipe can be designed anyway they choose, but it shouldn’t have any leaks.
Propane: Do you know why propane tanks are never filled all the way to the top? Students will discover why after completing this activity.
Uranium / Nuclear: Your students will learn all about how we can get energy from an atom by building a model of an atom using only the toothpicks and the marshmallows.
Renewable Energy Resources:
Wind: Can you make a car out of only Lifesavers, paper, string and tape that runs only on the power of the wind? Your students will love testing their cars to see who’s design will go the farthest.
Solar: Students will experience the power of the sun by making a tasty dessert in the solar oven they design and build.
Hydropower: Students will construct their waterwheel and then test their design over running water to see if their water wheel spins.
Geothermal: Create your own geyser and discover the power that can be created with energy found under the ground.
Biomass: If you’ve ever sent by a campfire you’ve experienced biomass energy in real life. You can create the power of biomass in your own classroom with this experiment.
Check out a few five star reviews for these STEM activities:
“You could have heard a pin drop in my classroom when we did the cookie challenge! These lessons were highly engaging with my 4th graders. The lesson was fantastic in keeping their attention, and the activities really allowed for great hands-on connections.” –Colby M.
“I’ll be honest, I needed materials dealing with this topic because I am far from an expert. I love that this provided multiple examples of how students could apply these concepts using hands-on activities with regular supplies that you can easily get access to in most cases.” -Megan H.
“My students LOVED these quick labs…the ones that I did get to use helped a lot of my struggling students finally grasp the concepts!” –Tiffany B.
Want to try one of these engaging activities in your classroom for FREE? Click here to get the Chocolate Chip Cookie Mining lesson.
Check out the full STEM Activities resource below:
Save when you purchase the bundle with the passages and the STEM activities.
Interested in more STEM activities for the classroom? Check out our Camping Room Transformation post where we talk about fun camping themed STEM activities!