Lessons and other resources for learning to care about, understand and act for the environment


  1. Environmental Principles
  2. Systems and Processes of Nature
  3. Systems and Processes of Society
  4. Environments and Resources
  5. Environmental Problems
  6. Recognising, Investigating and Finding Solutions to Environmental Problems
  7. Acting on Environmental Problems

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Header Picture Captions: Left to Right: Friends of Rock Bridge Memorial S.P. Nature Detectives, Summer 2010; Academie Lafayette, Kansas City, Stream Class; Sustain Mizzou Green Team recycling at an MU home football game, Columbia. If you have pictures of your students learning aout or working in the environment (with permissions) send them to weaverjc@missouri.edu and we will post them.

Lessons about Energy

Age/Grade Levels

Lessons - Curriculum - Books - Games - Videos - Movies - Stewardship - Links

Lessons - stand alone activities with specific learning objectives

Clean Energy: Hydropower. UE Hydropower generation is introduced to students as a common purpose and benefit of constructing dams. Through an introduction to kinetic and potential energy, students come to understand how a dam creates electricity. They also learn the difference between renewable and non-renewable energy. From TeachEngineering - http://www.teachengineering.org

Electrifying the World.UE This lesson introduces students to the fundamental concepts of electricity. This is accomplished by addressing questions such as "How is electricity generated," and "How is it used in every-day life?" The lesson also includes illustrative examples of circuit diagrams to help explain how electricity flows. From TeachEngineering - http://www.teachengineering.org

Harvesting Oil from the Earth. UE Students investigate sources of fossil fuels, particularly oil. Through two associated activities, they work with a model of the Earth to learn how engineers and scientists look for oil by taking core samples, and they explore and analyze oil consumption and production in the U.S. and around the world. From TeachEngineering - http://www.teachengineering.org

Harnassing Wind. UE Students are introduced to the ways that engineers study and harness the wind. They learn about the different kinds of winds and how to measure wind direction. In addition, they learn how air pressure creates winds and how engineers design and test wind turbines to harness renewable wind energy.

Energy Conservation. UE Students are introduced to the idea that energy use impacts the environment and our wallets. They discuss different types of renewable and nonrenewable energy sources, as well as the impacts of energy consumption. Through a series of activities, students understand how they use energy and how it is transformed from one type to another. They learn innovative ways engineers conserve energy and how energy can be conserved in their homes.From TeachEngineering - http://www.teachengineering.org

The Energy Problem. MS This six-day lesson provides students with an introduction to the importance of energy in their lives and the need to consider how and why we consume the energy we do. The lesson includes activities to engage students in general energy issues, including playing an award-winning Energy Choices board game, and an optional graphing activity that provides experience with MS Excel graphing and perspectives on how we use energy and how much energy we use. From TeachEngineering - http://www.teachengineering.org

Household Energy Conservation and Efficiency. MS Students complete three different activities to evaluate the energy consumption in a household and explore potential ways to reduce that consumption. The focus is on conservation and energy efficient electrical devices and appliances.The lesson reinforces the relationship between power and energy and associated measurements and calculations required to evaluate energy consumption. The lesson provides students with more concrete information for completing their culminating unit assignment. From TeachEngineering - http://www.teachengineering.org

From Sunlight to Electric Current. MS The lesson will first explore the concept of current in electrical circuits. Current will be defined as the flow of electrons. Photovoltaic (PV) cell properties will then be introduced. Generally constructed of silicon, photovoltaic cells contain a large number of electrons BUT they can be thought of as "frozen" in their natural state. A source of energy is required to "free" these electrons if we wish to create current. Light from the sun provides this energy. This will lead to the principle of "Conservation of Energy." Finally, with a basic understanding of the circuits through Ohm's law, students will see how the energy from the sun can be used to power everyday items, including vehicles. This lesson utilizes the engineering design activity of building a solar car to help students learn these concepts. From TeachEngineering - http://www.teachengineering.org

Generators: Three Mile Island vs. Hoover Dam. MS Students are given a history of electricity and its development into the modern age lifeline upon which we so depend. The methods of power generation are introduced, and further discussion of each technology's pros and cons follows. From TeachEngineering - http://www.teachengineering.org

Energy Resources and Systems. MS Several activities are included to teach and research the differences between renewable and non-renewable resources and various energy resources. Students work with a quantitative, but simple model of energy resources to show how rapidly finite, non-renewable energy sources can be depleted, whereas renewable resources continue to be available. Then students complete a homework assignment (or a longer, in-depth research project) to learn how various technologies capture energy resources for human uses, and their pros and cons. Fact sheets help students get started on their investigations of assigned energy sources.

Carbon Cycles. MS Students are introduced to the concept of energy cycles by learning about the carbon cycle. They learn how carbon atoms travel through the geological (ancient) carbon cycle and the biological/physical carbon cycle. They consider how human activities disturb the carbon cycle by emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. They discuss how engineers and scientists are working to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Lastly, students consider how they can help the world through simple energy conservation measures. From TeachEngineering - http://www.teachengineering.org

Concentrated Solar Power. HS Students learn how the total solar irradiance hitting a photovoltaic (PV) panel can be increased through the use of a concentrating device, such as a reflector or lens. This is the final lesson in the Photovoltaic Efficiency unit and is intended to accompany a fun design project (see the associated Concentrating on the Sun with PVs activity) to wrap up the unit. However, it can be completed independently of the other unit lessons and activities. From TeachEngineering - http://www.teachengineering.org

Growing Algae for Biofuels. HS Students are introduced to the concept of algal biofuels through a discussion of how algae are grown. Specifically, the topics of solutions and serial dilutions are covered, as they relate to algal nutrient consumption and growth. From TeachEngineering - http://www.teachengineering.org

Introduction to Awesome Algae and Biofuels. MS Students learn about the need for and importance of developing alternative fuels, specifically the production of biofuel from algae. This prepares them for the associated activity, in which they act as research engineers developing experimental procedures for algae growth.From TeachEngineering - http://www.teachengineering.org

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Curriculum - multiple, connected and sequenced activities

Fuel for Thought. The concept of energy is central to all the science disciplines, seamlessly connecting science, technology, and mathematics. For high school and upper middle school teachers, this compendium comprises inquiry-based activities, lesson plans, and case studies designed to help teach increased awareness of energy, environmental concepts, and the related issues. Drawn from NSTA’s award-winning, peer-reviewed journals, the book is divided into three overarching segments for learning and teaching: Student Investigations includes several activities that tackle such topics as “Energy, Heat, and Temperature,” “Vehicles and Fuels,” and “Living Connections.” Projects and Case Studies includes examples of extensive, question-driven student projects, and the last section, Issues in Depth, provides background content knowledge for deeper understanding of the critical energy issues facing the world today. $25.95 for non NSTA members

Hybrid Vehicle Design Challenge. HS This module is written for a first-year algebra-based physics class, though it could easily be modified for conceptual physics. It is intended to provide hands-on activities to teach the overarching concept of energy, as it relates to both kinetic and potential energy. Within these topics, students are exposed to gravitational potential, spring potential, the Carnot engine, temperature scales, and simple magnets. During the module, students utilize these scientific concepts to solve the following problem: "The rising price of gasoline has many effects on the US economy and the environment. You have been contracted as by an engineering firm to help with the design of a physical energy storage system to be used on a new hybrid vehicle for Nissan. How would you go about solving this problem? What information would you consider to be important to know? You will make a sales pitch to Nissan with a small prototype with your idea at the end of the unit." This module is built around the Legacy Cycle, a format that incorporates findings from educational research on how people best learn.


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Books - books, content websites, articles

Gekko Boy - the Battle of Fracking tells the story of a young boy who comes across the King of the Geckos and is entrusted to guard the Earth's well-being. To add to the uniqueness of this book, the young author has also included science facts at the end, which will provide curious kids with more information.

RadTown USA. MS, HS, CA. EPA website. Radiation is natural and all around us. It can be man-made too. But it's nothing new. It is, quite simply, part of our lives. Topics: personal exposure, use of radioactive materials, radiation-treated materials, transportation, radioactive waste, natural radiation, security.

Lessons - Curriculum - Books - Games - Videos - Movies - Stewardship - Links

Games - outdoor, on-line, board, etc.

MyEnergy - sign up on this online game and it tracks your home's utility use to help you learn how to use energy more efficiently


Lessons - Curriculum - Books - Games - Videos - Movies - Stewardship - Links

Videos - short, topical on-line videos

TED:Ed - A Guide to the Energy of the Earth - Middle School to Adult - Animated description of the physical systems of the earth and how energy flows among them. Geothermal, Rotational and Sun Energy, Warming, Photosynthesis, Respiration, Heat, 10% Rule, Fossil Fuels, Electricity Generatio, Alternative Energy Sources, Global Demand for Energy

TED-Ed: Why Aren' We Only Using Solar Power? - Middle School to Adult - Animated explanation of the kinds of solar power and barriers to its use. Solar Towers, Solar Panels, Clouds and their Possitions, Mie Scattering, Energy Storage


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Movies - feature length movies and documentaries

Environmental Popcorn - Blogger Maddie Perlman-Gable posts her list of best environmental movies ever in the following categories: Best Over-Reaction to Global Warming - The Day After Tomorrow (2004). Best Superhero to Come From Something Radioactive - Toxic Avenger (1985)

Documentary "Burning in the Sun" - Burning in the Sun An inspirational portrait of a young West African man who starts a business building solar panels from scratch and selling them to rural customers in Mali. $95 rental, $295 purchase (preview available) -

Lessons - Curriculum - Books - Games - Videos - Movies - Stewardship - Links

Stewardship Activities


Lessons - Curriculum - Books - Games - Videos - Movies - Stewardship - Links

Links to regional, state, national and international organizations

Agriculture and Environment Lesson Plans. HS, CA. This page provides links tolesson plans, classroom projects and teaching activities for: Agriculture, Aquaculture, Forestry, Animal Science, Environment, Food Science/Culinary Arts, Horticulture, Floriculture, and Landscaping. Vocational Information Center, www.khake.com

Mapping Nuclear Fallout - What would happen if a nuclear power plant failed in your area? The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has mapped the plume of radioactive fallout that could be expected if US Nuclear Reactors had failed on March 11, 2011, the date of the Fukishima event. NOTICE: ACTIVIST SITE.

Lessons - Curriculum - Books - Games - Videos - Movies - Stewardship - Links

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