STEM Discovery Lab Research Energy resources keep the lights on and the wheels turning around the world. The United States, which comprises only 5 percent of the world's population, consumes about 30 percent of the total energy. Traditionally, the United States has imported much of its energy resources from other countries. Oil from the Middle East is the largest energy import. This dependency places us in a highly vulnerable position, both economically and politically. Some of the ways suggested to lessen this dependency are to use more of our public lands for energy production and to invest in renewable energy. Both of these strategies are controversial because of the environmental, economic, political, and cultural implications associated with them. This lesson explores the controversial issues surrounding the energy debate in the United States. Students will research recent initiatives being taken in this area and analyze their implications. They will then assume the roles of pivotal stakeholders in this debate and testify to a mock congressional committee responsible for making decisions about public lands and energy resources . Objectives: Students will • identify sources of energy used in the United States; • distinguish between fossil fuels and renewable energy; • describe how energy production and consumption can impact public lands; • learn about alternatives to fossil fuels; and participate in a debate over whether to use public lands as sources of energy. Opening: Have students list the ways they depend upon energy in their everyday lives. Then ask them to identify those activities that are dependent upon fossil fuels (e.g., oil, coal, and natural gas). List answers on the board. Next, ask them to think about and then discuss as a group the following questions: • Where do these energy resources come from? • How are our public lands connected to these resources? • What is meant by the term "alternative energy"? • What are some examples of alternative energy sources? Conduct a discussion about the advantages and disadvantages of renewable and nonrenewable sources of energy. Ask students if they know of any renewable sources of energy in their area (e.g., windmills, hydroelectric dams, and solar panels). Write the six most common renewable energy sources on the board or overhead (e.g., hydroelectric, geothermal, wind, biomass, tidal, and solar). Divide the class into six groups and assign each group to research one source of energy. Have groups provide the following information about their alternative energy source to the class: a definition, three examples of how the source is used, and three advantages and three disadvantages of using the source. Much of this information can be found on the Web sites listed under Related Links below. Once they have completed this research, have the groups make a summary presentation of their findings to the rest of the class. BIOMES and graphs http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Experiments/Biome/graphindex.php Rocks and Minerals is a terrific introduction to rocks, the rock cycle, and minerals. In a simple, fun way, Steve Tomecek, also known as “The Dirtmeister,” explains rocks through the Earth’s formation and subsequent cooling, the building blocks of rocks called minerals, and the three groups of rocks and how they formed. Also included are examples of how people use rocks, erosion and sedimentation, and fossils embedded within rocks. The conclusion diagrams the rock cycle. The book ends with an easy to do experiment to show how conglomerate rocks are formed. The illustrations are shown through the eyes of an unnamed cartoon figure that frolics about as a guide. This book would be a good readaloud or one a reader might want to read on his or her own. The rocks depicted in the art are shown in large photos that are labeled and a pronunciation is given for the hard-to-say names. This good information would be an excellent way to begin a study of rocks and minerals. Activity Try the activity suggested in the book and make a conglomerate rock. Then use the same technique to make a sedimentary rock with a fossil inside. You may want to use a smaller cup for this activity. Use the glue, but include several layers of sand, dirt, and other material with a different grain size (like powered clay, plaster of paris, or even salt) to make the different layers. Place a leaf or small object covered in petroleum jelly or small object between two of the layers. Let the rock dry and open it. Break it apart and see if you can find the fossil. Another way to do this is to use plaster of paris for the fossil layer. Make the layers, but let the plaster layer dry. Cover the layer and fossil object with petroleum jelly, put the fossil object on top of the plaster layer, and add more plaster and layers. Let this dry and break it open. Observe the fossil imprint. Then talk about which layer is the oldest and youngest. The bottom layer would be oldest. National Science Standards: Earth’s material and system.