STEM Discovery Lab Research

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 .
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
• learn about alternatives to fossil fuels; and
participate in a debate over whether to use public lands as sources of
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
• 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
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
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.