Target Grade Level / Age Range:

6 th-8 th grades


 1 hour

Virtual Learning:

Use this document to convert the lesson into a virtual learning module for your students. Use the steps outlined to create the different elements of a Google Classroom or other online learning platform. You can also send the steps directly to students in a PDF, present them in a virtual meeting, or plug them into any other virtual learning module system. 


The objective of this lesson would be to make the students aware of the renewable fuels available for their own homes.  

Suggested Companion Resources (books and websites)

Vocabulary (with definitions) 

  • Renewable energy - any naturally occurring, inexhaustible source of energy, biomass, solar, wind, tidal, wave, and hydroelectric power, that is not derived from fossil or nuclear fuel.
  • Non-renewable energy - A natural resource that cannot be grown or produced. 

Background – Agricultural Connections (what would a teacher need to know to be able to teach this content)

Agriculture and energy interact quite heavily. It takes quite a bit of energy to produce and transport food, fiber, and fuel. For Iowa farmers that grow corn and soybeans, energy is used to plant, spray and harvest crops – diesel is used to power tractors and combines. Diesel is also used to transport agricultural products from corn to cotton to tomatoes, because semi-trucks run on diesel as well.

Plants require energy to grow, and that energy comes from the sun. Then, energy is used by animals and machines to harvest those crops. In some cases, crops are then turned into fuels! Corn and corn stover (husks and leaves) can be processed into ethanol, which is blended with gasoline and used to power cars. The oil is extracted from soybeans and turned into biodiesel, which can fuel the trucks that transport agricultural goods.

Energy is also used on farms to power livestock barns to keep animals at a constant temperature. It powers fans and controls shades that keep the wind, snow, and sun out of barns. In many poultry barns, energy is used to move eggs on conveyor belts. Clearly, energy plays an important role in the production of food.

Farms are also common places for wind turbines, which create energy by harvesting the wind. Some farmers are using solar energy panels on the tops of their livestock barns to create energy.

Interest Approach or Motivator

Ask students to define renewable and nonrenewable resources. Write their definitions on the white board. Then, ask students to name off and explain energy sources they can think of. Some answers may include: wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, ethanol, electricity, and biodiesel. Then, ask students to think about how agriculture and energy interact.


  1. Tell students they will be conducting a research project to make a major decision about switching to a renewable fuel source. They can choose one of the following scenarios.
    • You are buying a new car and looking for a vehicle that is fuel efficient. You have one child and are married. You drive an average of 2 hours a day. You live on a farm.
    • You are a farmer that supplies electricity to a barn that houses 500 hogs. You are trying to minimize costs, and are concerned with finding a source of electricity that is extremely reliable. Currently, if the power goes out on the farm, the barns have to be powered by generator to keep the hogs cool.
  2. Students must use the internet, library, and other mediums to research. They must come up with two options for moving forward, and explain which option is the best for them, the environment, and the others mentioned in the scenario. Students should be able to articulate the potential price, the benefits, and some potential downsides of each renewable energy source.
  3. After 30 minutes of research, students should translate their findings and decision into a 1-2 page paper. Papers should outline the students’ stance clearly and include research and supporting evidence.

Extension Activities (how students can carry this beyond the classroom)

  • Choose one of the above scenarios to have students debate using their research.


  • Sue Fink
  • Kelsey Faivre

National Agriculture Literacy Outcomes

  • Plants and Animals for Food, Fiber, and Energy Outcomes
    • Distinguish between renewable and non-renewable resources used in the production of food, feed, fuel, fiber and shelter.
  • Agriculture and the Environment Outcomes
    • Discover how natural resources are used and conserved in agriculture

Iowa Core Standards

  • MS.ETS1-1: Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions.
  • MS-ESS3-1. Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence for how the uneven distributions of Earth's mineral, energy, and groundwater resources are the result of past and current geoscience processes.


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