Target Grade Level / Age Range:

Grades 6-8


1 hour


Students gain familiarity with the processes of raising and creating alternative renewable materials for fuel, specifically ethanol.


Suggested Companion Resources


  • Ethanol – an energy source made from the sugars in plants
  • Biodiesel an energy source made from plant oils
  • Energy – the ability to move people and things
  • Renewable resource – a source of energy that can be replaced

Interest Approach or Motivator

Iowa is the United States’ #1 producer of corn and soybeans.  List some uses for the corn and soybeans in Iowa?   Can you name any non-food or feed uses?   Both of these crops can be turned into fuels for cars and trucks.  Ethanol is made from corn and biodiesel from soybeans.   It is likely that the fuel that powered the car or bus you rode to school today used ethanol or biodiesel.  


  1. Cut out the Tassel to Tank information slips and randomize them.
  2. Provide students with background information about corn through the Renewable Energy and Agriculture PowerPoint or by using the suggested companion materials. Talk students through the processes involved in using field corn to produce ethanol for automobiles.
  3. Divide students into 13 groups. If 13 groups cannot be made, make as many as possible and give some groups two slips. Distribute one random Tassel to Tank information slip to each group.
  4. Give students 5-8 minutes to familiarize themselves with the information on the card and answer the card’s discussion question(s).
  5. One at a time, have a leader from each group come to the front of the class and present the information about their production step. Then, ask the student to place their step in the correct order, relative to the other steps already standing at the front of the class. 
  6. Review the information with students and discuss the tougher questions from the Tassel to Tank information slips.

Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)

Did you know? (Ag facts)

  • Iowa is the top corn producing state in the U.S.
  • Around 40% of U.S. corn is processed into ethanol.
  • Iowa is the top producing state of ethanol.  The ethanol industry benefit local farmers and create jobs in rural communities.

Extension Activities

  • Visit a local wind farm, ethanol plant or biodiesel plant with students to learn firsthand about the creation of renewable fuels.
  • Have students work in groups of 3-4 to create a video on either ethanol, biodiesel or wind energy that includes how it is created, connection to agriculture and the benefits of that specific energy.
  • Ethanol can be made from other crops besides corn. Have students write a research paper on other sources of ethanol and the pros and cons of using that source.


  • Adapted from “ Tassel to Tank”, Illinois Farm Bureau® Agriculture in the Classroom


Kelsey Faivre, Cindy Hall

Organization Affiliation

Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation

National Agriculture Literacy Outcomes

  • T2.6-8.d.Identify renewable and nonrenewable energy sources.
  • T3.6-8.i. Identify sources of agricultural products that provide food, fuel, clothing, shelter, medical, and other non-food products for their community, state, and/ or nation.



Iowa Core Standards

  • Science
    • MS-LS2-3. Develop a model to describe the cycling of matter and flow of energy among living and nonliving parts of an ecosystem.
    • MS-LS1-6 Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence for the role of photosynthesis in the cycling of matter and flow of energy into and out of organisms.
    • MS-LS1-7 Develop a model to describe how food is rearranged through chemical reactions forming new molecules that support growth and/or release energy as this matter moves through an organism.
    • MS-LS2-3. Develop a model to describe the cycling of matter and flow of energy among living and nonliving parts of an ecosystem.
    • MS-PS1-3. Gather and make sense of information to describe that synthetic materials come from natural resources and impact society.


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