Activity Overview: Food takes energy to grow, store, and prepare. Food is also an important resource. When you think of produce, fruits, and vegetables, what do you think of? Close your eyes and picture a carrot. Do you picture a slim, orange vegetable? Not all carrots are orange and not all carrots are sleek. Many carrots grow crooked or curved. This can happen for many reasons, including when there is a rock in the ground or extreme weather changes.

Carrots are only one example of what is known as ugly produce. Ugly produce is the name of the fruits and vegetables that grow this way. Farms sort out most if not all of their ugly produce and do not send them to grocery stores. Grocery stores don’t think the ugly produce sells, so they don’t buy it, meaning farmers have to get rid of it. Approximately 20% of all U.S. produce never enters the market but ends up left in the field or transported to landfills.¹ This food waste also wastes food and energy.

In reality, there is nothing wrong with the ugly produce. It tastes the same and has all of the same benefits as conventional produce.

So what can you do?

  • Eat ugly Produce. When you go to the store and see ugly produce buy it!
  • Seek new Stores: If your stores do not offer ugly produce, you may be able to find some direct from the farms at a farmers’ market or through some vendors who source ugly produce directly from the farms.
  • Educate Your School. As a class, create materials and a plan to educate your fellow classmates at school on what ugly produce is and how it’s just the same.

Procedure:

Print and copy the outlines of the fruit and vegetables on the two coloring pages linked here. Ask students to use an ink pen or pencil to redraw the outlines of the fruits based on the description above of the “ugly carrot.” Then use any color combinations that would make these fruits stand out in the grocery store. For example, fruits can take a non-standard color or feature freckles, fruits, or blemishes. Compare different ugly fruits between classmates to see some of the different impressions and look online for examples from the farm.

Ugly Fruit

Ugly Vegetables

TEKS

ART.K.2A, ART.1.2A, ART.2.2A, ART.3.2A, ART.K.2C, ART.1.2C, ART.2.2C, ART.3.2C


  1. https://www.imperfectproduce.com/how-grocery-delivery-service-works

Activity Overview: How often do you eat pre-packaged food? Some of the containers for pre-packaged food are made of plastic that cannot be recycled and only end up in a landfill. So what can you do to reduce your plastic waste?

  • Think about what you buy. Does the food you buy come in non-recyclable plastic? Ask yourself if you could get the same food without wasting plastic. For example, instead of buying individually wrapped frozen food, you could make a bulk meal and store it in reusable individual containers.
  • Buy in bulk. Can the food you buy in pre-packaged containers be bought in bulk and stored in reusable containers?

There are real, easy ways to reduce the waste that you generate on a daily basis. Plastic takes energy to create and to dispose of. When you are intentional about how to reduce your waste, it helps you to reduce energy as well.

Procedure

As a class or in small groups, make a list of foods that come in lots of packaging (outside box, inside bag, individual wrappers, lids and bases, etc.). Then brainstorm ways to reduce landfill-destined packaging either by switching the food itself or by changing the packaging. Encourage creativity with these ideas. Even if the idea is unfeasible or still requires packaging, thinking through packaging in the food sector is an important step in reducing overall energy consumption and waste.

For example, one can purchase yogurt at the grocery store in a cup with a lid in a multipack of many tethered together in another box or wrapper. Alternatively, one can make a batch of yogurt at home or purchase a large store-bought container of yogurt. This can create multiple single-servings of yogurt in bowls at home or portioned into school lunches by dividing into smaller plastic or glass containers that can be washed and reused.

TEKS

SCI.6.1B, SCI.7.1B, SCI.8.1B

Activity Overview: Where does electricity come from? Electricity comes from energy that is created from a source or a fuel. Wind is one energy source. Kinetic energy, the energy of things in motion, can be found in air’s movement around the world. Humans harness that energy through wind turbines, which convert the kinetic energy of wind into electricity.

Wind is a very powerful source. Think about the strongest winds that you have ever been in, how much did it make things move around you? Have you ever seen wind from a hurricane or tornado move trees, cars, or houses? Wind is a powerful source of energy. So if wind is so powerful, why don’t we use it for all of our energy? There are challenges with harnessing wind energy. Wind is unpredictable, so we can’t control when it happens or how strongly it happens. However, wind is a renewable resource, which means that the resource replenishes itself faster than humans can use it. As long as the sun is still shining, wind will always be blowing somewhere on Earth.

Materials:

  • 8.5”x11” piece of paper
  • wooden skewer or drinking straw
  • kite string
  • ribbon (optional)
  • scissors
  • hole punch (optional)
  • tape

Procedure:

Students build and color a paper kite. The class takes a few moments outside to see if the wind is strong enough to move their kites. It’s better to explore this on a windy day, as a still day will not provide enough energy to take the kite on the wind. If it’s a still day, explain that the wind does not contain enough kinetic energy to move any other objects. Similarly a still day is not sufficient enough to move a wind turbine.

  1. Fold the piece of paper in half width-wise (hamburger style).
  2. Draw a line from the top about 1 inch from the folded edge to the bottom about 1 inch from the open edge.
  3. Fold the paper along the line just created.
  4. Flip the paper over and repeat steps 2 and 3.
  5. Open the back flap and tape the two sides together along the crevasse.
  6. Cut the skewer or straw in place. Lay it across the width of the kite tape it down.
  7. Flip the kite onto the reinforced side and straighten the spine edge of the kite.
  8. Place a piece of tape around 1/3 of the way down the spine and about 1 inch from the bottom folded edge to reinforce the spine.
  9. Cut or punch a hole in the reinforcement tape.
  10. Tie the string through this hole with a strong knot.
  11. (Optional) Decorate your kite with different crayons, markers, or pencils. Tape a length of ribbon to the bottom end of the kite.

TEKS

ART.1.2A, ART.1.2C, SCI.1.8D

Adapted from: Instructables Easy Paper Kite for Kids

Activity Overview: The Sun is the ultimate source of energy for almost all processes on Earth, from weather and climate to fossil fuels to the energy students need to get out of bed or run around the track. The only non-solar energy sources are the moon, which provides the forces for tidal energy, and uranium, which provides the raw material for nuclear energy. This activity relies on deep questions and critical thought to trace the ultimate source of energy on Earth to the sun.

Start with those primary energy sources that are obviously solar; photovoltaic panels convert light from the sun into electrical energy. Similarly, concentrated solar power facilities concentrate the sun's heat for industrial processes or thermoelectric energy production.

Lead students from light and heat in the traditional sense of industrial energy production to the more abstract concept of climate and weather, recalling your class's progress through weather and climate science. The sun causes the difference in surface temperature that cause winds, which in turn can generate electricity if harnessed appropriately. Further, the sun's energy powers the global water cycle, which lifts water from it's stores on Earth's surface to condense in the atmosphere and then fall elsewhere, where it can be retained in a reservoir and leveraged for generating hydroelectric power.

Take a step further from precipitation, and consider the sun's role in photosynthesis. The sun provides the energy required to grow all biomass, and therefore also for fossil fuels. Ancient algae and other organisms converted energy from the same sun into their energy to live, and after they died, that energy became oil and natural gas through thousands of years of compression and other forces.

Time: 20 minutes

Write each of the forms of primary energy on the board or project them on the overhead projector. Use structured questions to determine as a class which sources gain their ultimate source of energy from the sun.

Hydroelectric: "What moved water so high that it might have a strong potential energy before flowing through a dam?"

Wind: "Winds are caused by grand scale disparity in surface temperatures. What causes these differences?"

Biomass: "From where do plants receive the energy they need to live and grow?"

Tidal: "What causes the tides?" - This one is answered by the moon.

Fossil Fuels: "What is the ancient raw material for fossil fuels and what living organisms do these most resemble?"

Resources:

The Bradbury Science Museum operated by Los Alamos National Laboratory produced a short one-page regarding the source of nuclear material when they made a statement generalizing that all energy came from the sun.

TEKS

SCI.8.10A

Activity Overview: Texas has many dams, which create many reservoirs for sources of drinking water and water for irrigation.

Students can work individually or in groups to research one of the many dams in Texas. Students should use a variety of relevant print and digital resources to investigate their assigned dam. The investigation should include a brief history, including reason for construction, current status of the structure, and how the dam changed the surface water in the region.

To expand this activity, students could deliver a short presentation to the class, incorporating visual elements.

Time: 20-30 minutes

Resources:

Chapter 12: Hydroelectric Energy from Energy 101: Energy Technology & Policy provides an introduction to the physics and history of hydropower. Access to Energy 101 for Texas students and teachers is provided for free by the State Energy Conservation Office as part of the Watt Watchers of Texas program.

Students should identify additional print and digital resources and evaluate them for relevance, validity, and reliability.

TEKS

SS.6.7C, SCI.7.8C, ELA.6.22B, ELA.6.23A, ELA.6.23C, ELA.6.24B, ELA.7.22B, ELA.7.23A, ELA.7.23C, ELA.7.24B, ELA.6.17A.i, ELA.6.17A.iv, ELA.6.17A.ii, ELA.6.17A.iii, ELA.7.17A.i, ELA.7.17A.v, ELA.7.17A.ii, ELA.7.17A.iii, ELA.7.17A.iv

Activity Overview: Despite advances, today the global economy consumes most of its energy through only four technologies: the steam turbine, gas turbine, gasoline engine and diesel engine. The most popular conversion device is the steam turbine. More than 30 quads of primary energy are converted by steam turbines each year to produce electricity. Combustion turbines consume another 9 quads for electricity and transportation. The spark-ignition engine, also known as the gasoline engine, and the compression-ignition engine, also known as the diesel engine, round out the suite of technologies. These four devices are responsible for well over 60% of all our energy conversions, but all four devices were invented in the 1800s or earlier. Therefore, old-fashioned technology drives the modern energy economy. Even the newest conversion devices, like solar photovoltaic cells, were invented in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Today, solar use is growing in number and in popularity. The presence of wind turbines, invented in the late 1800s, is growing as well. Although the energy matrix has changed rapidly since the 1970s, the underlying conversion technologies of the industry are slow to change.

Individually, in groups, or as a class, make a timeline that shows the invention dates of the major energy conversion devices. Ensure the timeline also includes the present day to demonstrate the age of the major technologies. Can your class extrapolate from this timeline that the energy technology landscape is slow to change?

Time: 20-30 minutes

Resources:

The introduction for this activity was reprinted in part from Chapter 5: Energy Uses from Energy 101: Energy Technology & Policy, which provides a history of energy sources, end uses, consumption patterns, and transitions between them. Access to Energy 101 for Texas students and teachers is provided for free by the State Energy Conservation Office as part of the Watt Watchers of Texas program.

Students should identify additional print and digital resources and evaluate them for relevance, validity, and reliability.

TEKS

SCI.6.3D, SCI.7.3D, SCI.8.3D, SS.8.27A, SS.7.20A, M.6.2D, M.6.2C, M.6.2A, M.8.2D

Activity Overview: Primary energy consists of unconverted or original fuels. Secondary energy includes resources that have been converted or stored. For example, primary energy sources include petroleum, natural gas, coal, biomass, flowing water, wind, and solar radiation. Those are the fuels that can be mined, reaped, extracted, harvested, or harnessed directly. Secondary energy cannot be harnessed directly from nature; rather, secondary energy is energy that has already been converted. For example, electricity cannot be mined or harvested, though it is available in quick bursts on occasion from lightning. It is generated as a secondary form from primary fuels, like natural gas.

After researching and discussing each of the different individual energy resources, use time to discuss the difference between primary and energy resources and then to classify each of the following resources into one of two categories. Do this activity in small groups or as a whole class on the board.

You can also project the Primary Resource or Secondary Energy Interactive element from Chapter 3 of Energy 101. For the purposes of this activity and the discussion, resource and energy are used mostly interchangeably. The key difference between primary and secondary is the conversion process.

Time: 20-30 minutes

Primary Resource or Secondary Energy?

PrimarySecondary
Oil
Natural Gas
Coal
Uranium
Blowing Wind
Flowing Water
Biomass
Sunlight
Gasoline
Liquid Fuel Oil
Biofuels
Electricity
Hydrogen
Heat

Resources:

The introduction for this activity was reprinted in part from Chapter 3: Energy Literacy from Energy 101: Energy Technology & Policy, which provides an introduction to the difference between primary and secondary sources of energy. Access to Energy 101 for Texas students and teachers is provided for free by the State Energy Conservation Office as part of the Watt Watchers of Texas program.

Students should identify additional print and digital resources and evaluate them for relevance, validity, and reliability.

TEKS

SCI.6.7A, ELA.6.22B, ELA.6.23A, ELA.6.24B, ELA.6.25A

Activity Overview: Research is a crucial part of the scientific process, and mastery of which is a turning point between passive learning and active learning. The purpose of this activity is to research and discuss the benefits and drawbacks of different primary energy resources. Primary energy resources include all unconverted or original fuels.

Time: 45 minutes, consider reserving time in the library to leverage print and digital resources in your school’s collection

Students should use a variety of resources to research the primary energy resource solar and use the information to fill out the following chart of advantages and disadvantages.

Solar

AdvantagesDisadvantages

list the pros here

list the cons here

Evaluating the advantages and disadvantages is the first step in analyzing the tradeoffs of different energy resources.

Students can work individually or in groups to research and fill in the chart. However, they should be prepared to discuss their findings either with their groups or in front of the class.

Resources:

Chapter 14: Solar Energy from Energy 101: Energy Technology & Policy provides an introduction to the different types of coal and the technologies used to leverage the resource in the energy sector. Access to Energy 101 for Texas students and teachers is provided for free by the State Energy Conservation Office as part of the Watt Watchers of Texas program.

Students should identify additional print and digital resources and evaluate them for relevance, validity, and reliability.

TEKS

SCI.6.7A, ELA.6.22B, ELA.6.23A, ELA.6.24B, ELA.6.25A

Activity Overview: Research is a crucial part of the scientific process, and mastery of which is a turning point between passive learning and active learning. The purpose of this activity is to research and discuss the benefits and drawbacks of different primary energy resources. Primary energy resources include all unconverted or original fuels.

Time: 45 minutes, consider reserving time in the library to leverage print and digital resources in your school’s collection

Students should use a variety of resources to research the primary energy resource geothermal energy and use the information to fill out the following chart of advantages and disadvantages.

Geothermal

AdvantagesDisadvantages

list the pros here

list the cons here

Evaluating the advantages and disadvantages is the first step in analyzing the tradeoffs of different energy resources.

Students can work individually or in groups to research and fill in the chart. However, they should be prepared to discuss their findings either with their groups or in front of the class.

Resources:

Chapter 15: Geothermal Energy from Energy 101: Energy Technology & Policy provides an introduction to the different types of coal and the technologies used to leverage the resource in the energy sector. Access to Energy 101 for Texas students and teachers is provided for free by the State Energy Conservation Office as part of the Watt Watchers of Texas program.

Students should identify additional print and digital resources and evaluate them for relevance, validity, and reliability.

TEKS

SCI.6.7A, ELA.6.22B, ELA.6.23A, ELA.6.24B, ELA.6.25A

Activity Overview: Research is a crucial part of the scientific process, and mastery of which is a turning point between passive learning and active learning. The purpose of this activity is to research and discuss the benefits and drawbacks of different primary energy resources. Primary energy resources include all unconverted or original fuels.

Time: 45 minutes, consider reserving time in the library to leverage print and digital resources in your school’s collection

Students should use a variety of resources to research the primary energy resource hydropower and use the information to fill out the following chart of advantages and disadvantages.

Hydropower

AdvantagesDisadvantages

list the pros here

list the cons here

Evaluating the advantages and disadvantages is the first step in analyzing the tradeoffs of different energy resources.

Students can work individually or in groups to research and fill in the chart. However, they should be prepared to discuss their findings either with their groups or in front of the class.

Resources:

Chapter 12: Hydroelectric Energy from Energy 101: Energy Technology & Policy provides an introduction to the different types of coal and the technologies used to leverage the resource in the energy sector. Access to Energy 101 for Texas students and teachers is provided for free by the State Energy Conservation Office as part of the Watt Watchers of Texas program.

Students should identify additional print and digital resources and evaluate them for relevance, validity, and reliability.

TEKS

SCI.6.7A, ELA.6.22B, ELA.6.23A, ELA.6.24B, ELA.6.25A

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