Alternative Energy

Memorial Elementary School
Taylorville, IL
Grade Levels: 4th
Teacher: Barb Large

Project Proposal

A. Primary Learning Objectives

The primary goal of this lesson is to introduce students to alternative energy sources. This lesson will help the students understand that right in their own community of Taylorville, IL, agricultural crops are being produced and products are being manufactured that offer energy choices to not only Taylorville residents, but consumers around the world. The students will share what knowledge they already have concerning energy and fuel, mainly fossil fuels. Students will study where the fuel for energy is obtained and how they are manufactured and used. They will learn how the use of different fuel choices compares economically and environmentally. Observing the production of miscanthus and switch grass right in “their own backyard”, at the Dudley Smith Farms will allow them to learn about and realize the importance of developing alternative fuel choices that may be more economical and safer for the environment by reducing the harmful chemicals produced when fossil fuels are burned. They will observe the furnace and learn that not only are the miscanthus and switch grass pellets utilized but also how corn that they observe going around the Midwest can also be burned in the furnace for heat.

The second stage of the lesson will allow the students to see yet another alternative source of energy being used in the production of plants for resale. A visit to Buckley’s Greenhouse will first introduce the students to another facility right in their community that is producing products that provide jobs to our community and also utilizes a source of energy that is a “by-product” of a local landfill. They will tour the greenhouse which is heated by an alternative energy. This will be a good introduction for their field trip to the landfill in the following year.

B. Summary of Activities and Timeline

A study of energy and fuel sources will be incorporated in Science, Math, and Social Studies curriculum. We will begin our field trip at the Dudley Smith Farms in late summer/early fall to observe the production of miscanthus and switch grass. Following a short lesson by the University of Illinois Extension Office we will then make our next stop at the Big M Manufacturing and Berry Patch to have a tour of the furnace manufacturing facility and see the different pellets that are burned for the fuel in the furnace. Mel Repscher will demonstrate step-by-step how the pellets are augered into the furnace and show what little waste is produced from the burned product. They will also learn a small amount of miscanthus or switch or switch grass pellets are needed to produce the heat. They will also learn that field corn can also be used as fuel. The students see the corn growing in and around the community and many assume it is the sweet corn that is eaten. Little do they know the many uses of the product that is growing all around them. There will be a discussion about the economic side of the production of these agricultural products compared to the mining and processing of fossil fuels.

Not only will they learn about how the use of these alternative fuels helps the world environmentally, but they will also learn about the cost-effectiveness of this fuel. They will put their knowledge to use back in the classroom completing a project on fuel costs.

Following our tour of Big M Manufacturing we will make our final stop at the Buckley Greenhouse. Due to regulations, the students will only observe from a distance the equipment needed to trap the gases produced in the landfill from decomposing matter. They will however be allowed to tour the entire greenhouse. They will not only understand how the heat is produced from the use of the waste gas of methane and carbon from the landfill heats the greenhouse, they will also have the opportunity to observe a major greenhouse manufacturing facility. This trip will be a great introduction to the fifth grade school year when their field trip includes a visit and tour of the landfill.

Upon returning to the classroom we will continue our studies of alternative energy resources such as wind farms. They will observe pictures of the Twin Groves wind farm and learn from reading material about wind energy. We will continue our study of how corn is used in our everyday lives by learning about biodegradable products produced from corn and how it is safer for our environment.

C. How these activities will accomplish the objectives

The main goal is to introduce the students to alternative energy sources. Most of the students will have no knowledge of the production and manufacturing of products occurring in their own community. They will return to the classroom to continue their study of alternative energy sources such as wind and water. Through class discussion and reading material, they will have a greater knowledge of the subject and how it may affect our community and “our world” in an economic and environmental manner.

D. Number of students and others who will learn from this effort

There are approximately 50 students from Memorial Elementary School who will benefit from this informative field trip to the Dudley Smith Farm, Big M Manufacturing, and Buckley Greenhouse.

E. Method of project evaluation

Students will tour each facility and have the opportunity to ask questions. They will return to the classroom to complete additional lessons on additional energy sources such as wind and water. They will complete a math lesson calculating the cost of heating the Christian County Extension office using a conventional method versus an alternative energy source. In the social studies curriculum, the students will learn where the alternative sources of energy are used throughout the United States and the world. In science, the students will build the classroom terrarium using grasses to represent the miscanthus. This will enable them to see how the grasses continue growing even after being harvested demonstrating a renewable resource. Students will demonstrate their knowledge of alternative energy sources by constructing a poster.