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Fuels, Past & Future

Hurray for horsepower! Make a timeline to show how coal, oil, animals, and many other energy sources enable people and vehicles to stay on the move.

  • Grade 6
    Grades 7 and 8
  • Multiple Lesson Periods
  • Directions

    1. Brainstorm all the ways people have traveled throughout history. Consider modes of transportation around the world. Research when each type was popular. What fuels were used to power the vehicle? What environmental and economic effects were associated with each new invention? How have fuels, and their effects on the environment, changed?
    2. Create stand-up timelines to show differences between modern and historic modes of transportation, such as trains, automobiles, or ships.
    3. Fold a long piece of paper in half so the long edges meet. Bring each open edge up to meet the fold. Arrange paper with the center fold at the top. Run a line of Crayola® School Glue between the folds to keep the inside together. Air dry.
    4. Use Crayola Washable Markers to draw two-sided modes of transportation on the stand-up part of the paper. Make sure tops of vehicles meet the fold. Cut away open areas with Crayola Scissors.
    5. On one side of the base below each vehicle, write the name of the mode of transportation. Include details about its fuel efficiency and levels of pollution created. On the other side of the vehicle base, list dates the vehicle was in popular use and fuel sources.
  • Standards

    LA: Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.

    LA: Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content.

    LA: Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.

    LA: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions with diverse partners on grade level topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.

    LA: Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience in an organized manner, using appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details to support main ideas or themes; speak clearly at an understandable pace.

    SCI: Ask questions about the natural and human-built worlds.

    SCI: Construct drawings or diagrams as representations of events or systems.

    SCI: Use words, tables, diagrams, and graphs, as well as mathematical expressions, to communicate understanding or to ask questions about a system under study.

    SS: Examine the interaction of human beings and their physical environment, the use of land, building of cities and ecosystem changes in selected locales and regions.

    SS: Use appropriate resources, data sources, and geographic tools to generate, manipulate, and interpret information.

    VA: Intentionally take advantage of the qualities and characteristics of art media, techniques, and processes to enhance communication of experiences and ideas.

    VA: Select and use the qualities of structures and functions of art to improve communication of ideas.

  • Adaptations

    Students investigate the major personalities credited with creating or improving modes of transportation. Students organize their research into an electronic format for class presentation.

    Organize a field trip to a car dealership. Ask the owner or salesman to share with students improvements in automobile transportation in the past 25 years. Prior to the visit, students compose questions for the presenter. After the trip, students post learning to a class blog.

    Students imagine and construct vehicles of the future. Encourage students to use research of the past to project into the needs of the future. Students will make a model of their car of the future using as much of recycled materials as is possible. In presenting their future cars to classmates, students will be explicit in sharing what they believe will be the needs of the future and how these needs will be met with their model.

    Interview the school principal to investigate what fuels are used by your school. Consider heating, cooling, electric needs, and/or transportation. How efficient is each of these models being used? How can efficiency be improved? What can students do to assist with this improvement? Organize notes from this meeting into a summary electronic format and share it with the principal and your classroom teachers, as well as classmates. Ask for feedback!


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  • Creativity.
  • Capacity.
  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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