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Innovation Fuels for the Future

Research on innovation and the cutting edge technology that turns plastic waste into fuel inspires students as they create visuals and an informative presentation on the topic.

  • Grades 9-12
  • Multiple Lesson Periods
  • Directions

    1. Review the scientific inquiry process of finding new solutions to problems and testing a hypothesis. Discuss how careers in the sciences are often based in inquiry and innovation solutions. Urge students to discuss current global problems created by waste disposal as well as the growing demand for environmentally friendly energy sources.
    2. Introduce students to an innovative process that transforms used plastic into fuel. Urge students to consider how curiosity and using the scientific inquiry process led to this innovative solution.
    3. Divide the class into smaller groups that will each prepare a well researched presentation on the process of turning plastics into fuel and the ColorCycle program. In addition to the facts they will be learning, ask them to consider how these explorations raise their awareness of environmental issues and inspire them to be innovators who will use scientific inquiry to solve problems.
    4. Divide the class into student groups which will research content and plan their presentations. Urge them to think of innovative ways of presenting. Effective presentations take into consideration who the intended audience will be, what the audience members’ prior knowledge is, and what aspects of the presentation would likely be most relevant. Remind students that visuals will be as important as text. What kinds of information will they need to gather to prepare charts, graphs, diagrams, models, etc.? For example, they may want to use markers to express ideas visually in a process flow chart, or they may want to create a three-dimensional model of hydrocarbon molecule chains using Model Magic.
    5. Student study groups might gather information about: What happens to plastic when it is disposed of in waste landfills? How rapidly is the earth or the nation’s growing need for more energy and what sources have different impact on the planet. What are the advantages and disadvantages of various energy sources (wood, coal, oil, gas, solar, and nuclear power)? What contaminants are within various energy sources? How can innovative solutions like transforming plastic waste into fuel be powerful alternatives to burying plastic in landfills? Show a model of how the hydrocarbon molecule chains in plastic can be changed from solid matter to liquid to gas and become fuel that is a clean energy source. How does the level of sulphur in a fuel affect how “clean the energy” is and explain why the fuel made from plastic is very clean?
    6. Once research is complete, urge students to work collaboratively, determining what information fits into a cohesive presentation. How will they organize the presentation? What might make the best opening? What things do they feel most passionate about? How will they integrate visuals? What do they hope to accomplish with their presentation? Do they have any proposals of their own for alleviating some of the problems they have been studying? Remind them of the importance of the presentation having a memorable conclusion. Help them make arrangements to present the information to other classmates, classes, or schools. Following the presentation, provide time for reflective writing and discussion about how things went.
  • Standards

    LA: By the end of grade 12, read and comprehend literary nonfiction at the high end of the grades 11–CCR text complexity band independently and proficiently.

    LA: Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.

    LA: Present information, findings, and supporting evidence, conveying a clear and distinct perspective, such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning, alternative or opposing perspectives are addressed, and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and a range of formal and informal tasks.

    MATH: Use units as a way to understand problems and to guide the solution of multi-step problems; choose and interpret units consistently in formulas; choose and interpret the scale and the origin in graphs and data displays.

    MATH: Create equations and inequalities in one variable and use them to solve problems.

    MATH: Understand statistics as a process for making inferences about population parameters based on a random sample from that population.

    SCI: Generate and revise qualitative explanations from data for the impacts on Earth’s systems that result from increases in human population and rates of consumption.

    SCI: Design engineering solutions for stabilizing changes to communities by: (1) using water efficiently, (2) minimizing human impacts on environments and local landscapes by reducing pollution, and (3) reducing the release of greenhouse gases.

    SCI: Ask questions to refine and develop an explanation for the way technological monitoring of Earth’s systems can provide the means of informing the public of ways to modify human impacts on Earth’s systems.

    SS: Explore causes, consequences, and possible solutions to persistent, contemporary, and emerging global issues, such as pollution and endangered species.

    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.

    VA: Conceive and create works of visual art that demonstrate an understanding of how the communication of their ideas relates to the media, techniques and processes they use.


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