Students are more engaged and learn more when they participate in a problem based activity compared to a more traditional classroom activity. To teach energy sources, I use a PBL that is adaptable for independent or group work and is adaptable for in school instruction and for remote learning.
To begin this PBL, students learn that they have inherited an island. It is huge – large enough for literally anything they can imagine.
Here’s where you hook them. Let them dream big – water parks, luxurious spas, golf courses, amusement parks, hotels, restaurants, movie theaters.
Then, students have to figure out how to provide energy to support all of the activities they want to include.
This will work as a summative assessment after teaching energy sources, but it can also be a springboard to engage students into learning about the different energy sources so they can make an informed decision.
Provide research materials about the energy sources you want your students to learn about. I opted to allow them to choose from petroleum, hydroelectric power, solar power, and wind power, so I provided them with hyperdoc research documents. For some students, Google is a great resource. For middle school students, I find that guided research is more productive.
After learning about the different types of energy, students outline the pros and cons of using each type on their island. What’s the best economically? Which is most readily available? Which is going to produce the least pollution? Which will be the least unattractive for guests?
Finally students create a SlideShow with a drawing of their island and a persuasive paragraph explaining why they chose the energy source they chose.
To modify this, you could increase the requirement to a 5 paragraph essay for students who need more of a challenge, or provide a template for students who need more support.