In this activity students make biodiesel from waste vegetable oil and develop a presentation based on their lab experience. Parts of the activity include creation of bio-diesel from clean vegetable oil, creation of bio-diesel from waste vegetable oil, chemical analysis of biodiesel, purification of biodiesel, and creation of soap from glycerin.
This detailed chemistry lesson from the U.S. Department of Energy focuses on transforming vegetable oil into biodiesel through a process of transesterification. The process described offers a good model for many chemical reaction processes that are used to produce a viable product.
This is a long-term inquiry activity in which students investigate locations they believe harbor cellulose-digesting microbes, collect samples, isolate them on selective media, and screen them for cellulase activity. These novel microbes may be useful for the production of cellulosic ethanol. In the process they learn about plating techniques, serial dilutions, symbiotic relationships and enzyme specificity. Two methods are provided, one focusing on isolation of pure microbial strains, the other focusing on finding symbiotic communities of microbes.
In this activity learners work in pairs or small groups to apply knowledge of energy-wise habits to evaluate energy use in their school and make recommendations for improved efficiency. Students create and use an energy audit tool to collect data and present recommendations to their class. Further communication at the school and district level is encouraged.
Students investigate how much greenhouse gas (carbon dioxide and methane) their family releases into the atmosphere each year and relate it to climate change. To address this, students use the Environmental Protection Agency Personal Emissions Calculator to estimate their family's greenhouse gas emissions and to think about how their family could reduce those emissions.
In this activity, students construct a Global Warming Wheel Card, a hand-held tool that they can use to estimate their household's emissions of carbon dioxide and learn how they can reduce them. One side of the wheel illustrates how much carbon dioxide a household contributes to the atmosphere per year through activities such as driving a car, using energy in the home, and disposing of waste. The other side shows how changes in behavior can reduce personal emissions.
This is a hands-on inquiry activity using zip-lock plastic bags that allows students to observe the process of fermentation and the challenge of producing ethanol from cellulosic sources. Students are asked to predict outcomes and check their observations with their predictions. Teachers can easily adapt to materials and specific classroom issues.
This energy game activity engages students in learning about energy sources. This game demonstrates that energy, the environment, and economics are closely tied together. During the course of the game and in the discussion afterward, students learn the concepts of scarcity, opportunity cost, net energy profit, law of diminishing returns, and that availability does not mean usefulness.