Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Energy Crisis

Science Literacy

Danny Mattox, Danny Mattox, Kristi Adams | Published: July 19th, 2022 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th
  • Subject Subject Science
  • Course Course Environmental Science
  • Time Frame Time Frame 3-5 class period(s)
  • Duration More 200 minutes


Students will research, present, and analyze the pros and cons of various forms of alternative energy.

Essential Question(s)

How do alternative energy resources—such as biomass, nuclear, solar, hydroelectric, geothermal, and wind—depend on natural resources, and which of these resources might be sustainable/economical solutions to the energy crisis?



Students will watch a trailer for a documentary about Vermont's desire to use renewable energy and compare their thoughts on the video in small groups.


Students will be given a memo from the town of Greeneville requesting their assistance. Students will select an alternative energy resource and form a company to help Greeneville solve their energy crisis. Students will prepare a 20-minute presentation for Greeneville’s town council.


Students will present to the town council on the benefits, misconceptions, and general process description of their alternative energy resource. The other companies will ask three questions of the presenting company concerning their alternative energy resource.


Students will work together to complete a pros/cons document for each alternative energy resource based on presentations. Students will discuss their ideas with the entire class.


Students will vote on the best alternative energy resource for Greeneville. Students will cite evidence from their research, peer presentations, and class discussions to support their claim (vote). If possible, students will interact with an energy company representative or selected field expert offering additional information/perspective from an individual in the field.


  • Memo from Greeneville (one per student or just one copy enlarged and posted in the classroom or projected onto screen)

  • Student sign up sheet (one for each class period)

  • Presentation guidelines (at least one per group)

  • Computer lab (with Internet access) for 2 days

  • Projector/computer for presentations

  • Pros/cons sheet (at least one per group for each alternative energy company)

  • Poster/butcher paper and tape (one for each alternative energy company)

  • Ballot (one for every student)


Show this video to students about Vermont's plan to use renewable energy. Use the strategy Three Sticky Notes to summarize what the video is about. Students should share their Post-it responses in small groups.


Give or read the memo from Greeneville to the students. Ask students to identify alternative energy resources.

Have students sign up for an alternative energy resource company using the attached sign up sheet.

Students who sign up for the same alternative energy resource will form a "company" and work together for the remainder of the lesson.

Each alternative energy resource is limited to no more than five students in any one group.

Go over the expectations for their research and hand out the presentation guidelines to each group.

Give students one class period with optional out-of-class research time to gather information independently.

After the initial research is conducted, allow one class period for students to compare research and develop their presentations. Allow part of a third day to finish up presentation preparation.


Allow each company team to present their alternative energy resource to the "town council" aka the teacher and other students not in their group.

Energy companies not involved in the presentation should be filling out the presentation evaluation.

After each presentation have each of the other companies ask the presenting company three questions.


Ask each company to fill out the pros/cons sheet based on their research and peer presentations.

Using poster/butcher paper, have each group write the name for their energy company at the top and create two columns labeled "pros" on the left side and "cons" on the right side.

Have each company post their paper around the room. Then, ask each group to rotate around to each team's poster and write the pros/cons they noticed on each poster, making sure not to duplicate anything already written. They may place a check next to a comment to indicate duplication. This is usually referred to as a Gallery Walk.

After the class has completed writing pros/cons, give each company team an opportunity to address any of the cons listed as a rebuttal before the final vote.


Have each student vote, using the provided ballot, on the best alternative energy resource for Greeneville, citing evidence from their research, peer presentations, and class discussions to support their claim (vote). .