For my final post in this blog series, I will address curriculum ideas for the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) topic of Energy – specifically natural resources and renewable energy.

If you recall from the first post, the Fridheimar greenhouses use “green” electricity from hydro and geothermal plants to power their artificial lighting.  Learning about these two types of renewable energy sources is an excellent way to meet the NGSS Energy standards.

You can start by boosting students’ knowledge of these energy sources by having them review the following:

  1. Hydroelectric Power – The U.S. Department of Energy produced a good 4-minute video that provides details on the types of hydropower plants and data on hydropower usage in the U.S.  And this list from Energy Informative gives the pros and cons of hydroelectric power generation.
  2. Geothermal Energy – The Union of Concerned Scientists provides a great written overview of how geothermal energy is captured and includes stats on its usage.  These two videos further explain the geothermal heat pump and geothermal power plant concepts that are mentioned in the article.

You can pair the above knowledge with a hands-on experiment that requires students to build their own geothermal energy source. You will need a pan, water, foil, a tin can, oven mitt, safety glasses, and various shaped pinwheels or handheld fan blades. The students produce steam with boiling water and witness how the steam turns the blades of the pinwheel or fan blades. This video provides a good overview of the experiment. I recommend having the students wear safety glasses and an oven mitt to reduce the risk of injury from the steam and boiling water.

Ask the students to make predictions about which pinwheel or fan blades will generate the most energy by having them count the number of turns each does in a given time period. You can also have students test various configurations of the tin can to see which is most efficient in directing the steam for power generation. Math can be integrated into the experiment by having students plot and summarize their data findings. What a great way for kids to really grasp how a renewable energy resource works!

That concludes my Icelandic tomato inspired blogs series. If you missed the previous posts, you can access them here: first post, second post, third post

Thanks for reading and let me know if you try any of the hands-on experiment ideas in this blog series.