Exploring Alternative Fuels in Middle Schools

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					    Exploring Alternative Fuels in
    Middle Schools
    By John F. Donley and Gary A. Stewardson

    Students were given the                                                          Price per barrel of crude oil

    opportunity to learn about a                                  $160.00

    current, global issue and how                                 $120.00

    they might have an impact.                                     $80.00
                                                                            Oct-07   Jan-08     Apr-08       Jul-08   Oct-08   Jan-09

                                                                 Table 1. Fluctuation of crude oil prices.

                                                                 in only nine months and then fell to half the original price
                                                                 in the next six months (see Table 1). Americans felt the
                                                                 effects of this phenomenon in many aspects of their lives:
                                                                 travel to work, vacations, groceries, buying products that
                                                                 required shipping, and the cost of heating their homes. This
Introduction                                                     uncontrollable change in oil prices will happen again as
                                                                 our nation’s demand continues to increase while domestic
Alternative energy sources have become increasingly              production and future foreign production diminish
important as the production of domestic oil has declined         (Pickens, 2008, pp. 127-131). The general population needs
and our dependence on foreign oil has increased. Pickens         to be technologically literate concerning alternative fuels in
(2008) believes the greatest threat to ever face the United      order to make intelligent decisions on meeting our energy
States is “our crippling dependence on foreign oil” (p. 3).      needs.
Historically, there have been four time periods during which
the United States was in fact crippled by oil shortages. These   This article focuses on a new unit of study that teaches
time periods include: the early 1900s, World War II, the         concepts relating to alternative fuels—specifically, ethanol
early 1970s, and most recently, a fifteen-month period from      and biodiesel. Also covered will be the responses from
2007-2009 (Energy Information Administration, 2008b).            students, parents, and administrators concerning the
During this most recent time period, oil prices doubled          new unit of instruction. This article does not claim to be

                                     20 •   The Te c hnolo gy Te ac her        • april 2010
the definitive answer to alternative fuels, but the unit has      Finally, learning activities were developed to bridge the
proven successful and will, hopefully, encourage teachers to      standards and objectives to the evaluation outcomes.
explore curricular activities covering all aspects and types of
alternative fuels.                                                A variety of instructional strategies were utilized to
                                                                  appeal to various learning styles. Probing questions and
In 2007, experiments with biodiesel were suggested during         classroom discussion were used to facilitate a Socratic
an experimental laboratory cla
Description: Methodology The development of a standards-based unit of instruction for middle school students on alternative fuels was used as a project for an MS degree at Utah State University. [...] learning activities were developed to bridge the standards and objectives to the evaluation outcomes. Since everyone answered the question correctly on the posttest, no changes were made to the lesson plans.
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