Lesson Launch–Renewable and Nonrenewable Resources

My 4th graders are starting a unit on renewable and nonrenewable resources.  I wanted to get my kids thinking about where the things around us come from and decided to try this activity as the ENGAGE part of the lesson.  I also wanted to know how much they already knew!  It turns out nobody has any idea where plastic comes from.  Back to the lesson…  so, I taped a photo of a school bus to some chart paper and had students sketch a bus in their science notebooks.  Then, we worked together to label what materials the bus was made of.  Simple enough.  Rubber tires, glass windows, leather seat covers (not really, but it worked for the lesson), cotton stuffing in the seats, metal engine, gasoline in the tank, etc.  I told them we must label everything!  While the gas isn’t actually part of the bus, I prompted that one.  I needed a launching pad for a future fossil fuels lesson.

Renewable and Nonrenewable Resources School Bus Anchor Chart from The Pensive Sloth

I guess since plastic looks like glass, several students thought it came from sand, too.

My next question was, “So where do we get glass for the windows?  Rubber for the tires?  Gas for the tank?  Cotton for the stuffing?” and so on.  Now this got them thinking.  Luckily we read about how glass is made before the holiday break.  SAND!  But what about the rest of the stuff?  This prompted great discussions and questions.  We returned to our chart.  Beneath each label we listed where that materials came from, and if we didn’t know, we made our best guess and put a question mark beside it.  We’ll revisit the chart and make changes after we learn where the materials actually come from.  Moving forward, as we explore renewable and nonrenewable resources, we can go back and decide which materials on the bus can be renewed in our lifetime and which can not.

–The Pensive Sloth

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