Applied Science - Built Environment (2)
Pre Lab

  • Investigating technology and energy that is produced.
  • Comparing different sources of energy .


  • energy
  • hydroelectric
  • solar

Students use a worksheet to explore different sources of energy.


Our built environment captures what nature has given us and tries to use it for the good of the human society. Students should be aware how human society sometimes affects other "societies," from ants, elephants, atmosphere and oceans. Humans are only one of the millions of species on this planet. The following units in Built Environment focuses on how we use nature's gifts, whether good or bad. Students as adults, should learn to research a problem or potential problem and then make decisions based on solid evidence.

There are many ways to get energy from nature. Some methods like wind, water, and solar do little to affect the environment. Other methods like petroleum, gas, coal, and nuclear may someday pose a threat to future humans.

Different energy sources can be divided into two groups -- renewable (an energy source that we can use over and over again) and nonrenewable (an energy source that we are using up and cannot be recreated in a short period of time).  Water, wind, and sun provide us with renewable energy source while petroleum, gas, coal, and the element uranium (used by nuclear power plants) are nonrenewable.

Water is very powerful. In the past, falling water turned a flour mill which ground wheat into flour. Today steam from water or falling water causes a turbine to spin. This generates electricity. A turbine can do without steam when it is located at the base of a waterfall or a dam and made to spin by the falling water alone. This is power produced by hydroelectric energy. It generates about 16 -20% of all electricity in the United States.

Windmills have been used for centuries. Holland, a small country in Europe, is noted for their use of windmills. Many people do not realize that a windmill produces energy. Wind turns turbines which change the wind power to electrical energy.

Solar power captures energy from the light rays of the sun. Students may have seen solar powered hot water tanks. This example is easy for them to understand. However, there are many solar operated machines such as calculators, that can help make this understandable for a second grader. Point out that solar energy is becoming more and more advanced. Coal, gas, petroleum (oil and other derivatives), and nuclear energy are all used to create electricity by fueling turbines to create movement, similar to hydroelectric. The advantage over many of these forms of energy is that the energy can be created anywhere. Water, wind, and solar all require specialized conditions to work, and sometimes the conditions prevent energy from being made. For example, no wind, no energy.


  1. In this activity, students start learning the different ways to derive energy. Go over the worksheet to discuss the different types of energy sources.
  2. Ask students to decide whether the energy is renewable (can replace itself) or nonrenewable (cannot replace itself).  Also have them decide if the energy source does not pollute the atmosphere  or pollutes the atmosphere. Then have them decide if there is problems with the by-products of creating the energy.

    Answers:  wind: renewable, clean, no problem ; hydroelectric: renewable, clean, no problem; solar: renewable, clean, no problem ; coal: non renewable, pollutes, problem with by-products; petroleum: non renewable, pollutes, problem with by-products; nuclear: non renewable, pollutes, problem with by-products
  3. Students can add their own views of benefits and harm from each energy source to the bottom of the list.
  4. More information about energy can be found on the Department of Energy EIA website.


  [Back to Applied Science Grid]  [Back to Built Environment (2)]