• Curecanti National Recreation Area


    National Recreation Area Colorado

Energy In Our World

National Park Service Mission

...to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and Curecanti National Recreation Area Outreach Education is committed to: Creating an awareness and fostering an appreciation for the mission of the National Park Service and the natural, cultural, and historic resources of Curecanti National Recreation Area and Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.


Curriculum enhancing activities designed to complement national and state content standards across a variety of disciplines.

Title: Energy In Our World

Grade level: Sixth Grade

Time length: 60 minutes

Subject areas: Science, language arts, mathematics, social science

Teacher: Two NPS Education Specialists

Colorado Content Standards: Science:(2.2) Students know that energy appears in different forms, and can move (be transferred) and change (be transformed).

Mathematics: (6.1) Students understand and apply graph/data collection and analysis, statistics and probability to solve problems.

Theme: Energy resources must be used wisely, because they are essential for life.

NPS focus: Public Law 39-535 (Organic Act),

Public Law 95-250 (Redwood National Park Expansion Act),

Vail Agenda Education Committee Report (Strategic Goal #2; Action Plan 16) and (Strategic Goal #3; Action Plan 52,62),

Curecanti and Black Canyon Themes: Natural Resources/Wildlife

Environmental concepts: The sun is the source of all energy (energy flow).

There is no "free lunch" (community).

Environmental learning hierarchy: Analogies

Materials: Laminated letters spelling "energy" with text on the back of each (see section II.); PowerPoint Projector and laptop computer with Energy presentation on desktop; stopwatch; 6 call bells; 2 chairs; energy trivia questions (see attached sheet); Curecanti maps (to show dams).


Knowledge level: Students will be able to recognize the sun as the source of all energy.

Students will be able to identify human uses for renewable and nonrenewable resources.

Comprehension level: Students will be able to explain the two categories of energy resources and give examples of each, along with ways they can conserve energy.

Application level: Students will be able to demonstrate the concept of energy efficiency by constructing a "machine" that is energy efficient.


Intro to the National Park Service…Segue into Energy.

(First slide of the PowerPoint presentation) “Today we’re going to discuss something that impacts each of our lives on a daily basis. Without it, our lives would be dramatically different. I need six volunteers to read what’s on the back of their card when I name the letter on the front.

Slide 2: Text:

"E" stands for earth. We all live on the earth, and right now there is no other place for us to live. Therefore, we have to take care of it. Beneath the earth's crust are most of our...

"N" nonrenewable resources, such as coal, oil and natural gas. We must use these fuels...

"E" efficiently, otherwise we will run out of them. This is why we look to...

"R" renewable resources for energy, such as wind, solar, water and wood. These are unlimited resources if we use them wisely. The wise use of energy has to be a...

"G" global concern. Everyone in the world must use energy wisely. Even though you might think that what you do isn't important...

"Y" you can make a difference!

And together, this spells ENERGY!!!


Slide 3: If you were listening closely as your classmates were reading about energy, you might have heard the two major categories of energy resources. Does anyone know what they are?The two categories are nonrenewable and renewable resources.

Slide 4: Can anyone name a renewable resource?

Slide 5: Solar energy is a renewable resource that can create heat or hot water by using solar panels.

Slide 6: Solar panels can be attached to rooftops, to lamp posts, or even to golf carts to create energy to run the lights or the engine. (Show the solar panel and how it powers the fan).

Slide 7: What is another renewable resource? (Hint: There is an excellent example of this type of renewable resource at Yellowstone National Park.) The type of energy we get from the heat within the earth is called geothermal energy, geo- meaning earth and thermal meaning heat. Geothermal energy can be used to heat water or to produce electricity by steam.

Slide 8: Geothermal energy is clean energy. It doesn’t produce smoky, toxic emissions.

Slide 9: Wind is another type of renewable energy. The blades on this wind turbine spin, and electricity is created.

Slide 10: This wind turbine might look familiar, because it’s designed like the old fashioned windmills. Windmills used the wind to turn their blades, and the energy that was created was used to grind grains.

Slide 11: Curecanti National Recreation Area, where we work, is a popular place to boat and fish during the summer time. Who knows how the lakes relate to the topic of energy? The lakes, or reservoirs were created when dams were built on the Gunnison River. The dams produce hydroelectric energy.

Slide 12: Each dam has a power plant, which uses the powerful flow of water to produce electricity. The electricity is then transferred through power lines to your house, school, shops, and other places that use electricity.

Slide 13: The dams block the flow of the river, and the water pools up to create large man-made lakes, or reservoirs. The reservoirs are great places to boat, fish, and swim.

Slide 14: Biomass is organic material made from plants and animals. Biomass contains stored energy from the sun. Plants absorb the sun's energy in a process called photosynthesis. The chemical energy in plants gets passed on to animals and people that eat them. Biomass is a renewable energy source because we can always grow more trees and crops, and waste will always exist. Some examples of biomass fuels are wood, crops, manure, and some garbage.

Slide 15: When burned, the chemical energy in biomass is released as heat. If you have a fireplace, the wood you burn in it is a biomass fuel. Biomass can also be converted to other usable forms of energy like methane gas or transportation fuels like ethanol and biodiesel. Biodiesel is produced from left-over food products like vegetable oils and animal fats. Biomass fuels provide about 3 percent of the energy used in the United States.

Slide 16: Renewable resources are sources of energy that can be replaced and are often pollution free. Even renewable resources must be used wisely; if they are not conserved we will jeopardize the continuous use of these resources.

Slide 17: Nonrenewable resources take thousands and sometimes millions of years to form and are considered limited resources. What are some nonrenewable resources?

Slide 18: Nonrenewable resources such as coal, oil, and natural gas are known as fossil fuels. Does anyone know how fossil fuels are made? They are created by the decay of plant and animal matter over thousands, even millions, of years.

Slide 19: Fossil fuels are used to produce steam for steam engine trains, electricity for homes and businesses, fuel for cars, and heat, for instance in a propane grill.

Slide 20: Uranium is used for nuclear energy. Nuclear power accounts for about 20 percent of the total electricity generated in the United States, about as much as the electricity used in California,Texas and New York, the three states with the most people. In 2003, there were 66 nuclear power plants throughout the United States.

Slide 21: We use energy every single day, for a lot of different reasons. Does anyone know what the most used energy resource for electric power is in the United States today? (If necessary, tell the students that it is one of the fossil fuels). Coal generates more than half of our electricity.

Slide 22: Ask the students how much electric energy they think various resources generate.

Coal: 54.6 %

Nuclear: 20%

Natural Gas: 11%

Hydroelectric: 9.4 %

Biomass 3%

Petroleum: 2%

Slide 23: Our non-renewable energy sources will someday run out. That’s why it’s important to look for renewable energy sources and clean energy sources, and to start relying less on non-renewable and more on renewable energy sooner, rather than later.

Conservation Demonstration:

"It seems as though we have many, many uses for energy. We will have enough energy for all of our demands only if we take care of our resources and use them wisely. What is another word for using resources wisely? This is called conservation. We need to conserve our energy resources if we are to be able to use them in the future." Have two students come to the front of the room and stand in front of two chairs. Instruct one of the students to step up onto the chair and then step back down over and over, as fast as he or she can without getting hurt. Instruct the other student to step up onto the chair and then step back down, waiting ten seconds before repeating the process. Have students do this for about a minute or until they get tired. "Which student was conserving energy? How could you tell? The student that was waiting ten seconds each time was pacing his or herself. They were conserving energy." Ask the students why it is important to conserve our energy resources (both limited and unlimited).


Divide the students into four teams, placing a bell at each station. Have students choose a team name that has something to do with energy. "Let's see how much you've learned about energy. I have a list of energy trivia questions. I will read a question, and if you or a teammate knows the answer, ring the bell. Whichever team rings the bell first will get the first chance to answer the question. If the correct answer is given, that team will get one point. You do not lose points for incorrect answers. You may, however, lose points if your team shouts out the answer without ringing in first. If no one answers the question, no one gets a point. When there are five minutes left, we will play a round of 'double jeopardy' where each question is worth two points. Do you have any questions?" Ask questions from the attached energy trivia sheets. Continue this activity for about 15 minutes, or until time is up.

Energy Lesson Questions

1.What is the source of all energy? The sun

2.Plants use energy from the sun through what process? Photosynthesis

3.List two things we use to heat our homes. Wood, solar, natural gas, etc.

4.What does power generated from dams and falling water produce? Hydroelectricity

5.What should you do with an empty aluminum can? Recycle it

6.Energy in the food chain passes from the sun to producers to _______. Consumers

7. What uses more electricity – a radio, refrigerator or blender? A refrigerator

8. Renewable resources will last forever, but only if we _______. Take care of them

9. Planting ______ around your house will help keep it cooler naturally. Shade trees

10. Who can solve this energy riddle? Why did the gardener plant a light bulb? He wanted to grow a power plant

11. Where did a serious nuclear accident take place in 1986? USSR (Chernobyl)

12.What are coal, oil and natural gas also known as? Fossil fuels

13.What source of nonrenewable energy uses radioactive uranium? Nuclear

14.Fossil fuels were formed a very long time ago from decomposed _______. Plants and animals

15.Which method saves more hot water and energy – baths or showers? Showers

16.True or false. Oil is evenly distributed across the planet. False

17.Where does most of the heat escape from your house? Windows

18.More than half of the energy we use in our homes is for _____. Heat

19.If a machine is energy efficient, does it waste or save energy? Save

20.What is the term for using energy wisely? Conservation

21. You can save water by _____ when you brush your teeth. Turning it off

22.Name one source of renewable energy. Wind, water, solar, wood(biomass), etc.

23.Name one source of nonrenewable energy. Coal, oil, natural gas, uranium

24.What causes more pollution – fire places, cars or radios? Cars

25.Name one way of conserving energy. Riding a bike, walking instead of driving, turning off lights, dressing warmly, etc.

26.Which pot boils faster and uses less energy – a covered or uncovered one? A covered pot

27.What is the definition of a renewable resource? A resource that is potentially unlimited

28.What is the definition of a nonrenewable resource? A resource that is limited in availability.

29.What renewable source of energy uses glass in buildings to trap the sun’s heat? Solar

30.When was the first light bulb invented – about 50 years ago, about 130 years ago, or about 270 years ago? About 130 years ago (1879 – Thomas Edison)

31.Which saves more energy – a dusty light bulb or a clean one? A clean one

32.What is the best kind of bag to use when shopping? A reusable or cloth bag

33.What source of energy is plastic made from? Petroleum

34.By sitting next to a window when reading, you are using ­­­­_____, which is free and doesn’t pollute. Sunlight

35.How many times can an aluminum can be recycled? Over and over

36.Which type of light bulb is more efficient – incandescent or florescent? Florescent

37.From what renewable resource do humans get the energy they use in their bodies every day? Biomass

38.What type of energy resource derives from the magma of the earth’s crust? Geothermal

39.What are the names of the three dams at Curecanti National Recreation Area? Morrow Point, Crystal, and Blue Mesa

40.What resource is used to create over half the electricity in the United States? Coal

41.What is the most commonly used renewable resource worldwide? Hydropower

42.What beverage container is worth the most amount of money when you recycle it – a glass bottle, an aluminum can, or a plastic bottle? An aluminum can

43.Who can solve this energy riddle? How do we know that wind power is so popular? Because it has a lot of fans

44. The gasoline we use in our cars is produced by refining which fossil fuel? Petroleum

45.Most of the hot water wasted in a house is wasted in what room? The bathroom

46.What renewable resource accounts for the smallest percentage of electricity produced in the United States? Solar

47.Which country produces the most nuclear power? Japan, the United States, or Russia? The United States

48.Which state built both the first geothermal power plant and the first large solar power plant? California

49.What two things are in the nucleus of an atom? Protons and Neutrons

50.Name one clean form of energy. Solar, Wind, Hydropower, Geothermal


Not appropriate.


Encourage the students to share their ideas of energy conservation with family and friends, and emphasize the importance of putting these ideas to use.


Our non-renewable energy sources will someday run out. That’s why it’s important to look for renewable energy sources and clean energy sources, and to start relying less on non-renewable and more on renewable energy sooner, rather than later. What are some ways that YOU could conserve energy? (Make a list on the board: (may include) walk or ride a bike, rather than asking parents to drive you somewhere; turn off the lights, computer, etc. when you’re finished using them; encourage teachers and parents to install solar panels; take shorter showers-use less hot water).

Even though you’re not old enough to drive a car yet, there are a lot of ways that you can help conserve energy. If we all work at it, our planet will be better off in the long run. Thanks for your participation today. We’ll turn the class back over to your teacher now, and we hope that each of you will visit Curecanti to see a source of hydro-electric energy someday soon.


Indicate what you judge to have been the strengths of the lesson, what changes you made during the lesson and what changes you would make if you were to teach the unit again.

Did You Know?


During the railroad days, Cimarron, now part of Curecanti, was a bustling livestock shipping hub with a population as large as 250 people.