Unit 8 - Cultural and Natural Resources

Unit 8 activities follow the menu headings for the other units.
Parks as Classrooms logo
Cowpens National Battlefield Curriculum Guide Grades 3 - 8 South Carolina and North Carolina
Militia firing weapons
Unit 1 - The National Park Service The National Park Service manages and preserves over 375 parks. Sixteen are in the Carolinas.
native grasses
Unit 2 - The Pre-Agricultural Landscape
Meet Morgan at the Cow Pens’ must have echoed through the backcountry militia, and they did.
Scruggs House
Unit 3 - Backcountry Lifestyles Life was hard, and children were expected to help with daily chores.
militia at arms
Unit 4 - The War for American Independence
The lengthy war had been costly and the British Parliament looked to taxation to pay the war debts.
militiaman running
Unit 5 - The Southern Campaign
These mountaineers had been fighting Indians and were hunters, sharpshooters and fierce combatants.
McBarron painting of climax of Battle of Cowpens
Unit 6 - The Battle of Cowpens “It is impossible to foresee all the consequences that this...event may produce.” - Lord Cornwallis
Unit 7 - The Battle - The Human Element “...the life of the common soldier — the ones who did the fighting — and those connected to the battle as non-combatants are equally important.”
tree at Cowpens National Battlefield
“Agriculture and its relationship to the economy play an important part in Carolina history.”

photo by Scott Withrow


After the battle and the end of the Revolutionary War, the Cowpens area became more and more settled. Frontier cabins were enlarged and covered with sawmill cut boards. Communities formed based on trade and agriculture. The Scruggs House, a cabin built circa 1829, at first reflected the frontier lifestyle, but it was modernized and became part of the trade-farming community. Methods of gardening, seed-development, farm-tool technology, foodways and clothing styles reflect the progression of an agricultural lifestyle.

Area agriculture first centered on livestock and corn, and later, cotton and peaches. Much of the farmland has been converted to pastureland over the years, and cattle-raising is again important agriculturally. Agriculture and its relationship to the economy play an important part in Carolina history.

Connected to the study of agriculture is the important study of soils and soil erosion. In addition, nature rebuilds, and new, pioneering species seed in after disturbances such as lumbering and the abandoning of old fields. This process is termed succession. Soil erosion and the process of succession are ongoing today. Thus study of these processes places the agricultural landscape in historical context for the student. Abandoned farm fields (piedmont old fields) are part of the process of succession. The study of succession and colonization of old fields by pioneering species links agricultural history and natural resources study.

Today, Cowpens National Battlefield comprises 842 acres. Its acreage is vitally important as a greenspace, one surrounded by a farming community that is rapidly becoming more urbanized.

The land comprising Cowpens National Battlefield can be viewed as an ecosystem, a natural community consisting of both living and non-living components. In an ecosystem, rocks, minerals, soil, humidity, elevation and other abiotic elements all interrelate with and impact community organisms.

Within this ecosystem, there exist various communities of plants and animals interacting with each other: spring/stream communities, grassland communities, forest communities and vernal pool communities. These concepts (ecosystems and community) provide a means to look at ecology in an orderly manner.

An integral part of studies of ecosystems and communities include such concepts as:

The “edge” effect. Some wildlife will value the edge where woods and fields meet because of the availability of food in the open area, and often cover, bedding or nesting material in the wooded area. Producer and Consumer. Green plants produce food from chlorophyll and light energy and are thus termed producers. Organisms that depend on producers are termed consumers. Homeostasis. A natural state of stability or balance in individual organisms, populations, communities, or entire ecosystems. Food chains. Feeding from one organism to another. Population. The number of a given species of plant or animal life at any given time. We study such an ecosystem to find out what is there (estimations of populations of plants or wildlife); what factors provide for stability (homeostasis), i.e., how plants, animals, and abiotic factors interrelate; and how resource managers can address imbalances. Study of the park ecosystem can shed light on the historical processes involved in formation of the ecosystem and communities; the effects of urbanization, acid precipitation and visitor use; and public perception of the natural resource. It is important that the student understands these relationships and effects, the value of the resource, and is motivated to appreciate and help protect the resource.

The activities in this unit address these concepts in an ecosystem/community framework.

GOAL : To demonstrate to students how exotic and invasive species are changing the Cowpens National Battlefield landscape in context of comparative changes,nationwide.

photo by Scott Withrow

The Cowpens Landscape Today: Native, Exotic, and Invasive Species


Our forests, fields, and bodies of water have been invaded! Invaded, that is, with exotic and invasive plant and animal species. The problem is nationwide, with differing species of exotic or invasive plants and animals altering the ecological balance in various regions. The problem is acute on public lands, especially where resource managers are mandated to return the land to its historical appearance or to keep exotic species from supplanting native plant or animal species.

Cowpens National Battlefield is no exception. At the time of the expansion of the park in the 70s, the National Park Service goal was to return the battlefield to its 1781 appearance. The battlefield has been historically described as a grassy savanna dotted with red oaks, hickories and pines. The grasses at the time were native to the region and most likely included what was described as pea-vine, a rich legume, along with other native grasses.

From the ‘30s to the ‘70s, the park consisted of one acre. Its expansion to 842 acres in the late ‘70s brought additional management problems. Exotic plants were introduced purposefully by area farm families in some instances and by wind and wildlife in others.

On a national scale, exotic species of plants and animals were brought to the United States. These plants or animals, often aggressive in reproduction and without natural predators, create huge imbalances in the ecosystem and threaten biodiversity. Such nonnative species often find a niche and supplant native species, especially those that are endangered. Plant invasions tend to homogenize the world’s flora and fauna.

Native species are often an important part of the food chain. Introduced species interrupt the food chain, crowding out traditional species, even making some extinct. Additionally, introduced weedy species pose problems to farmers and threaten food production. Native plant species are important for medical research (drug sources such as taxol), esthetics, wildlife cover and food.

Tall fesque is one plant that especially overruns pasture or prairie-like areas and supplants native plants. It is a major problem in parks, refuges and preserves. Bringing fesque to the United States left behind its native predators, so that it often now spreads unchecked. As it crowds out native plants, it offers little diversity for a variety of animal life in contrast to the diversity of native plants.

Returning the battlefield to its 1781 appearance gives the park visitor a better understanding of the battle landscape and how grass made it a frontier pasturing ground.


Have students research the description, origin and folklore of the following plant species, all found at Cowpens National Battlefield, indicating whether each is native to the Carolina Piedmont or introduced. Or, students may match the descriptions in the right column with the plant list at the left. Download the plant list.

Native vs. Exotic

1. ______Dogwood a. A flower, according to legend, brought to America in hay on the Pilgrim ship, Mayflower.
2. ______Japanese Honeysuckle b. A ground cover found at old home sites. Non-native. Some varieties show promise in cancer treatment.
3. ______Daisy c. A native grass. Early settlers made brooms from this grass.
4. ______Persimmon d. A vine associated with old home-sites. The vines climb trees and houses. Known for its blue-violet purple or white blossoms.
5. ______Tall Fescue e. A non-native tree brought to America by French botanist Andre Micheaux.
6. ______Daffodil f. A non-native grass that covers much of Cowpens National Battlefield (open area) today. Originally from northern Europe, it was imported as winter feed for livestock.
7. ______Broomsedge g. Prolific non-native vine from the Orient. Known for its sweet nectar and yellow to cream colored blossoms.
8. ______Eastern Red Cedar h. A tree known for its resistance to rot and for its pleasant odor. Used often as fence posts.
9. ______Periwinkle i. Large deciduous hardwood tree, with straight-grained wood of a reddish color. Often split as firewood.
10.______Wisteria j. Tree with an orange fruit. Bitter taste until the first frost. Associated with opossums.
11.______Maple k. A yellow flower that blooms in the spring. Found often near old home-sites. Grows from a bulb.
12.______Mimosa l. A native hardwood tree with white modified leaves which are often mistakenly believed to be flowers.
13.______Red Oak m. Any of numerous trees or shrubs of the genus Acer. Known for brilliant fall foliage.


1. Have students walk the battlefield trail and list important native plants, and list introduced or invasive species on another sheet. (Take along guides to grasses, wildflowers and trees.)
2. Have students identify flowers, seeds or methods of plant reproduction observed. Discuss whether reproduction would be relatively easy or difficult.
3. Have students note the extent of coverage of such introduced species as Japanese Honeysuckle.
4. Have students identify any wildlife associations with native or introduced plants. 5. Have students illustrate various plants by either photographing or sketching them.


1. Have students use such sources as The Folklore of Trees and Shrubs or Wildflower Folklore (Laura C. Martin) or Just Weeds: History, Myth and Uses (Pamela Jones) to write a paper on the folklore of a certain species.
2. Have students use such sources as American Wildlife and Plants — A Guide to Wildlife Food Habits (Martin, Zim, and Nelson) to identify wildlife species which feed on certain plants. Identify which part of the plant each feeds on (seeds, fruit, nuts, vegetation.) Draw a map of the United States and shade or color in regions to show the extent of individual plant species.
3. Have students research the introduction and destructiveness of such non-native plant species as fescue, Japanese honeysuckle, purple loosestrife, water hyacinth, Canadian thistle, kudzu; and non-native animal species such as the European wild boar (Sus Scrofa), the gypsy moth, the balsam woolly adelgid (Adelges piceae), and the hemlock woolly adelgid.
4. Discuss student photos and sketches.
5. Have students discuss various National Park Service methods to control alien and invasive species (educating visitors, digging or cutting, herbicide use as a last resort.)


The student will be able to identify the terms native, exotic (introduced) and invasive as related to plant or animal species.
The student will explain the importance of native plants, and the negative consequences of exotic and invasive species. More specifically, the student will identify native, exotic and invasive species at Cowpens National Battlefield.
The student will recognize the compelling reasons inherent in the National Park Service mandate to return the battlefield to its 1781 appearance.
The student will identify characteristics and problems associated with exotic and invasive species at Cowpens National Battlefield and explain the problems and processes of related management.

STRANDS: Science, Language Arts, Visual Arts
North Carolina:

Science: Grade 3, Goals 1.01- 1.03; Grade 4, Goal 1.03; Grade 5, Goals 1.01- 1.06; Grade 6, Goals 1.03, 2.02-2.04; Grade 8, Goals 2.02-2.04
Language Arts: Grade 3, Goals 5.01-5.08; Grade 4, Goals 5.01-5.09; Grade 5, Goals 5.01-5.08; Grade 6, Goals 6.01-6.02; Grade 7, Goals 6.01- 6.02; Grade 8, Goals 6.01-6.02 Visual Arts: Grades 3-5, Goals 1.1-1.4, 2.1-2.4, 3.1-3.5, 4.1-4.4, 6.3, 6.4; Grades 6-8, Goals 1.1- 1.4, 2.1-2.4, 3.1-3.5, 4.1-4.4, 6.3-6.4

South Carolina:

Science - Grade 3-I-A; II-A, C; Grade 4 - I-A, II-A, B; Grade 5 - I-A; II-A, B; Grade 6 - I-A; II-A, B, C; Grade 7 - I-A; II-A, D; Grade 8 -I- A; II-A
Social Studies - 3.12.3, 3.12.3, 4.7.1, 4.8.2, 8.8.2, 8.8.4
Language Arts - Grade 3 - I-C, G, IV-B, D, H; V-A, C; Grade 4-1-A, G; IV-C, D; V-A, B; Grade 5 - I-A, F; IV-A, B, C, G: V-A; Grade 6 - I-A,B; IV-A, B, D, I: V-A; Grade 7-I-B, D, F; IV-A, B, C; V-A, B, C; Grade 8-I-A, C, E; IV-A, B, C, E, F; V-A, B, C
Visual Arts - Component 2, Component 3

1932 US Monument
GOAL:  To have students recognize how people and events are represented by monuments.        

Monuments at the Battlefield


Information on famous monuments, including Egyptology. Examples: Pyramids, obelisks, the Washington Monument, the Arc de Triomphe, the St. Louis Arch and the Vietnam Memorials in Washington, D.C.
Pencil, markers and paper


1. Research old and new monuments in various parts of the United States. Research how new monuments come about (the creation of the Vietnam Memorials in Washington, D.C., is well-documented.)
2. Explore and discuss what design elements are used to make a monument effective. Consider size and scale, location, shape, symbolism, materials, style.


Create a new, original monument for the Battle of Cowpens. Pretend that no monument has ever existed commemorating the Battle. The design for the new monument should symbolize the importance of the Battle in American history. Using pencil, markers and paper, make a drawing showing the new monument as clearly as possible.

The drawing should show the scale of the new monument by including representations of people and other recognizable objects in the drawing. A separate paper including a map indicating the monument location could be used.

Try to make the drawing as detailed as possible and include an inscription on the monument. (The words of the inscription will probably not be able to be shown clearly on the scale drawing of the monument. A separate sheet of paper may be used to write the actual inscription.)

Specify the materials to be used in the new monument.


Display designs in classroom and have students compare and discuss each. Have students select one “winning” design from all the ones created. Invite another class to examine the designs and select one as the best. Have each student research and make an estimate for an actual cost of building his or her design.


Students will describe, contrast and compare the two monuments on the grounds of Cowpens National Battlefield, the Daniel Morgan statue in Spartanburg and monuments in general.
Students will develop creative thinking skills by creating visual representations of events and people.

STRANDS: Social Studies, Visual Arts, Language Arts

North Carolina:

Social Studies: Grade 3, Goal 7.3; Grade 4, Goal 2.1, 12.1
Visual Arts: Grades 3-5, Goals 1.1-1.4, 2.1-2.4, 3.1-3.5, 4.3, 5.2, 5.6, 6.1-6.6, 7.3; Grades 6-8, Goals 1.1-1.4, 2.1-2.4, 3.1-3.5, 4.3, 5.2, 5.6, 6.1- 6.6, 7.3

South Carolina:

Social Studies - 6.1.1, 6.1.2
Language Arts - Grade 3 - V-A, B; Grade 4-V, A, B; Grade 5 - V-A; Grade 6, V-A; Grade 7 - V-A, B, C; Grade 8 - V-A, B, C.
Math - Grade 3 - IV-G; Grade 4 - IV-F, G; Grade 5 - IV-G; V-C, D, E, F, G; Grade 6 - IV -G; V-B, C, D; Grade 7 - IV-G; Grade 8 - IV-G Visual Arts - Components 1-4

brochure map
GOAL: To be able to recognize the usefulness of mathematics in everyday life.       

Scaling Around Cowpens National Battlefield

Print the following worksheet for students to fill out.


1. What distance does one inch equal on this map of the Cowpens National Battlefield? _______________

2. How far is it from the Robert Scruggs House to the picnic area? _______________

3. If you ride your bike from Morgan’s Camp directly to the forest, about how far will you ride? _______________

4. How long is the hike from the Visitor Center to the Robert Scruggs House? _______________

5. If you ride your bike from the entrance of the park to the picnic area, about how many yards will you ride? _______________

6. If you hike from Morgan’s Camp to the Washington Light Infantry Monument, about how many yards will you hike? _______________

7. If you begin at the park entrance, is it shorter to hike to the picnic area or the forest? _______________

8. About how far is it from the entrance of the park to the Highway 11 symbol on the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway? _______________

9. About what is the distance from the U.S. Memorial Monument to the forest? _______________

10. One of your friends is lost in the Cowpens National Battlefield. Try to find him. 1. He began in the forest and hiked about 2000 yards northwest. 2. He then hiked 2250 yards south. 3. Finally, he hiked 3250 yards northwest. Where is your friend? _______________


The student will be able to read symbols on maps, to follow directions, to measure, and to use computation skills to answer questions. STRANDS: Social Studies, Math


STRANDS: Social Studies, Math

North Carolina:

Math: Grade 3, Goals 1.01- 1.15; Grade 4, Goals 1.01-1.17; Grade 5, Goals 1.01-1.17; Grade 6, Goals 1.01-1.14
Social Studies: Grade 3, Goal 9.2

South Carolina:

Social Studies - 3.9.2; 4.6.2, 5.9.2; 8.8.1
Math - Grade 3 - II-D; V-C, G; Grade 4 - II-D; V-D, G; Grade 5 - V-B, G


Did You Know That...?

Download and print the Brief History of Cowpens National Battlefield for the students.


Cowpens National Battlefield is dedicated to protecting and preserving the cultural and natural features within park boundaries, to commemorating and interpreting the Battle of Cowpens and the natural setting of the battle, and to educate and inform the public about the battle, the Southern Campaign, and the impact that fighting in the South had on the end of the war.

Cowpens National Battlefield commemorates the January 17, 1781, battle between American patriot forces under command of Brigadier General Daniel Morgan and British forces under Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton. The battle at the “Cow Pens” is recognized by historians as one of the most important of the American Revolution.

Coming on the heels of a patriot vistory at nearby Kings Mountain on October 7, 1780, it was the second successive staggering defeat for British forces under General Charles Cornwallis. Only nine months after the Battle of Cowpens, Cornwallis was forced to surrender his weak and weary army to General George Washington at Yorktown, Virginia, in October 1781.

Although Cornwallis’ surrender effectively ended the Revolution, sporadic fighting continued until late 1783, when the last British forces were withdrawn from the colonies.

The first physical recognition given the Battle of Cowpens took place in 1856 with construction of a monument by the Washington Light Infantry of Charleston, South Carolina.

On March 4, 1929, The United States Congress recognized the importance of the battle by creating Cowpens National Battlefield Site. It consisted of approximately one acre of land at the former intersection of South Carolina Highways 11 and 110. The area was placed under the management of the War Department. A second monument, the one now standing outside the park Visitor Center, was constructed with appropriated funds and unveiled in April of 1932. The monument was moved to its present location when the highways were relocated during the expansion of the park in the 1970s.

Management of Cowpens National Battlefield was transferred to the National Park Service on August 10, 1933, from the War Department. Today, 842.56 acres are incorprated into an area that serves to protect the historic battlefield scene. The cost of restoration and development, completed in June 1981, was $4.8 million.

The park plays host to approximately 212,900 visitors annually.


Students will read and discuss a Brief History of Cowpens National Battlefield

Did You Know That…?

1. On January 17, 2006, the Battle of Cowpens celebrated its ___________ anniversary.

2. The Washington Light Infantry of Charleston, South Carolina Monument was constructed in 1856. In the year 2016, how many years ago would the construction have been completed? ________________________

3. On March 9, 1989, the Cowpens National Battlefield Site celebrated what anniversary? ____________________

4. Today, there are more than 842.56 acres incorporated into the Cowpens National Battlefield. How many more acres are needed to have exactly 1000 acres? ____________________ acres

5. The cost of restoration and development of Cowpens National Battlefield was $4,800,000. Round this number to the nearest million dollars. __________________________________

6. Cowpens Battlefield has approximately 200,000 visitors each year. What is the average number of visitors to the park each month? _________________ visitors per month (Round to the nearest whole number.)

7. Cowpens National Battlefield is located 11 miles from Gaffney, South Carolina, and three miles from Chesnee, South Carolina. What is the difference in mileage for the two cities? _______________________ miles

8. The main road through Cowpens National Battlefield has several stopping points along the way. From the entrance of the park to the Visitor Center is 0.4 mile. From the Visitor Center to the From Cow Pasture to Battlefield point is 0.6 mile. From there to the picnic area is 0.7 mile. From the picnic area to the Robert Scruggs House is 0.3 mile. From here to the site of Morgan’s Camp is 0.4 mile. From Morgan’s Camp to the exit of the park is 0.3 mile. About how many miles long is this road? ______________________________ mile(s)

9. Cowpens National Battlefield covers over 842 acres. The cost of renovation and construction of the park was nearly $ 5,000,000. About how much money was needed to develop each acre? $_____________ (Round to the nearest hundred.)

10. Cowpens National Battlefield has about 200,000 visitors to the park each year. If each person that visited the park purchased a soft drink at the price of $.65 each, how much money would the park receive for soft drinks? $ __________________________________


The student will take given facts about Cowpens National Battlefield and answer math questions concerning these facts.
The student will use thinking skills, as well as math computation skills, to solve math questions requiring applied math skills.

STRANDS: Math, Social Studies

North Carolina:

Math: Grade 3, Goals 1.01- 1.15; Grade 4, Goals 1.15-1.18
Social Studies: Grade 4, Goal 8.4; Grade 8, Goals 4.5, 11.3

South Carolina:

Math - Grade 4 -II-B, D; Grade 5 - II-B, D; Grade 6 - B, D
Social Studies - 3.5, 3.2.7, 4.1.7, 4.2, 5.5.3, 5.5.6, 8.2.6


Finding Area and Perimeter in the Park


After touring the sites at the Cowpens National Battlefield, students will be given the following worksheet. It contains dimensions of different items within the park. All the items are either rectangles or squares. Give students the formulas for finding area and perimeter of rectangles and squares.

To find the area of a square or a rectangle, multiply the length times the width. (A = L x W)

To find the perimeter of a square or a rectangle, calculate the sum of all the sides. (P = S+S+S+S)


Make sure students understand that in calculating area, the results are in squared units.

Before computing, have the students make sure that the units are the same, i.e., inches times inches, feet times feet, etc.

Download and print the worksheet.


Area equals the length times the width (A= L x W)

Perimeter is calculated by adding all sides. (P=S+S+S+S)

1. The base of the Cowpens National Monument at the Visitor Center is 136 inches long and 136 inches wide. Its base is a square. Calculate the area and the perimeter of this monument. Area = _______________square inches Perimeter = _____________________ inches

2. The information bulletin board at the entrance of the Visitor Center is four feet wide and about two feet high. What is the area and perimeter of the bulletin board? Area =__________________square feet Perimeter =_______________________feet

3. On the loop road, the first information marker is concerning how cow pens got its name. This marker is 3-1/2 feet long and 2-1/2 feet tall. Find the area and the perimeter of this marker. Area = _________________square feet Perimeter = _______________________ feet

4. There is a sign on the battlefield trail that states “No Bicycles”. This sign is a rectangle that is 8 inches tall and 10 inches wide. What is its area and perimeter? Area =__________________square inches Perimeter =_______________________inches

5. The fence surrounding the Washington Light Infantry Monument is about 12 feet long and about 15 feet wide. What is the area and perimeter of this fence? Area =__________________square feet Perimeter = _______________________feet

6. The entrance to the picnic area has two large signs. One of these rectangular signs is 54 inches wide and 18 inches tall. The other rectangular sign is 54 inches wide and 30 inches tall. What is the combined total area and perimeter of both of these signs? (Find the area of both signs and add them together. Then, find the perimeter of both signs and add them together.) Area = _________________square inches Perimeter =______________________inches


The student will be able to determine the area and perimeter of a given rectangle or square with given dimensions.
The student will be able to solve word problems involving area and perimeter.
The student will distinguish between the concepts of perimeter and area (that perimeter is the distance around and area is the measure of a covering).
Be sure students can convert feet to inches and inches to feet. Students should know that there are 12 inches in one foot.
Students should be advised that all sides of a square are of equal size.


North Carolina:

Math: Grade 3, Goal 2.08; Grade 4, Goal 2.10; Grade 5, Goal 2.02

South Carolina:

Math - Grade 4 - II-F; V-E, F; Grade 5 - II-D; V-C, D, E, F; Grade 6 - V-A, D, G; Grade 7 - V-H

energy graphic
GOAL: To help students understand the scieince of solar energy and its economical and mathematical application to everday life.

Energy from the Sun

(This material provided by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.)


This activity works well for small groups of students. For each student group performing the experiment, you’ll need:

two styrofoam cups
two thermometers
food coloring
aluminum foil
measuring cup
metric ruler
watch with second hand
insulation materials (packing foam, shredded newspaper, etc.)
cardboard box (should be the same height as the cups, trim the box if needed)
cold water
access to direct sunlight


Excerpts from the Energy Fact Book, A Resource for South Carolina.

The sun is our most powerful energy resource. It heats our planet and nourishes the plants we eat. Without the sun, we could not exist.

The energy from the sun, or solar energy, is there for the taking. It is free and never runs out. If we could harness the sun’s energy that falls on one square meter of the Earth’s surface for one hour, we could light a city for one year. Also, the energy from the sun poses no environmental hazards.

The Challenge of Tapping the Sun’s Energy

With these many advantages, why aren’t we using solar energy to meet all our energy needs? The answer is that tapping the sun’s energy is not a straightforward process.

To effectively use the sun, it must be constantly available. Yet, even under ideal weather conditions, the sun does not shine 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. To be useful, sunlight must be collected, moved to where it is needed and stored. This is no easy challenge.

People have been using the sun’s energy for thousands of years for space and water heating purposes. With the beginning of the space age, scientists were able to develop a system that converts sunlight into electricity. This is called a photovoltaic system.

In all solar power systems, the system must face the sun to work. We know that the sun moves across the sky during the day from east to west. To get the maximum amount of energy from the system, the solar power system should face due south, or only slightly east or west of south.

Active Solar Systems

Active solar systems use mechanical equipment such as pumps and fans to move energy around. There are two types of active systems, one for space heating and the other for water heating.

A house using active space heating will have to face south, with most of its windows on the south wall. This allows winter sunlight to enter the house, thereby heating the air inside.

When sunlight passes through glass into an enclosed space, the wavelength of the light changes. This new wavelength cannot pass back through the glass, thereby entrapping it in the house. This is known as the greenhouse effect. Equipment is used to collect heat and circulate it. For solar water heating, a collector is mounted on the roof (facing south). A pump circulates water through copper pipes to heat it.

Passive Solar Systems

Passive solar systems do not use any mechanical equipment to move the energy. Tile, concrete, brick and water are used to absorb and store heat that is then released at night.

To be most effective, windows in a passive solar system must face south. In addition, insulation should be placed around the glass to reduce heat loss. Windows, doors, and walls need to be free of leaks so that trapped heat stays trapped.

Outside landscaping is another important part of passive solar systems. For example, evergreen trees that won’t lose their leaves in winter can be planted on the north side of a home to provide winter protection. Trees that lose their leaves in winter can likewise be planted on the south side of a home to give it access to winter sunlight and to protect it from hot, summer sunshine.

Photovoltaic Solar Systems

Photovoltaic systems convert radiant energy from the sun into electricity. While photovoltaic technology has been around for 150 years, its actual development did not occur until 1954. It was first used in 1958 to provide electric power for US spacecraft and satellites.

The cost of producing electricity through photovoltaic technology has dropped significantly, from more than $50 per kilowatt to less than 30 cents per kilowatt. Today, photovoltaic systems are used to light road signs and bus shelters. Researchers developing electric cars are also using the technology.

Learning Procedure

1. Review with the class the background information on solar energy. Ask: How can we measure solar energy? (Solar energy is measured as heat, or calories.)
2.Have students work in small groups to perform this experiment to measure solar energy. Have each group record its results.

3. To set up the experiment, have students:
A. Fill two foam cups with a measured amount of very cold water. (Set a standard amount for students to use based on the size of the cups.)
B. To one of the cups of water, add several drops of food coloring to turn the water dark. (Make the water as close to black as possible. Black absorbs sunlight.)
C. To the other cup of clear water, cover the top with a piece of aluminum foil. (This foil will reflect the sun.) |
D. Place the cups in the cardboard box. (Be sure to trim the box if necessary so that the height is the same as the cups.)
E. Add insulation material around the cups. (See illustration.)
F. Place the box in the sun for 10 minutes. Noon to 1 p.m. is usually the hottest time of the day.
G. After 10 minutes, stir the water in the cups with the thermometers and record the temperatures. (Note: these measurements should be taken at the same time.)
H. Use these results to do the following calculation to find out how many calories, or the amount of solar heat, received on one square centimeter in one minute at your location. Scientists have measured the amount of solar energy beyond our atmosphere at about 2.0 catches per square centimeter per minute. About 1.5 calories per square centimeter per minute reaches earth after passing through atmosphere. This is the Solar Constant.

4. After the experiment, have students consider how this solar energy might be applied to their everyday lives. What inventions or modifications to existing systems do they see as practical for using solar energy. For example, could passive solar energy be used effectively by schools, since most school buildings are not used at night? What about electric school buses? Have students explain their idea and how it would save nonrenewable energy resources.


Measure the amount of solar heat that comes from the sun. Describe ways this energy might be used to help reduce our dependence on traditional fossil fuels and nuclear power.

STRANDS: Math, Science Math, Science

North Carolina:

Math: Grade 6, Goals 2.06, 2.08, 2.09; Grade 7, Goals 2.07, 3.03; Grade 8, Goals 3.01, 3.02 Science: Grade 6, Goals 4.01, 4.02, 4.04-4.06

South Carolina:

Math - Grade 6 - V-F; Grade 7 - II-G; V-H; Grade 8 - II-G; V-A
Science - Grade 6 - I-A, B, C; IV-C; Grade 7 - I-A, B, C; Grade 8 - I-A, B, C


The Air in Here

(This material provided by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.)

GOAL : To give students an opportunity to explore the reality, causes and possible solutions to indoor air pollution.


When you mention air pollution, students and adults usually think about emissions of automobiles, pollutants sent into the air by industry, acid rain, tobacco smoke and burning wastes. These topics are often the focus of news reports and so they are the only kinds of air pollution we are accustomed to hearing about. However, there is also a problem on the inside. The toxicity of air indoors is often much greater than that found outdoors.

Sources of indoor air pollution are varied - from poor ventilation to harmful vapors released by furniture and carpets; from asbestos insulation to radon gas seeping from the ground under the house; from tobacco smoke to cleaning products.

We have become more energy-efficient in recent years. This is good for the environment. However, one of the effects of this is that our homes are not ventilated as well as they were in the past. Keeping windows closed contributes furthers to the problem of bad air trapped indoors. This problem is not confined just to your home either. Many hotels, shopping malls and other public buildings now have windows that do not open.

There are other factors that make us victims of bad indoor air. Pesticides, certain appliances, building materials (carpets, insulation, paint, etc.), detergents, certain perfumes, hairsprays and cleaners are examples of products that bring harmful pollutants to the inside where they are trapped and become part of the air we breathe. Most public buildings now have bans on smoking because cigarette smoke is suspected of causing problems for those who do not smoke.

When we think of air pollution, we usually think of all the causes and forces that combine to give us a quality of air lower than we really should be breathing. Most of the publicized reports deal with the problems of the air outside. In reality, the toxicity of indoor air can be as much as 10 times the level of outside air. This is the air inside our homes, the air we breathe when we eat, sleep and spend time relaxing with our families and friends.

There are a number of factors involved in the origination of bad air, many of which can be eliminated or reduced through simple and inexpensive common-sense steps. Others are more difficult and expensive to correct. However, if someone suffers from unusual symptoms, it might be worth the trouble to test and find out what kind of bad air may be in the home. Every home is different, and some may contain a variety of potentially harmful gases or pollutants... some not.

In many areas of the country, but not in South Carolina, people are greatly concerned about radon. Radon is a colorless, odorless, inert gas that is released when uranium-laced soil decays into radioactive particles. Radon levels vary from day to day depending on the moisture contents of the soil and changes in ventilation. Homes that are susceptible to radon exposure have basements, not a common home feature in South Carolina, or are built on a slab of concrete poured directly into the ground. Homes with a crawl space, like most houses in South Carolina, have adequate ventilation to remove any build up of radon.

Asbestos is another common source of indoor air pollution. For many years, asbestos, a fibrous mineral that will not burn readily, was used in homes, schools and offices as fireproofing and electrical insulation. We have since learned that minute particles of asbestos can flake off, becoming airborne where they can be breathed by the occupants of the building. Asbestos has been found to cause cancer and is therefore no longer used in new construction. However, many older buildings still have asbestos in them. Building codes require that if any renovations take place in an older building and asbestos is found, it must be removed from the building before renovations are completed.

Questions for the Class

1. Some people are more at risk from indoor air pollution than others. What additional risks are posed to the elderly and to young children when they are exposed to a continued assault of bad air?
2. What effects will a depleted ozone layer pose to indoor air pollution?
3. Discuss the health problem known as Chemical Hypersensitivity Syndrome (CHS) where, in extreme cases, sufferers often have to live in a “bubble” or an environment where the atmosphere is constantly and thoroughly cleaned of all chemicals and pollutants. What are the health risks to those with CHS?

Learning Procedure

1. Share the background material with your students.
2. Divide them into groups and have one group survey their homes and the other survey the school. Make sure they record evidence of good ventilation as well as bad; and point to specific products and materials that are harmful to the indoor environments that are part of our lives on an almost daily basis. Have them report their findings to the other group.
3. After hearing the group reports, discuss as a class or write a report on where they contribute to indoor air pollution and where they can make a difference in the indoor air where they live and learn. “What can you do to help make your own indoor environment safe and less polluted?”
4. Point out examples of specific household products that may contribute to bad air in the home. This is more of an assessment than anything else and discussion can lead to questioning whether substitute products might be used, or the use of certain products eliminated altogether.
5. As a class, brainstorm ideas that can be used around your school, or at home, to improve indoor air. Elect two representatives from the class to present your survey findings and your list of suggested solutions to your school improvement committee or your principal. Take these ideas and use them at home. Ideas may include:
spend more time outdoors
make use of air cleaners and air purifiers
avoid the use of halon fire extinguishers
take steps to provide better ventilation in your home and classroom
avoid use of highly toxic cleaning agents, drain cleaners, furniture polish, pesticides, fabric softeners, disinfectants, perfumes and hair sprays

Extension Activity

Research Chemical Hypersensitivity Syndrome (CHS). When did this first show up in the medical field? Which chemicals are most harmful to people who suffer from CHS? Where are these chemicals found? How do sufferers cope with their allergies? What can be done to help them? Why are they sensitive to chemicals? Is there anyone in your community who suffers from CHS?


The student will explain important problems and materials causing indoor air pollution.
The student will define and explain Chemical Hypersensitivity Syndrome. The student will survey home/school for positive and negative features and materials related to indoor air. The student will write a report on how he/she can address the problem of indoor air pollution.
The class will brainstorm ideas to improve air in schools and homes.

STRANDS: Science, Language Arts, Health and Safety Education

North Carolina:

Science: Grade 7, Goals 1.02, 1.04
Language Arts: Grade 7, Goals 1.03, 2.01-2.02, 3.02; 6.01-6.02; Grade 8, Goals 1.03, 2.01, 2.02, 3.01-3.03, 6.01-6.02

South Carolina:

Health and Safety Education -Content Area 1, Standards 2-3, Grade 8
Science - Grade 7 - III-A
Language Arts: Grade 7 - II-C; III-A; IV-A, B, J; V-A, B; Grade 8 - IV-A, E, F, I, J; IV-A, B Top


How Conservative Are You?

(This material provided by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.)


From out in space, our blue planet Earth looks like it is made up of nothing but water. It would seem that there is enough water to last forever. Here on the surface of Earth, we know that is not true. The oceans are full of water too salty for most animals and plants to use. Only a small portion of Earth’s water is fresh water. Much of that is found deep in the ground or frozen on the surface as snow and ice. We must be very careful with the fresh water sources that we have to make sure we don’t pollute them or waste them and use up all of our clean water.

One way to take care of our precious fresh water is to practice water conservation in our homes and schools. Conservation means to save and protect. Everyone knows not to pour oil onto the ground so that it ruins our water deep in the ground. Everyone knows not to dump wastes into streams or rivers. We are doing a pretty good job with protecting our fresh water sources. But are we doing as good a job to save Earth’s fresh water? Do you let the water run when you shower or brush your teeth? Do you let the water run until it gets cold for a glass of water or until it gets hot to wash your face? All of these are wasteful activities.

Learning Procedure

1. Most people think that only a little water is wasted each day. When your class first starts in the morning, go to a water faucet that your class can monitor all day. Turn on the faucet so that it barely drips. Place a clean plastic milk jug under the faucet. From time to time during the day, check to see how full the jug is getting. (If you need to, remove the first jug and start on another.)
2. At the end of the day, turn the faucet off tightly and bring the jug or jugs of water to the class. Cap tightly.
3. The next day, pour the water from the jugs into the measuring devices and carefully measure the water that came from the dripping faucet. Then discuss how many faucets are in your hallway. How many faucets are in all the bathrooms at your school? If all of these faucets dripped the same amount of water as your test faucet, how much good, clean water would be wasted by your whole school in one day? What if the faucet leaked for a whole year? Calculate the estimated amounts. Color in the milks jugs on the worksheet below.
4. Most people prefer warm water when they wash their faces before bed and in the morning. When you turn on the tap, the first water out is usually cool. It takes a few minutes for the water to be warm enough to wash your face. The water that pours out of the faucet while you are waiting for warm water is all wasted. Again, take the class to a nearby faucet. Have a milk jug ready to measure the wasted water and have a timer ready to see how long the water takes to get warm. Turn on the hot water faucet. Start timing. Place the milk jug under the faucet and collect all the water until you reach the point where the water is hot enough to wash your face. How long did it take for the water to get warm? How much water went down the drain in this time? If you did this twice a day, how much water would be wasted? If everyone in your family waited for warm water to wash their faces twice a day, how much water would your family waste in a day?

drawing of gallon milk jugs
GOAL: To help students comprehend the importance of conserving and protecting
the earth’s fresh water.
5. Graph to show how much water a family of four would waste in one day if they let the water warm up to wash their faces two times a day.

Extension Activity

Divide the class into small groups. Have each group come up with two ways to save water both inside and outside their homes. Start the groups by having them think of everything their family does that uses water. What are some uses for water that pours down the drain while you are waiting for the temperature to warm up?


Students will measure the amount of water lost from a leaking faucet in one school day. Students will make a picture to represent this amount.
Students will measure the amount of water lost while waiting for hot water at the tap. Students will design a way to represent this amount.
Students will list ways to conserve water at home.

STRANDS: Math, Science

North Carolina:
Math: Grade 5, Goals 1.02, 4.01; Grade 6, Goal 4.01
Science: Grade 5, Goal 4.01; Grade 8, Goal 1.04

South Carolina:

Math - Grade 5 - II-D; III-B; V-A, B, C, G; VI-D; Grade 6 - II-D; III-B; V-B, F; VI-D; Grade 7 - II-H; V-D, I; VI-D; Grade 8 - II-H; V-A Science - Grade 5 - I-A, B; Grade 6 - I-A; III-A; Grade 7 - I-A; III-A


Solving the Can-Can Mystery

(This material provided by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.)


For each group of four to five students:

small magnets
samples of aluminum, tinned and bimetal cans (include both aluminum soda cans and bimetal food cans)
pan balance
Solving the Can-Can Mystery worksheet (one per student.)
Note: This exercise also can be performed as a demonstration activity if materials are limited.


There are three general categories of metal cans: aluminum, tinned and bimetal. Bimetal does not refer to a can that has two metals combined to form an alloy, but to a can with steel lids enclosing an aluminum body. Tinned cans are actually 99% steel with a thin coating of tin. (At first glance, bimetal and aluminum cans are very similar in appearance, but it is important to distinguish between them because bimetal cans are not easily recycled with aluminum.) It also is important to identify different types of metal cans because they need to be separated before recycling.

Perhaps the easiest way to identify the different types of can is with a magnet. Magnets will not attract aluminum, but will attract other kinds of metals containing iron, such as steel. Other differences include appearance, weight, color and response to chemicals.

Energy saved by making aluminum cans from recycled aluminum is 90-95%; energy saved by recycling steel is 60-70%. Not only are natural resources conserved by recycling, but recycling also takes these materials out of the waste stream, reducing the amount of trash put into our landfills.

Learning Procedure

1. Begin a discussion of waste management by discussing how recycling:
reduces the waste stream;
conserves energy;
reuses natural resources because new cans are made from the used ones;
reduces pollution from mining and production operations.
2. Define recyclable cans as those easily made into new cans. Metal cans are recyclable, but some types of metal cans are much easier to recycle than others. Hold up samples of the three basic types of cans: aluminum (soda cans), tinned/steel (soup cans) and bimetal (some tuna fish cans, small juice cans and tennis ball cans.) Pay extra attention to the bimetal and aluminum cans which look alike, but are made differently.
3. Explain that a bimetal can has an aluminum body and steel lids. Packaging with mixed material is more complicated for recyclers to handle. Explain and demonstrate to students the following ways to tell the differences between metals:
Magnetism: Hold up a magent. Ask for a show of hands of students who have experimented with magnets. Did they notice the things that magnets will attract? Explain that magnets are pieces of iron or steel or other materials that can attract some kinds of metals. (This property may be naturally present or artificially induced.) Experiment with objects to show how some are attracted to the magnet and others are not. Demonstrate that magnets attract tinned/steel and bimetal cans (the lids), but no all-aluminum cans. Explain that recycling centers use large magnets to separate the all-aluminum cans from other metal cans.
Appearance: Hold up can samples. Explain that aluminum cans look almost identical to bimetal cans, but can be identified by color, weight, recycling symbols, rims around lids, etc. Point out the differences in the tinned/steel cans (ribbing, weight, rims, etc.) Refer to the Teacher Information.
Weight: Using a pan balance, weigh the two soda cans, one aluminum and one bimetal, but do not tell students which can weighs more. Ask them which can they think is heavier.

4. Divide the class into groups of four or fivestudents and distribute the worksheets. Set up stations in the room so that groups can practice separating cans by: (a) using magnets; (b) observing differences in appearance and (c) weighing.
5. Have students list four ways recycling metal cans is good for the environment.

Extension Activities

1. Have students illustrate or write a procedure for sorting cans for recycling.
2. Visit the local recycling center to observe how cans are sorted commercially before recycling.

Teacher Information

Aluminum Bimetal Tinned/Steel
Not attracted by a magnet Body is attracted by a magnet, but lids of can aren’t Attracted by a magnet
Bottom does not have a rim and has a finely brushed, polished appearance Bottom has a rim and is not finely brushed Bottom has a rim
Body is shiny, silver and smooth with no seams May or may not have seam Body has rings or ribbing, always has a seam
Label is usually spray-painted onto can and most say “All Aluminum Can” on the side Usually spray-painted Normally has a paper label
Lightest weight Heavier weight Heaviest weight


Solving the Can-Can Mystery

Use “Yes” or “No” to complete the table.


Last updated: April 14, 2015

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