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Citizenship, Design Thinking, Energy


3rd, 4th, 5th


Science, Social Studies, Physics, Civics, Computer Science & Design Thinking


135 minutes

Regional Focus

North America, United States, USA - Northeast, New Jersey


Google Docs, Google Slides

Will Renewable Energy Guide Your Future?

Created By Teacher:
Last Updated:
Oct 3, 2022



This lesson introduces students to climate change and the idea that renewable energy sources are a better choice for the planet. 

Step 1 - Inquire: Students generate ideas in response to the question "What is climate change?" Students watch an introduction episode or a portion of the episode What Is Climate Change? | Our Climate Our Future, Chapter 1.


Step 2 - Investigate: Students learn about renewable energy sources through the book Energy Island and compare this community to their own.


Step 3 - Inspire: Students are challenged to follow the engineering design process and plan, design, and build their own zero emissions ferry to the island of Samsø.

Accompanying Teaching Materials
Teaching Tips


  • This lesson allows for a collaborative learning environment for students as it builds on understanding of climate change.

  • This lesson features a problem-based approach to learning where students are immersed in solving a real-world problem.

  • Students connect a real idealistic community to their own to see what is possible.

  • This lesson follows the engineering design process.

Additional Prerequisites

  • Students should have a basic understanding of climate change.

  • Students should have an understanding of the engineering design process.


  • Students can think-pair-share during the read aloud where students can make predictions or answer questions.

  • You can pause the read aloud for students to make observations and predictions about the story.

  • Groups of students with mixed abilities can collaborate on their ferry design challenge project.

Scientist Notes

This lesson introduces students to climate change and provides an excellent resource that illustrates how climate change impacts life in New Jersey. The energy independent island Samsø, Denmark is presented through a reading of Energy Island by Alan Drummond, and a Venn diagram is provided so students can compare Samsø to their hometown. Students are tasked with designing a zero emission ferry for Samsø and are challenged to see how climate change affects them and how an 8-12 year old can make a difference. This lesson is recommended for teaching.

  • Computer Science & Design Thinking
    • Design Thinking
      • 8.2.5.ED.2: Collaborate with peers to collect information, brainstorm to solve a problem, and evaluate all possible solutions to provide the best results with supporting sketches or models.
      • 8.2.5.ED.4: Explain factors that influence the development and function of products and systems (e.g., resources, criteria, desired features, constraints).
      • 8.2.5.ETW.5: Identify the impact of a specific technology on the environment and determine what can be done to increase positive effects and to reduce any negative effects, such as climate change.
45 minutes
  • Students review climate change by exploring New Jersey's Changing Climate.

  • Teacher shares the read aloud video Energy Island by Allan Drummond.

  • Students work in teams to discuss how they can make a difference as 8-12 year old students.

  • Students complete a Venn Diagram comparing their home town or city to that of Samsø or Energy Island.

    • Teacher uses Google Earth to project the island of Samsø for students to visualize.

    • Teacher shares more about Samsø on this United Nations website.

    • Students think, notice, and wonder about the small island and their home community.

45 minutes
  • Teacher presents the problem of transportation to and from the island of Samsø.

    • Students brainstorm how it is possible to get to Samsø.

    • Students refine their brainstorm to how it is environmentally friendly or energy efficient to get to Samsø.

  • Teacher presents the challenge and reviews the Engineering Design Process.

    • Students work in teams to design a ferry or shuttle for commuting to the island with zero emissions.

    • Students work in teams to plan, sketch, and build a model using recycled materials.

  • Upon completion, students present their model to the class explaining their choices and build.

  • Students critique their peers and provide support for model improvement.


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