National Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix
Fueling Up for a Career in Biofuel
6 - 8
Two 45-minute sessions
Students will recognize the importance of fuel energy and the fact that agriculture can produce biofuel; students will identify career opportunities in the biofuel industry.
- Biofuel PowerPoint
- Fueling Up for a Career activity sheet
- Biofuel Career Web Labels
- Lab materials described in the “Make Biodiesel” lab (optional)
Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)
biodiesel: a form of diesel made from vegetable oils or animal fats
biofuel: any fuel made from biological plant matter rather than fossil fuels
ethanol: a fuel produced by fermentation of products high in starch, such as corn
fossil fuel: a natural fuel such as coal or petroleum formed in the geological past from the remains of living organisms
non-renewable resource: a resource that cannot be readily replaced by natural means on a level equal to its consumption
renewable resource: a resource that can be replaced naturally or by human efforts
Did you know? (Ag Facts)
- The Model T Ford was the first vehicle designed to run on biofuel (ethanol).1
- Most diesel and gasoline in Europe and North America is mixed with a percentage of biofuel.1
- Brazil and the United States together produce 87% of the ethanol in the world.1
Background Agricultural Connections
Interest Approach – Engagement
- Inform students that you are going to give them a series of clues to identify what they will be learning about today. Using slide 1 of the Biofuel PowerPoint, give students the following clues:
- Its price affects many parts of the economy.
- It provides power to electricity plants.
- Some types of it are pumped from the ground.
- Other types are produced from agricultural crops.
- It is used to heat homes.
- It is required to transport food, clothing, and other necessities to consumers.
- Once students identify fuel with the clues given above, ask, "What daily activities require fuel?" (slide 2). Discuss the use of fuel in private and public transportation, heating/cooling homes and businesses, and producing food.
- Ask students, "How is fuel used in the process of getting food from the farm to the consumer?" Help students recognize that farmers use fuel to power tractors and machinery; power is used at processing plants where food is prepared for the consumer; and fuel is used to transport the food from the farm to the processing plant to the end consumer.
- Using PowerPoint slides 3-8, continue introducing students to biofuel by helping them understand the difference between fossil fuels and biofuels and between renewable and non-renewable resources.
- Ask students, "Would you guess that our need for renewable fuels will increase or decrease in the coming years?" Allow students time to share their prediction and potential reasons why. As students share, ask what kind of jobs could be found in the biofuel industry.
Biofuel Career Web
- Print one copy of the Biofuel Career Web Labels.
- Cut out each circle, and keep the circles together in categories:
- All jobs associated with the farm are blue
- All jobs associated with the processing plant are orange
- All jobs associated with the blending facility are green
- Begin your class activity by identifying the three primary locations of biofuel production. Use tape or a magnet to place the three location labels on the board as shown below. Biofuel production begins on a farm where corn and soybeans are grown. Next, the corn or soybeans are processed into ethanol or biodiesel. Last, the ethanol is mixed with gasoline in a blending facility where it is prepared to sell at gas stations.
- Help students see the variety of jobs required for successful and efficient production of biofuel by adding each of the career circles to the board and creating a career web. For example, “A Farmer grows corn or soybeans. A Salesman from a seed company will help the farmer choose the best variety of plant to grow. Farms require lots of machinery. A Mechanic maintains the tractors and equipment….” Continue until each career is included in the web.
- Optional Video Clips: The following video clips were created in Minnesota. However, they illustrate the process of making ethanol and biodiesel very well. They also introduce many careers that are associated with the biofuel industry. Stop the video and discuss the careers after each is introduced. Allow students to fill out their Fueling up for a Career activity sheet.
- Biofuels as Renewable Energy: Ethanol From Corn
- Tour of an ethanol processing plant, illustrating the step-by-step process of converting starch from corn into liquid ethanol that is used in gasoline. (11 min)
- Biofuels as Renewable Energy: Biodiesel from Soybeans
- Tour of a biodiesel processing plant. (19 min)
- Biofuels as Renewable Energy: Ethanol From Corn
- Optional Lab: Make Biodiesel If laboratory resources allow, make biodiesel in your class to help spark students’ interest in the biofuel industry. Follow the instructions and procedures provided on the sites given below. (Biodiesel is very safe, but the chemicals used in production have specific handling and storage requirements; safety precautions are outlined at http://www.make-biodiesel.org/Biodiesel-Safety/biodiesel-safety-tips.html)
- Written Instructions: http://www.wikihow.com/Make-Pop-Bottle-Biodiesel
- Video Demonstration: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=87NaBjYrFbI
- Note: The “recipe” for making biodiesel varies. The standard most often used is 1 ½ tsp. of lye for every 4-5 cups (approximately 1 liter) of methanol/vegetable oil used.
Concept Elaboration and Evaluation
- Use this Biofuel Facts Kahoot Quiz to review students’ understanding of biofuel vocabulary. (If the link doesn’t work because you haven’t signed in, search for Biofuel Facts by Darren Atkinson in the Public Kahoots section.)
- After conducting these activities, review and summarize the following key concepts:
- Agriculture provides the materials needed to cover our basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter, as well as additional needs like fuel for transportation.
- There are a variety of agricultural careers available in the biofuel industry.
We welcome your feedback! Please take a minute to tell us how to make this lesson better or to give us a few gold stars!
Suggested Companion Resources
- Lab Investigation: Biodiesel (Activity)
- Pop Bottle Biodiesel (Activity)
- Field to Film Career Snapshots (Multimedia)
- Evolution of Corn (Website)
- Nepris: Connecting Industry Professionals to Every Classroom! (Website)
Agricultural Literacy Outcomes
Science, Technology, Engineering & Math
- Identify science careers related to both producers and consumers of agricultural products (T4.6-8.g)
Education Content Standards
Career Ready Practices
CRP.10.1Identify career opportunities within a career cluster that match personal interests, talents, goals and preferences.
Common Core Connections
Language: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.6Acquire and use accurately a range of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when encountering an unknown term important to comprehension or expression.