Educational Materials

The Wisconsin Energy Institute develops classroom and nonformal educational materials for students in elementary school up to the undergraduate level. The materials are oriented around a number of core themes, including inquiry-based learning, scientific thought and analysis, and the conservation of matter and energy.

Use the sort and search features to find materials that meet your needs. Alternatively you can browse a list of our materials sorted by NGSS Performance Expectation or browse the NGSS performance expectations for each activity.

Modeling Power Grids with Snap Circuits

Stand-Alone Activity | Middle School, High School

Students use snap circuits to model power generation, distribution, and use in a traditional grid vs microgrid system.

Earth Science, Engineering, Environmental Science, Physical Science, Physics

Fermentation in a Bag

Investigation, Stand-Alone Activity | Elementary, Middle School, High School

In this simple experiment, students investigate the process of fermentation in resealable bags with bakers yeast, warm water and various sources of plant sugar.

Agriculture, Biology, Environmental Science

Fermentation Challenge: Making Ethanol from Cellulose

Investigation | Middle School, High School, Undergraduate

This high school-level lab demonstration and inquiry activity introduces students to the process of fermenting cellulosic biomass into ethanol, along with the challenges researchers face in this area.

Agriculture, Biology, Engineering, Environmental Science

Mini Fermenter

Investigation | High School, Undergraduate

This mini fermenter can be used to conduct small-scale fermentation investigations or demonstrations similar to research done by GLBRC scientists.

Agriculture, Biology, Engineering, Environmental Science

Measuring Soil Microbial Activity

Investigation | Middle School, High School, Undergraduate

This activity examines how soil microbes, such as bacteria and fungi, are involved in carbon cycling. Students design experiments to explore the relationship between microbial respiration rates and soil variables.

Agriculture, Biology, Chemistry, Earth Science, Environmental Science, Physical Science

Bioprospecting for Cellulose-Degrading Microbes: Filter Paper Assay Method

Investigation | Middle School, High School, Undergraduate

Students collect samples that they predict will contain communities of cellulose-degrading microbes and test for the ability of microorganisms in their samples to break down pure cellulose (filter paper).

Agriculture, Biology, Engineering, Environmental Science

Bioprospecting and Biofuels - Connecting Classrooms with Bioenergy Research

Video | Middle School, High School, Undergraduate, Nonformal

Gina Lewin, microbiologist and biofuels researcher, describes how a classroom bioprospecting lab activity connects to ongoing investigations into the enzymes produced by the fungi in leaf-cutter ant colonies.

Agriculture, Biology, Chemistry, Earth Science, Engineering, Environmental Science

Biofuels vs Fossil Fuels Unit

Unit | Middle School, High School

The Biofuels vs Fossil Fuels unit has students explore the similarities and differences between fossil fuels and biofuels. In the process, students investigate the carbon-transforming processes of combustion, photosynthesis, fermentation and respiration.

Agriculture, Biology, Chemistry, Earth Science, Environmental Science

CB2E: Converting Cellulosic Biomass to Ethanol

Investigation | Middle School, High School, Undergraduate

In this flexible lab sequence, students convert cellulosic biomass sources, such as sawdust, straw, or cardboard into sugars and then ethanol.

Agriculture, Biology, Chemistry, Earth Science, Engineering, Environmental Science, Physical Science

Life Cycle Assessment of Biofuels 101

Stand-Alone Activity | Middle School, High School, Undergraduate

This activity asks students to begin to consider the life cycle energy and carbon dioxide emission costs of gasoline, corn ethanol and cellulosic ethanol.

Agriculture, Engineering, Environmental Science

The Bioenergy Farm Game

Stand-Alone Activity | Middle School, High School, Undergraduate

In this board game, players take on the role of bioenergy crop farmers trying to earn a living while being good environmental stewards.

Agriculture, Biology, Economics, Environmental Science, Social Studies

The Biofuels Story - Classroom Version

Stand-Alone Activity | Middle School, High School

The materials provided here provide a way to launch a study of biofuels. We recommend that you tell the story of biofuels and post a story wall in your classroom.

Agriculture, Biology, Chemistry, Earth Science, Economics, Engineering, Environmental Science, Physical Science, Social Studies

The Biofuels Story - Prezi

Video, Stand-Alone Activity | Middle School, High School, Undergraduate, Nonformal

This short interactive presentation introduces why GLBRC is researching making biofuels from non-food crops and traces the key steps in the production of biofuels from different plant materials. The presentation also explores the differences between biofuels and fossil fuels' role in the carbon cycle.

Agriculture, Biology, Chemistry, Earth Science, Economics, Engineering, Environmental Science, Physical Science, Social Studies

Quantitative Modeling of Biofuels Life Cycles

Stand-Alone Activity | High School, Undergraduate

This activity allows students to compare the net energy and/or net greenhouse gases (GHG) emitted during the life cycle production of ethanol from switchgrass, diverse prairie and corn stover.

Engineering, Environmental Science

Exploring Energy Transformation in Plants

Investigation | Middle School, High School

In this set of activities, students investigate how plants harness and use different sources of energy during germination and growth. Students ask questions, make predictions, and then plan and carry out investigations using Wisconsin Fast Plants® to collect evidence to test predictions and construct scientific arguments.

Agriculture, Biology, Environmental Science

Root Depth Model

Stand-Alone Activity | Middle School, High School, Undergraduate

In this activity, raffia ribbon is used to create a visual representation of the differing root depths in biofuel crops and prairie plants. The wall hanging can be used to promote discussion about plants’ ability to sequester carbon and contribute to soil carbon.

Agriculture, Biology, Environmental Science

Poker Chip Model: Global Carbon Pools and Fluxes

Stand-Alone Activity | Middle School, High School, Undergraduate, Nonformal

This activity helps students visualize and model a commonly published diagram of global carbon pools and fluxes. Students create a scaled 3-D visual of global carbon pools and net fluxes between pools with anthropogenic influences.

Biology, Chemistry, Earth Science, Engineering, Environmental Science, Physical Science, Physics

Field Investigations: Biomass Yield and Root Growth in Crops

Investigation | Middle School, High School, Undergraduate

This field investigation serves to strengthen student understanding of the ability of plants to sequester carbon above and below ground. Students will measure above ground biomass by harvesting small samples, and root growth using ingrown root-cores.

Agriculture, Biology, Environmental Science

Field Investigations: Bug Biodiversity and Ecosystem Benefits

Investigation | Elementary, Middle School, High School, Undergraduate, Nonformal

In these field investigations, students explore the effects of biofuel crop production on invertebrate diversity and the effects those organisms have on pollination rates and weed seed predation.

Agriculture, Biology, Environmental Science

Global Energy Flows

Stand-Alone Activity | High School, Undergraduate, Nonformal

Students analyze data detailing global energy sources and sinks (uses) and construct a diagram to show the relative scale and the connections between them.

Biology, Earth Science, Engineering, Environmental Science, Physical Science, Physics

Investigating Fuel Sustainability

Unit, Stand-Alone Activity | Middle School, High School, Undergraduate

In this set of lessons, students explore the meaning of the term sustainability and then investigate and evaluate the sustainability of different transportation fuels, eg. gasoline, biofuel, or electricity. In the process they research the steps required to produce and use different fuels and tally associated environmental impacts.

Agriculture, Biology, Chemistry, Earth Science, Economics, Engineering, Environmental Science, Physical Science, Physics, Social Studies

Microgrid Sustainable Energy Exploration Station

Stand-Alone Activity, Exploration Station | Elementary, Middle School, High School

This Exploration Station is designed to introduce learners to the basics of microgrids and new approaches to generating and distributing electrical power in communities.

Earth Science, Engineering, Environmental Science, Physical Science, Physics

Meet the Scientist - Natalia De Leon

Video | Middle School, High School, Undergraduate, Nonformal

Dr. Natalia de Leon, GLBRC scientist, describes her research breeding corn for better biofuel production and explains how information learned from corn breeding can be applied to improve other bioenergy crops, such as switchgrass.

Agriculture, Biology, Engineering, Environmental Science

Life Cycle Assessment of Energy

Video | Middle School, High School, Undergraduate, Nonformal

How much "net" energy is gained through producing biofuels? This video walks you through the process of setting up an life cycle assessment of biofuels.

Agriculture, Biology, Chemistry, Earth Science, Economics, Engineering, Environmental Science, Physics, Social Studies

Data Dive: Comparing Bioenergy Crop Yields

Stand-Alone Activity | High School

Can perennial biomass crops compete with king corn? In this GLBRC Data Dive, students analyze and interpret data on the biomass production of different bioenergy crops grown on Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) experimental farms in Wisconsin and Michigan.

Agriculture, Biology, Earth Science, Environmental Science

Data Dive: Boosting Yeast's Appetite for Sugars

Stand-Alone Activity | High School

Can microbiologists engineer new strains of yeast to produce more biofuel from the same amount of plant biomass? Students analyze results from a directed evolution experiment to create mutant yeast strains that can ferment all of the sugars in plant biomass.

Biology, Engineering, Environmental Science

Analyzing Fuel Carbon Footprints: Gasoline, Ethanol and Electricity

Stand-Alone Activity | Middle School, High School, Undergraduate

In this data dive, students interpret and analyze data on the greenhouse gas emissions from producing and using different fuels for vehicles and apply the concept of a life cycle assessment to tally environmental impacts for each step of fuel production and use.

Agriculture, Biology, Chemistry, Earth Science, Engineering, Environmental Science, Physical Science

Data Dive: Farming for Beetles, Bees and Biomass

Stand-Alone Activity | Middle School, High School, Undergraduate

In this “data dive” students analyze data on the biodiversity of plants and beneficial bugs living in different bioenergy crops and compare some of the important ecosystem services that bugs and plants provide in different crops.

Agriculture, Biology, Environmental Science

Exploring Life Cycles of Fuels

Video | Middle School, High School, Undergraduate, Nonformal

This educational video compares how burning gasoline versus biofuels affects how much carbon dioxide builds up in the atmosphere. It also introduces some key considerations when evaluating whether a fuel is sustainable.

Agriculture, Biology, Chemistry, Earth Science, Engineering, Environmental Science, Physical Science, Social Studies

Life Cycle Assessment of Carbon in Biofuels

Video | Middle School, High School, Undergraduate, Nonformal

What's the "carbon footprint" for producing and using biofuels? This video walks you through the process of setting up an life cycle assessment of biofuels for carbon.

Agriculture, Biology, Chemistry, Earth Science, Economics, Engineering, Environmental Science, Physics, Social Studies

Ask an Expert - What is Biodiversity and Why is it Important?

Video | Middle School, High School, Undergraduate, Nonformal

Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) project area leader Doug Landis talks about biodiversity, why it's important, and why our researchers are looking at how it'll affect the biofuels industry as a whole.

Agriculture, Biology, Earth Science, Environmental Science

Short Cuts: What is Cellulose?

Video | Middle School, High School, Undergraduate, Nonformal

This is a short educational video that will soon be part of a growing series of videos explaining key terms related to renewable energy.

Agriculture, Biology, Chemistry, Earth Science, Environmental Science, Physical Science

Why Is It So Difficult to Create Cellulosic Ethanol?

Reading, Video | Middle School, High School, Undergraduate

This video and four-page handout introduces the difficulties in creating cellulosic ethanol and can serve as helpful background for further study of biofuels.

Agriculture, Biology, Chemistry, Earth Science, Engineering, Environmental Science, Physical Science

Bioenergy Demonstration Gardens Audio Tour

Video | Nonformal

A guided audio tour of the Bioenergy Demonstration Gardens located on the east side of the Wisconsin Energy Institute building grounds.

Agriculture, Biology, Earth Science, Environmental Science

Research Story: The Science of Farming

Reading, Research Story | Middle School, High School

In this story, students follow the investigations of GLBRC agronomists, who design large-scale biofuel crop experiments on farms. Students learn about the unique challenges and interesting discoveries that come from conducting experiments in the field.

Agriculture, Biology, Environmental Science

Research Story: A Modern Scientist-Engineer In the World of Fermentation

Reading, Research Story | Middle School, High School

In this story, students learn about the interplay between science and engineering in fermentation research—from the discovery of pasteurization in the 1800s to current efforts to produce efficient biofuels with biotechnology.

Agriculture, Biology, Engineering, Environmental Science

Research Story: Entomology Detectives

Reading, Research Story | Middle School, High School

"Someone or something has been attacking the waxworm larvae in local corn and grass fields. GLBRC Entomology detectives want to find out who is responsible and thank them for their service..." This short reading and accompanying worksheet offers a window into how GLBRC scientists are investigating the insect populations in different crops and the services they provide to farmers. Research stories give students a window into the work of professional scientists and engineers.

Agriculture, Biology, Environmental Science

Energy and Health Exploration Station

Stand-Alone Activity, Exploration Station | Elementary, Middle School, High School, Nonformal

This Exploration Station is designed to introduce learners to the human health impacts of different energy sources. Learners identify energy uses and sources on a table-top illustration of a landscape, then match the energy uses to different pollutants and potential health impacts.

Biology, Earth Science, Environmental Science, Social Studies

Teaching Scientific Thought

Video | Elementary, Middle School, High School, Undergraduate, Nonformal

GLBRC Education Researcher Joyce Parker explains some of the common misconceptions students have about matter and energy and encourages teaching "thinking" instead of "stuff."

Agriculture, Biology, Chemistry, Earth Science, Economics, Engineering, Environmental Science, Physical Science, Physics, Social Studies

Switchgrass Biomass Harvest

Video | Elementary, Middle School, High School, Undergraduate, Nonformal

Fall brings harvest time for the GLBRC bioenergy crop trials at the UW-Madison Arlington Agricultural Research Station. Researchers harvest the standing biomass from the nine different model bioenergy cropping systems, including switchgrass, corn, miscanthus, and prairie.

Agriculture, Biology, Engineering, Environmental Science, Social Studies

Growing Plants

Video | Middle School, High School, Undergraduate

Join Darryl and Nina as they experiment to find out what happens when plants grow. This video also serves as a supplement to the GLBRC Biofuels vs Fossil Fuels Unit as students investigate the energy and matter transformations associated with plant growth.

Agriculture, Biology, Chemistry, Environmental Science

Burning Ethanol

Video | Middle School, High School, Undergraduate, Nonformal

Join Darryl and Nina as they experiment to find out what happens when ethanol burns. This video also serves as a supplement to the GLBRC Biofuels vs Fossil Fuels Unit as students investigate the energy and matter transformations associated with combustion.

Chemistry, Earth Science, Environmental Science, Physical Science, Physics

Biodiversity and Sustainable Bioenergy Exploration Station

Stand-Alone Activity, Exploration Station | Elementary, Middle School

This Exploration Station highlights the role of biodiversity in sustainable bioenergy cropping systems as learners make "biomass bouquets" and interact with insect, bird and plant biodiversity displays.

Agriculture, Biology, Environmental Science

Fields of Fuel Computer Game

Stand-Alone Activity | Middle School, High School, Undergraduate, Nonformal

In this game, players—both students and the public—take on the role of farmers working to sustainably grow crops to produce energy resources, earn income and improve ecosystem services.

Agriculture, Biology, Earth Science, Economics, Engineering, Environmental Science, Social Studies

Bioenergy Lab Series

Investigation, Unit | High School, Undergraduate

The Bioenergy Lab Series is comprised of twelve bioenergy lab activities designed for advanced high school and undergraduate students to engage with scientific concepts related to each step in the renewable biofuels pipeline.

Agriculture, Biology, Chemistry