Register here for our virtual August engineering design Professional Development workshops!

Unit Non-renewable Energy:
Fossil Fuels

(0 Ratings)

Quick Look

Grade Level: 4 (3-5)

Choose From: 2 lessons and 3 activities

Subject Areas: Earth and Space, Physical Science, Science and Technology

A pumping oil rig near the sun.
Students explore how oil is harvested from the Earth
Copyright © Flickr


Fossil fuels powered the Industrial Revolution, and the use of coal, petroleum, and natural gas has extensive and long-term impacts on the environment and society. This unit investigates fossil fuels as a non-renewable energy source. Students build an understanding of what fossil fuels are, where they are sourced, and how humans use them for energy through lessons and associated activities.

Engineering Connection

Mechanical engineers in the energy industry design power plants, which are powered by a variety of energy sources, including natural gas and coal. Renewable energy engineers are seeking alternative energy sources to provide abundant and affordable "clean" energy to sustain our energy needs and reduce our dependence on limited fossil fuel resources, which have consequences on human health and the natural environment when burned for energy.

Unit Schedule

Suggested activity order:

More Curriculum Like This

Off the Grid

Students learn and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of renewable and non-renewable energy sources. They also learn about our nation's electric power grid and what it means for a residential home to be "off the grid."

preview of 'Off the Grid' Lesson
High School Lesson
Naturally Speaking

In this lesson, students identify the Earth's natural resources and classify them as renewable or non-renewable. They simulate the distribution of resources and discuss the fairness and effectiveness of the distribution.

preview of 'Naturally Speaking' Lesson
Elementary Lesson
Carbon Cycles

Students are introduced to the concept of energy cycles by learning about the carbon cycle. They learn how carbon atoms travel through the geological (ancient) carbon cycle and the biological/physical carbon cycle.

preview of 'Carbon Cycles' Lesson
Middle School Lesson


© 2020 by Regents of the University of Colorado

Last modified: July 20, 2021

User Comments & Tips

Free K-12 standards-aligned STEM curriculum for educators everywhere.
Find more at