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Car Quest

World Wildlife Fund

In this activity, students will determine the environmental effects of existing cars and a fleet consisting of their dream cars. They compute how many tons of heat-trapping gases are produced each year, how much it costs to fuel the cars, and related information. Then, students research and prepare a report about greener transportation choices.

Activity takes four to five 45-minute class periods some of which can be assignments to be completed outside of school. Computer with Internet access necessary.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Activity supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
High School: 1 Performance Expectation, 4 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 8 Cross Cutting Concepts, 6 Science and Engineering Practices

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

About Teaching the Guiding Principle
Other materials addressing GPg

Energy Literacy

Environmental quality is impacted by energy choices.
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7.3 Environmental quality.
Energy decisions are influenced by environmental factors.
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5.6 Environmental factors.
Behavior and design affect the amount of energy used by human society.
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6.6 Behavior and design.
Amount of energy used can be calculated and monitored.
Other materials addressing:
6.8 Calculating and monitoring energy use.

Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:C) Collecting information
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C) Collecting information.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.4 Environment and Society:A) Human/environment interactions
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A) Human/environment interactions.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.4 Environment and Society:D) Technology
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D) Technology.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.4 Environment and Society:E) Environmental Issues
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E) Environmental Issues.

Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • Advise appropriate school personnel about this activity before going out to conduct "research" in the parking lot and making observations of cars. Also, be sure you can visually monitor all students as the groups spread out among the cars.
  • Students should be encouraged to write from a more scientific perspective vs. a personal preference. Compare and contrast a "dream car" with more conventional alternatives.

About the Science

  • The science in this activity is fuel efficiency of various vehicles using data from the environmental protection agency (EPA) and other similar sources. The focus of activity is on the environmental impacts of each and on making informed choices about the vehicles we use.
  • The concept of analyzing the fleet of vehicles increases statistical validity and adds business-level relevance.
  • Passed initial science review - expert science review pending.

About the Pedagogy

  • Activity is basically a Webquest but engages students in issues that directly concern them – vehicles they and their families/friends/teachers drive, the environmental impact of different vehicles, and the fuels they use.
  • Can be used with a very diverse group of students; ELL students could be paired with other students.
  • Only a limited rubric is provided for assessment.
  • Thoughtful discussion questions are provided.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Computers with Internet access are needed.

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Activity supports:

High School

Performance Expectations: 1

HS-ETS1-3: Evaluate a solution to a complex real-world problem based on prioritized criteria and trade-offs that account for a range of constraints, including cost, safety, reliability, and aesthetics as well as possible social, cultural, and environmental impacts.

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 4

HS-ESS3.A2:All forms of energy production and other resource extraction have associated economic, social, environmental, and geopolitical costs and risks as well as benefits. New technologies and social regulations can change the balance of these factors.

HS-ESS3.C2:Scientists and engineers can make major contributions by developing technologies that produce less pollution and waste and that preclude ecosystem degradation.


HS-ETS1.B1:When evaluating solutions, it is important to take into account a range of constraints, including cost, safety, reliability, and aesthetics, and to consider social, cultural, and environmental impacts.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 8

Patterns, Cause and effect, Scale, Proportion and Quantity, Systems and System Models, Energy and Matter, Stability and Change

HS-C1.3:Patterns of performance of designed systems can be analyzed and interpreted to reengineer and improve the system.

HS-C2.3:Systems can be designed to cause a desired effect.

HS-C3.1:The significance of a phenomenon is dependent on the scale, proportion, and quantity at which it occurs.

HS-C4.1:Systems can be designed to do specific tasks.

HS-C4.2:When investigating or describing a system, the boundaries and initial conditions of the system need to be defined and their inputs and outputs analyzed and described using models.

HS-C5.1:The total amount of energy and matter in closed systems is conserved.

HS-C5.3:Energy cannot be created or destroyed—only moves between one place and another place, between objects and/or fields, or between systems.

HS-C7.4:Systems can be designed for greater or lesser stability.

Science and Engineering Practices: 6

Planning and Carrying Out Investigations, Analyzing and Interpreting Data, Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions, Engaging in Argument from Evidence, Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

HS-P3.3:Plan and conduct an investigation or test a design solution in a safe and ethical manner including considerations of environmental, social, and personal impacts.

HS-P4.3:Consider limitations of data analysis (e.g., measurement error, sample selection) when analyzing and interpreting data

HS-P6.5:Design, evaluate, and/or refine a solution to a complex real-world problem, based on scientific knowledge, student-generated sources of evidence, prioritized criteria, and tradeoff considerations.

HS-P7.6:Evaluate competing design solutions to a real-world problem based on scientific ideas and principles, empirical evidence, and/or logical arguments regarding relevant factors (e.g. economic, societal, environmental, ethical considerations).

HS-P8.2:Compare, integrate and evaluate sources of information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words in order to address a scientific question or solve a problem.

HS-P8.4: Evaluate the validity and reliability of and/or synthesize multiple claims, methods, and/or designs that appear in scientific and technical texts or media reports, verifying the data when possible.

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