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Iowa: Corn and Climate

Climate Central

This video reviews the benefits and drawbacks associated with growing corn to make ethanol.

Video length 10:23 min.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Video supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 2 Disciplinary Core Ideas
High School: 5 Disciplinary Core Ideas

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

About Teaching the Guiding Principle
Other materials addressing GPg
Humans affect climate
About Teaching Climate Literacy
Other materials addressing Humans affect climate

Energy Literacy

Environmental quality is impacted by energy choices.
Other materials addressing:
7.3 Environmental quality.
Humans transfer and transform energy from the environment into forms useful for human endeavors.
Other materials addressing:
4.1 Humans transfer and transform energy.
Fossil and bio fuels are organic matter that contain energy captured from sunlight.
Other materials addressing:
4.3 Fossil and bio fuels contain energy captured from sunlight.
Different sources of energy and the different ways energy can be transformed, transported and stored each have different benefits and drawbacks.
Other materials addressing:
4.7 Different sources of energy have different benefits and drawbacks.
Energy decisions are influenced by political factors.
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5.5 Political factors.

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

  • Educators can implement several techniques to enhance the learning experience with the video. The topic lends itself to student debates on farming and the future, the pros/cons of biofuels, and a cost analysis of alternative fuels. Students can research and compare other potential benefits and drawbacks of other research technologies that produce fuel - for example, fuel produced from algae.
  • See also other resources on the CLEAN site that can support a lesson on biofuels.

About the Science

  • Video, produced in 2009, explores turning corn into ethanol as an alternative to gasoline. The rush to turn corn into ethanol has been profitable for Iowa's farmers, but accompanying research has uncovered some energy and climate drawbacks. It takes a lot of fossil fuel to grow and process corn into ethanol — so much that only about 20% of each gallon of corn ethanol represents new energy.
  • Comments from expert scientist: The material briefly presents current issue and science associated with croplands for biofuel production. Cites current science at the time. The science is sound but this material is part science, part story telling with anecdotes and politics thrown in. The material works as intended, but the material is getting old and the science, politics, and business around the issue are changing.

About the Pedagogy

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Video can be downloaded in several version sizes. This video requires Adobe Flash player (may not be suitable for viewing on the ipad).

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Video supports:

Middle School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 2

MS-ESS3.A1:Humans depend on Earth’s land, ocean, atmosphere, and biosphere for many different resources. Minerals, fresh water, and biosphere resources are limited, and many are not renewable or replaceable over human lifetimes. These resources are distributed unevenly around the planet as a result of past geologic processes.

MS-ESS3.D1:Human activities, such as the release of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, are major factors in the current rise in Earth’s mean surface temperature (global warming). Reducing the level of climate change and reducing human vulnerability to whatever climate changes do occur depend on the understanding of climate science, engineering capabilities, and other kinds of knowledge, such as understanding of human behavior and on applying that knowledge wisely in decisions and activities.

High School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 5

HS-ESS3.A1:Resource availability has guided the development of human society.

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.D1:Though the magnitudes of human impacts are greater than they have ever been, so too are human abilities to model, predict, and manage current and future impacts.

HS-ETS1.A2:Humanity faces major global challenges today, such as the need for supplies of clean water and food or for energy sources that minimize pollution, which can be addressed through engineering. These global challenges also may have manifestations in local communities

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.

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