Lesson Eight: Energy Cause and Effect Relationships

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Grade Level:

4th Grade


60 minutes


  • Energy Resource Pro & Con sheets from the previous lesson
  • Graphic organizers for cause and effect: one cause with multiple effects, one effect with multiple causes, cause and effect chain (Student will need up to two copies of each sheet) TEACHER NOTE: Save the completed sheets for lesson 10.
  • Predicting Effects student worksheet (one per student)

Suggested Teacher Preparation:

  • Be familiar with the information on the Energy Resource Pro & Con sheets.

Activity Type:

Evaluate cause and effect relationships

Purpose Statement (content Focus & Enduring Understanding/Knowledge/Skills and connection to the unit and preceding lessons):

Students will deepen their understanding of the pros and cons of energy resources by examining cause/effect relationships related to each type of energy.

Explanation of how the activity enables students to answer the overarching question:

After analyzing the pros and cons of each Energy Resource, students will express why it is necessary to 1) use our energy resources wisely and 2) incorporate a variety of energy resources into the production of energy. By working to identify cause and effect relationships, students will be better positioned to reflect on stewardship questions with a proactive and predictive lens. This will lead to more appropriate responses to the question of being a steward of Wyoming’s energy resources for future generations.

Essential Question:

How can we be stewards of Wyoming’s minerals and energy to benefit current and future generations?
Supporting Questions: How are minerals and energy developed, used, and cared for?


Science: 4-ESS3-1 (explicitly taught)


  • Pro- the favorable factors or reasons; advantages
  • Con- the unfavorable factors or reasons; disadvantages ● Review vocabulary from previous lessons
  • Instructional Procedure/Steps:

    1. Ask students to review the six energy sources discussed in previous lessons by using a popcorn share in which the teacher names one of the six industries, and students quickly share facts, ah-has, or big ideas they gleaned from the previous day’s lesson. As each share out is completed, ask students to tell whether that resource is a renewable or a nonrenewable.
    2. Tell students that today they will be looking at cause/effect relationships connected to the information they discussed yesterday about the various energy resources in Wyoming. Ask students to turn to a partner and give a quick explanation of what a cause is and what an effect is. Have several group members share out to ensure everyone is on the same page.
    3. Model completing a graphic organizer for a fact about coal. Say: “I’m going to look at the fact: ‘In 2017, Wyoming remains the nation’s largest producer of coal.’ I’ll start with the graphic organizer that has one cause and multiple effects, and I’ll write that fact in the ‘cause’ box. This shows that I want to think of several things that are an effect of our state producing a lot of coal.” Continue to think aloud for students as you write the three effects.
      Cause (source 1): In 2017, Wyoming remains the leading coal producer in the country.
      Possible Effects:

      1. Coal mining provides jobs.
      2. Coal provides income for the state.
      3. We are using up a nonrenewable resource.
    4. Guide students in a brief discussion about what would happen if the fact in the “cause” box was to change. Say: “If Wyoming was no longer the leading coal producer, what new effects might that have?”
    5. To ensure that they understand all 3 types of cause and effect relationships: (1 cause = multiple effects, multiple causes = 1 effect, and cause and effect chain), have students help you complete each of the alternate graphic organizers using the same fact.
    6. Divide students into groups. Have each group look at one of the following facts about coal:
      • Coal contributes 35% of CO2, more than any other source. (source 2)
      • After coal is mined, they put back the dirt and rocks and plant trees and grass. This is called reclamation. (source 3)
      • Coal can be accessed through deep mining or surface mining. (source 4)
      • Wyoming coal is low-sulfur. (source 5)

      They should work together to complete a graphic organizer for their given fact. Once they finish one type of cause and effect relationship, they should try to complete one of the alternate graphic organizers. If they don’t naturally do so, prompt students to identify the effect of the resource’s use on the environment, as that is the idea specifically addressed in the science standard.
      TEACHER NOTE: If students are struggling to identify cause and effect relationships, they will need more support from the teacher before moving on to step 7.

    7. After about 10 minutes, pull the groups back together and have each one take turns sharing with the whole class the cause and effect relationships that they identified. Be sure to choose examples from each of the different types of cause and effect graphic organizers. After they have shared their responses, ask:
      • What would happen if one part of their relationship changed?
      • How would that affect the other parts of the system?
      • How does predicting changes to the system help them better understand the complexities of energy production?
    8. Next, students will have an opportunity to work independently to show their understanding of cause and effect relationships using another energy resource. Students will take the facts from yesterday’s pros and cons sheets. Give them the following parameters:
      • They can select any of the other five resources to use.
      • They need to complete a cause and effect relationship for one fact that tells about how the resource’s use impacts the environment.
      • They are encouraged to try using different/multiple types of cause and effect graphic organizers to show different types of relationships.
      • After they complete the graphic organizers, they will have a short writing prompt to complete predicting what the effects would be if something within the system changed.


    Completed graphic organizers and written responses. Check students’ work to make sure that responses are generally correct and show an understanding of the cause and effect relationships.


    1. U.S. Energy Information Administration – EIA. (2015). Rankings Coal Production, 2015. Retrieved July 9, 2017, from https://www.eia.gov/state/rankings/#/series/48
    2. U.S. Energy Information Administration – EIA. (2017, May 10). FAQs: How much of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions are associated with electricity generation? Retrieved June 26, 2017, from https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.php?id=77&t=11
    3. Wyoming Mining Association. (n.d.). Coal. Retrieved June 26, 2017, from https://www.wyomingmining.org/
    4. The NEED Project. (2016). Elementary Energy InfoBook:Coal (Publication). Retrieved June 26, 2017, from http://www.need.org/files/curriculum/guides/Elementary%20Energy%20Infobook.pdf
    5. WyomingMiningAssociation.(n.d.).Coal.RetrievedJune26,2017,from https://www.wyomingmining.org/