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Earth's Energy Sources (pre-assessment)

Earth's Energy Sources (pre-assessment)

The setting of the sun over the Pacific Ocean as seen from the ISS.
Courtesy of NASA.

  • Grades:
  • 3-5
  • Length: 30 Minutes

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Students take a pre-assessment to gauge their knowledge of climate change, the atmosphere and carbon cycle, skin cancer and human health. Student sheets are provided in English and in Spanish.

This activity is from The Science of Global Atmospheric Change Teacher's Guide. Although it is most appropriate for use with students in grades 3-5, the lessons are easily adaptable for other grade levels. The guide also is available in print format.

Teacher Background

Global warming, ozone depletion, skin cancer risk . . . all of these themes appear frequently in the news. Yet, there are many misconceptions about them. This unit allows students to explore the science behind energy use and changes in the atmosphere. At the same time, students learn basic physical and earth/space science concepts related to light and electromagnetic radiation, the atmosphere, fossil fuels and combustion. Students also learn about the carbon cycle, the role of carbon dioxide in living systems and the important role of skin in protecting living organisms. Finally, students have opportunities to integrate their knowledge through explorations about the greenhouse effect, climate and alternative energy sources. Overviews of the science content covered in each section of this guide can be found in the one-page Physical Science, Life Science, and Environment and Health Basics overviews. The introduction to each activity also provides a summary of science concepts covered.

This pre-assessment is designed to allow you, the teacher, to estimate students’ existing knowledge about these topics before beginning the unit. It also can be used for self-assessment by students once the unit is completed.

Objectives and Standards


Allows teacher to estimate students’ prior knowledge related to the atmosphere, carbon cycle, skin and skin cancer risk, and climate change.

Materials and Setup

Materials per Student

Copy of “Do You Know” student sheet


Have students work individually to complete the pre-assessment.


Procedure and Extensions

  1. Initiate a class discussion about sources of energy and energy use. Ask questions such as, What is the source of energy for your family’s car? What about for your computer? Where does the energy we need come from? To build awareness, have students make a class list of the many different ways in which they rely on energy each day.

  2. Follow by asking, Do you think our uses of energy affect the environment? Tell students that they will find answers to these and other questions over the next few weeks.

  3. Give each student a copy of the pre-assessment. Have students complete the pre-assessments individually. Tell students that they will not be graded. Rather, they will use the pre-assessments to gauge how much they have learned over the course of the unit.

  4. Collect completed pre-assessments and save them. Students will refer back to their answers at the conclusion of the unit.

Related Content

Funded by the following grant(s)

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, NIH

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, NIH

My Health My World: National Dissemination
Grant Number: 5R25ES009259
The Environment as a Context for Opportunities in Schools
Grant Number: 5R25ES010698, R25ES06932