Learning Strategy: Information retrieval
UK fuel prices have reached all time highs. The EU and US hope biofuels will prevent fuel shortages and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But others point out the downside of biofuels – including losing valuable food production land and biodiversity. In this activity, students learn about biodiesel production and make a game to show the pros and cons this newly-popular fuel.
Published: 13th November 2007
Reviews & Comments: 25
Students will learn:
• that biodiesel is a renewable fuel made from crops such as oilseed rape and palm oil
• about the benefits and drawbacks of producing and using biodiesel.
Try the activity
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Curriculum linkHow science works
Applications and implications of science
4a Contemporary scientific and technological developments and their benefits, drawbacks and risks.
AQA – Core
Unit C 1b
12.5 Evaluate benefits, drawbacks and risks of using vegetable oils to produce fuels.
Edexcel – Core
Unit C 1b
7.12 Explain why bio-fuels are sometimes an attractive alternative to fossil fuels.
Gateway – Core
Interpret data about fuels in order to choose the best fuel for a particular purpose.
21st Century Science – core
2.4.4 Explain the idea of sustainable development and apply it to specific situations
From September 2008
1.2a Exploring how the creative application of scientific ideas can bring about technological developments and consequent changes in the way people think and behave.
3.4c Human activity and natural processes can lead to changes in the environment.
Until September 2008
QCA unit 7I Energy resources
Running the activity
Display page 1, which introduces the dilemma. Mention that world biodiesel output quadrupled between 2000 – 2005. The EU says that, by 2010, 5.75% of transport fuels used should be renewable. This would need about 25% of Europe's arable land.
Then display page 2. Point out that there are many different biofuels, including fuels made from waste cooking oil. The diagram shows how just one biofuel – biodiesel – is made from palm oil (hot climates) or oilseed rape oil (cooler climates). Glycerol – the main by-product – has many uses, but is currently almost worthless owing to over-supply.
Ask small groups of students to follow the instructions on page 3 to make a snakes and ladders game of the pros and cons of biodiesel for younger students. They can use the pros and cons listed on page 4, or research further points (see websites below). You may wish to emphasise that there are no easy answers. Many western governments vigorously promote biofuels. But biofuel production is at the expense of
- BBC news
- is a useful overview and includes a nice carbon cycle to explain the sustainability of biofuels
- BBC news
- News story about a school that makes – and runs its minibus on – fuel made from waste cooking oil…for 12p a litre!
- BBC news
- shows the effects of clearing land to grow palm oil for biodiesel on a farmer in Indonesia
- How Stuff Works
- gives chemical equations for the trans-esterification of plant oils to make biodiesel, and also points out the pros and cons of this fuel.
Reviews & Comments
Write your online review to share your feedback and classroom tips with other teachers. How well does it work, how engaging is it, how did you use it, and how could it be improved?
Mar 27th, 2013
Really useful resource and easily differentiable. Got my Y9 class to justify to each other why they had assigned the cards to the "pro" or "con" pile if they disagreed. Makes a dry topic a bit more lively!
Reviewer: Allison Cook
Jan 29th, 2013
Reviewer: jenny greig
Feb 28th, 2012
A fantastic resource which helps students use difficult langage in a fun setting using games and colour to entice them. It is certain to build confidence and improve student marks. Brilliant stuff!
Reviewer: Delia McNally
Jun 25th, 2011
The resource has been invaluable in creating our new context based KS3 scheme.
Ellesmere Port Catholic High
Reviewer: Moya O'Kane
Sep 13th, 2010
I have 4 year 11 groups (lower ability). Â£ of the groups loved doing the activity and making the game, and 1 set hated it. Horses for courses? I thought it was easy to present and understand and on the whole a success. You can't please all the people all the time!
Reviewer: Sue Flewitt
Jun 29th, 2010
Great activity. used with year 9. they enjoyed and the out come was great. want to use again with the new batch.
Reviewer: Leena Chettri
May 13th, 2010
My bottom set year 11 enjoyed this.
Reviewer: Victoria Barnes
Apr 22nd, 2010
For my year 10 class - average but with some special needs (i.e. dyslexia) - this was an ideal lesson. It took about an hour with a good discussion on the pros and cons. I summarised these on the board for them. The snakes and ladders game was fun. I made it A3 and they made it in pairs, drawing on their own snakes and ladders. They just had time to play one game.
Reviewer: Jan Lusty
Aug 18th, 2009
Useful links to do research on biofuels can be obtained from teachers notes - excellent resource
Reviewer: ivy addo
A Level Chemistry
Jul 17th, 2009
Used the snakes and ladders game with my 6th form class. Got them to research the pros and cons of using biodiesel instead of giving them the pre-printed cards. They then made the game and really enjoyed playing it!
Reviewer: Kathryn Little
May 14th, 2009
An excellent resource that can be adapted to fit all abilities. Differentiation maybe needed for the very able.
Reviewer: jason russell
Feb 6th, 2009
Ran this with 3 of my year 10 classes at the end of the oils topic. Both lower sets enjoyed making the games and testing them but the higher ability found the game making beneath them. The information was suberb, really got them thinking and they wrote some fantastic essays on the what they thought - most finally deciding it wasn't worth the cost yet, and we should just use less fuel!
Reviewer: Samantha Wallace
Jan 22nd, 2009
actively engaged in construction of snakes and ladders activity and promoted good discussion of benefits and drawbacks used on snake or ladder worked really well all abilities matching their level of discussion
Reviewer: colin white
Jul 16th, 2008
This was a very interesting activity for the whole class. It was challenging and really motivating too.
Reviewer: Caroline Ene
Jul 3rd, 2008
used it in a Y8 lesson on altrenative energy
Reviewer: Mark Fodder
Jul 3rd, 2008
Year 10 enjoyed making the snakes and ladders game and good discussion when deciding pro's and con's
Reviewer: Emma Patterson
oils earth and atmophere AQA
Jun 28th, 2008
My year 10s could not be enticed to use the snakes and ladders game but the pros and cons cards were a very useful starting point for discussions about the merits of biodiesel
Reviewer: jean Pitchers
May 21st, 2008
worked really well with my year 7 classes. i enlarged the snakes and ladders to A3 size. it was interesting listening to the students trying to decide what was a pro or con - some quite heated debates!
Reviewer: Philippa Adcroft
May 18th, 2008
Positive feedback from the students. They enjoyed the activities and its relavance. There was some confusion with Snakes and Ladders.
Reviewer: William Green
May 1st, 2008
Used it with my Y10. Excellent introductory activity. It raises important issues that I'm not sure even all teachers have considered. i.e. plenty of biodeisel - where is the food grown? Not sure about the snakes and ladders.
Reviewer: Michael Barton
Apr 3rd, 2008
This looks good to use (different bits for different years) for year 7 when they study energy from biomass; Year 10 when they study triglycerides and biofuels and even my 6th form Chemistry class might have a quick peek!
Reviewer: elizabeth burak
Biodiesel - snakes & ladders
Feb 28th, 2008
Great activity for getting Y10 aware of biofuel pro's and cons. I'll use it again.
Reviewer: Stephen Clark
Nov 17th, 2007
This should be really good and accessible for 11 year olds doing KS3 7I Energy Resources...BUT... I think your page layout designers missed a trick here, why aren't the consequences both good and bad available in the right size frames to cut and stick onto the snakes and ladders master grid? If there was a ready sized version of the different consequences it would be much easier for students to place their snakes and ladders with the appropriate comments. I know I can probably do the size changing myself - but when everything has been thought out carefully it seemed an obvious thing to do. We'll still be doing this next week and having fun.
Reviewer: Elizabeth Lockwood
Nov 17th, 2007
thanks for an activity which is creative, relevant & fun to do, I plan to use this with year 10 & yr 7 next week.
Reviewer: jacqueline swift
Nov 16th, 2007
Very creative and current, will be able to use when I start my lessons on energy. The linking of the pros and cons to snake and ladder game will definetely generate interest.