Lesson 5: Energy


Energy is a big subject on the world stage right now. We are running out of exploitable fossil fuels, so it is key that we develop renewable energy sources. However, each has its pros and cons. It is essential that the participants understand the importance of alternate energy sources so they can invest in them as they have control over their energy use.

Learning Objectives

  • Understand the problems with mining for fuel
  • Look at alternate energy sources and their advantages and disadvantages
  • Master ways that they can personally, and in the fellowship, save energy

Chalice Lighting

(5 minutes)

Use the words below or one you find yourself.

We light this Unitarian Universalist chalice
with open minds, helping hands, and loving hearts.


(5-10 minutes)

Go around in a circle or have participants randomly share how their week has been. Remind them to be respectful of whatever each person has to share and to keep their thoughts brief. It is important to make a space where everyone feels safe and comfortable and to respect where each person is coming from that day. If time allows, go around twice; once for news and once for joys and sorrows. It is important that the leaders participate in the check-in to build a relationship with the participants.


Read to the participants this story about a green energy movement in Denmark.


Cookie Mining

(10-20 minutes)


Not only does burning fossil fuels cause problems with pollution and the release of greenhouse gases, but their extractions from the earth also creates problems by destroying the environment in the area. In this activity participants will understand the problems with coal mining.


  • One hard chocolate chip cookie per student (Chips Ahoy!, Mother’s, etc.)
    • you may want to buy extra so you can give them cookies afterwards
  • One napkin or plate per student
  • One toothpick per student
  • White printer paper for each student
  • Pens or pencils for each student


Outside or at tables.


NOTE: Be sure to check for allergies beforehand and buy cookies that are nut free.

  1. Explain coal mining to participants and what coal is used for. You can tell them that the U.S. is one of the largest producers of coal, but that there is less and less easily available to extract.
  2. Give each student a chocolate chip cookie, plate or napkin, toothpick, paper, and writing utensil. Explain that the cookie is a coal mine and the chocolate chips are the coal. The participants are coal miners who will be extracting as many chocolate chips as possible in two minutes using the toothpick.
  3. Before they start mining, have the participants draw their cookies as accurately as possible on their paper.
  4. Have the participants begin mining. Give them about two minutes, but you can change the time depending on how well they are doing.
  5. When time is called have the participants draw their cookies again. Discuss the process. What does the change in their cookies’ appearance mean for mining the earth? What would happen to the plants and animals that live above the mine? How much waste was there (crumbs) compared to the coal extracted?
  6. Let the participants eat their cookies and/or give them fresh ones.

Alternate Energy Sources

(10-20 minutes)


There are many other options for energy besides fossil fuels. In this activity participants will brainstorm other ways energy can be created and what the advantages and disadvantages of each are. Here are links giving information on different energy sources:


  • Five pieces of butcher paper
  • Markers


Space with walls clear enough to put posters up.


  1. Give your participants a brief overview of each of the types of energy. Ask them what they already now as well.
  2. Put up the butcher paper in different places in the space. Draw a vertical line down the middle and write “pros” on one side and “cons” on the other.
  3. Give each student a marker and walk around the classroom adding pros and cons of the energy sources to the papers.
  4. Discuss each energy source and why it might be used including how it’s used in your community. Have the participants think about if some are better than others, and if so, which energy sources the community should consider switching to.

How We Use Energy

(15-20 minutes)


We literally use energy for every action we make in our lives. This activity will help participants understand how ubiquitous our energy use is and where they can conserve in their everyday lives.


  • Brightly colored sticky notes (enough for 5-10 per student)
  • Whiteboard or butcher paper
  • Markers


An area inside the building, the larger the better. Including the kitchen would be ideal.


  1. Go over the concept of energy with your participants. Explain that energy is the power to do work by making a change on something. For example, causing movement. It does not only have to come in the form of electricity, but humans also have energy, as does the sun etc.
  2. Hand out stickie notes to the participants and instruct them to move about the space and put a sticky on every item that uses or produces energy. They can put them on each other, but they need to be respectful of each others’ space.
  3. When they have run out of stickies or they seem to be slowing down, gather the participants for discussion. How many items in the room have stickies? Have the participants brainstorm ways in which you could save energy with each of the items that have a sticky and write them on the whiteboard or Are there lamps that are never used? If you’re in the kitchen, should you use a microwave or the oven? Explore the Energy Conservation Contract (PDF, 16 pages) for easy ways to save energy to suggest to the participants.
  4. Ask everyone to collect the stickies again and reuse them.


(10 minutes)

Have the student check in about their DOT projects. Do they have questions? What is hard? What is easy? Challenge them to encourage someone else to do a DOT.


Have one student extinguish the chalice while everyone reads the closing words.

We extinguish this flame but not the light of truth,
the warmth of community,
or the fire of commitment.
These we carry in our hearts until we are together again.