Most energy in the United States is produced by coal, petroleum, and natural gas. Petroleum is also made into a lot of everyday items, from toothpaste to laptops. It seems like fossil fuels are important to us, so what's the problem?

About This Video

Grade level: 6-10
Length: 4 minutes
​NGSS Disciplinary Core Ideas: MS-ESS2.A, MS-ESS3.A, MS-ESS3.C, MS-ESS3.D, MS-PS1.B

In this video, we'll focus on fossil fuels—what they are, and why they are a problem for the environment.  Below are discussion questions you can use in the classroom in conjunction with this video to get your students thinking critically about the issues with fossil fuels and what we can do to solve them.


Video Discussion Questions

  1. What are fossil fuels?

  2. What are the three main types of fossil fuels? How did they form, and how long did it take?

  3. How do fossil fuels produce energy?

  4. What is petroleum used for?

  5. What are some of the benefits of fossil fuels? What are some of their drawbacks?

  6. What is the ‘greenhouse effect’? What does it do?

  7. How are fossil fuels related to the greenhouse effect?

  8. What have been the effects of our increased use of fossil fuels?

  9. What is a ‘nonrenewable resource’? Why might using a nonrenewable resource be a problem?

  10. What solutions have some people come up with to decrease their use of fossil fuels? What are some ways that you can reduce your use of fossil fuels?

  11. What do you think ‘sustainable’ means? Can you name something that is sustainable? How about something that isn’t sustainable?


Science Texts and Vocabulary for Students

Your students can read about and evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of fossil fuels:

Some of the topics and vocabulary in this video might be new to your students.  To help with this, we've created a handout that your students can refer to as they watch this video and work through the associated activity:


Accompanying Activity: The Heat is On

Fossil fuels lesson

Cause and Effect and Climate
In this lesson, students will practice distinguishing between correlation and causation within the context of global climate change. Students will think critically and analyze different claims and datasets related to what might be causing increasing temperatures in a fictitious town called Solutionville, as well as around the globe.

Get ready, because the heat is on!


Connections to the Next Generation Science Standards

While this video doesn't necessarily cover the following standards in depth, it is a compelling resource you can use to supplement your curriculum that does.

Disciplinary Core Ideas (Grades 6-8):

  • MS-ESS2.A: Earth’s Materials and Systems

  • MS-ESS3.A: Natural Resources

  • MS-ESS3.C: Human Impacts on Earth Systems

  • MS-ESS3.D: Global Climate Change

  • MS-PS1.B: Chemical Reactions


Exploring Energy: About This Unit

Energy is an important part of our everyday lives. We use energy to cook, get around, and send emails. In this unit, we'll explore the issues associated with fossil fuels and how people are coming up with innovative sustainable energy alternatives for a brighter future.



NASA Global Climate Change Quiz: How's Your Energy Level?
Test your knowledge of energy and its role in Earth's climate system with this online quiz.

NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory: Carbon Dioxide from Fossil Fuel Combustion
Watch a data visualization showing the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels between 2011-2012.

U.S. Department of Energy: How Fossil Fuels were Formed
Learn more about the formation of coal, oil, and natural gas. 

Scripps Institute of Oceanography: The Keeling Curve in One Minute
Watch a one-minute explanation of one of the most important climate change datasets—the Keeling Curve.


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