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The Great Popsicle Fuel Race

The Great Popsicle Fuel Race

This game provides a compelling visual representation of renewable verses non-renewable forms of energy. You’ll need a bundle of popsicle sticks and an open area. Here is how the game works:

1. Create two teams and have them stand on opposite each other, at a designated starting line.
2. The objective of the game is to lay the sticks out in a straight line, each stick touching the one behind it building the path as far and fast as possible. Each popsicle stick represents a unit of energy and students are trying to build a pathway of energy to provide fuel needed by an industrial society.
3. Give each team 20 popsicle sticks.
4. Team A gets all to start with all 20 popsicle sticks at once. They represent the various types of fossil fuels such coal, petroleum, natural gas, oil shales, bitumens, tar sands, and heavy oils. Team B gets only gets one popsicle stick every three to five seconds. They represent renewable energy such as wind power, solar power, bioenergy (organic matter burned as a fuel) and hydroelectric, including tidal energy.
5. Team A will take an early lead, but then will invariably run out of energy. It takes about three hundred million years before new fossil fuels are created and this occurs only if conditions are just right.
6. Team B represents renewable energy and will continue to receive three sticks every five seconds, eventually overtaking fossil fuel. Once all their sticks are in place, they can take from the start of their line to continue (again once every 3 to 5 seconds).
7. Renewable energy provides some energy everyday but does not pack as much energy as fossil fuels do. The key difference is that this form of energy is always available.
8. If you’d like to provide Team A with a few extra popsicle sticks, you can mention the new discovery of Fossil Fuels e.g. Fracking, Offshore oil fields.
9. Give out extra sticks to those who can provide valid ways of conserving energy. Do not allow repeats.
10. At the end, join the two lines and explain that we are facing an uncertain energy future. Because fossil fuels are becoming more progressively more difficult to find and extract, they are becoming more expensive and will eventually be so rare that they will become unaffordable. In addition, some types of extraction being used now (e.g. tar sands) are so energy intensive to extract, that they create much more pollution and emit tremendous amounts of greenhouse gases. Remind students that in many places in the world, much of our electricity comes from power plants that burn fossil fuels. In Ontario we are lucky because most of the energy produced is renewable in the form of hydro.
11. Fossil fuels take hundreds of millions of years to produce, we are using them very quickly. Future generations will bear the cost of their impacts. This is a great
opportunity to discuss climate change and how fossil fuels are contributing to a
warming Earth.

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