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Recycled Vegetable Oil Powers Vans, Cars




Arts & Humanities
--Language Arts
--Physical Science
----Earth Science
Social Studies
--Current Events


Grades 2-up

News Content

Vehicles powered by vegetable oil are one of the cleaner alternatives to gasoline-powered vehicles.

Anticipation Guide

Before reading, ask students to share what they know about how cars, vans, buses, and trucks are powered. For example, What kind of fuel do they use? Write down the information that students know so you can refer to it after they have read this weeks news story.

News Words

Next, introduce these words that appear in the News Word Box on the students printable page: diesel, designed, operate, engine, expensive, and fuel. Discuss the meanings of any of those words that might be unfamiliar. Then ask students to use one of those words to complete each of these sentences:

  • The winning racecar was powered by a 750-horsepower _____. (engine)
  • A smoke alarm is _____ to go off when it senses heat or smoke. (designed)
  • I would love to go to the Yankee game this weekend, but ticket prices have gotten too _____ for me. (expensive)
  • The new software is designed to _____ on both PCs and Macs. (operate)
  • Many different types of _____ are made from crude oil. (fuel)
  • A _____ engine is cleaner than a gasoline engine, but it is heavier. (diesel)

    Read the News

    Click for a printable version of this weeks news story Recycled Vegetable Oil Powers Vans, Cars.

    You might use a variety of approaches to reading the news:

    Read aloud the news story to students as they follow along.

    Students might first read the news story to themselves; then you might call on individual students to read sections of the news aloud for the class.

    Photocopy the news story onto a transparency and project it onto a screen. (Or use your classroom computer's projector to project the story.) Read the story aloud as a class, or ask students to take turns reading it.

    Arrange students into small groups. Each student in the group will read a paragraph of the story. As that student reads, others might underline important information or write notes in the margin of the story. After each student finishes reading, others in the group might say something -- a comment, a question, a clarification -- about the text.

    More Facts to Share

    You might share these additional facts with students after they have read this weeks news story.

  • Jared Fisher runs Escape Adventures, a tour company in Las Vegas, Nevada. The companys van fleet is used to accompany bikers on trips around the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and for many other purposes.
  • Fisher siphons used vegetable oil from containers that restaurants keep near their trash bins.
  • The amount of money Fisher saved in one year -- more than $9,000 -- is almost enough to cover the cost of modifications he made to six vans in his fleet.
  • Vegetable oils have similar properties to diesel fuel. The biggest difference is that vegetable oils are thicker. The modifications that Fisher made to his fleet would help account for this difference. The modified engine uses heat from the engine to preheat the vegetable oil, thus giving it a very similar thickness, or viscosity, to diesel fuel.
  • Fishers vans actually switch back and forth between diesel and vegetable oil. When he starts a van, he uses diesel. Once the engine is heated up and the vegetable oil is warmed to the proper viscosity, he switches over to vegetable oil. He switches back to diesel near the end of a trip because he doesnt want any vegetable oil to remain in the fuel lines or engine; remnants of the thicker oil might clog those lines when the engine is started cold again.
  • Some people and companies use diesel fuel in winter and switch over to vegetable oil in the summer, when the summer heat can aid in warming the vegetable oil to a proper viscosity.
  • Fisher made the switch because he is aware that the transportation industry, of which he is part, is the second largest source of carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. Besides helping to clean the air, Fisher chose to use vegetable oil because it enables his company to be part of the recycling process. The vegetable oil he uses would end up in landfills if he did not recycle it.
  • The first known use of vegetable oil was by Rudolph Diesel. He demonstrated a diesel engine" at a worlds fair in Paris, France, in 1898. The engine ran on peanut oil, which has been called the first biodiesel fuel. In subsequent years, research into the use of vegetable oil seemed to occur in waves; the research was much more active during periods when fuel supplies were low and expensive.
  • Vegetable oil fuels and todays biodiesel fuels are both based on vegetable oil, which often causes confusion. The difference is that biodiesel fuel has been modified from vegetable oil to meet the fuel standards for the modern diesel engine. Vegetable oil requires modifications to the engine in order to lower the natural viscosity of the vegetable oil.

    Comprehension Check

    Revisit the Anticipation Guide at the top of this lesson; ask students to add to the list they started in anticipation of reading. What new facts have they learned about how vehicles are powered and the kinds of fuels they use.

    You might follow-up that activity by asking some of these questions:

    Recalling Detail

  • Do more cars on todays roads use gas or vegetable oil for power? (Most cars use gas. Note: A very small percent of vehicles are powered by vegetable oil, but that number is growing.)
  • What are some advantages of using vegetable oil for fuel? (It is less expensive than gasoline or diesel. It is cleaner than gasoline, so it causes less air pollution.)
  • How many gallons of vegetable oil did Jared Fisher use in 2007? (about 3,000 gallons)
  • How much money did he save by using vegetable oil? ($9,000)
  • Where does Fisher get the vegetable oil he recycles? (He gets it from restaurants that use vegetable oil for cooking.)

    Think About the News
    Discuss the Think About the News question that appears on the students news page. You might use the think-pair-share strategy with students to discuss this question. If you use this strategy

  • First, arrange students into pairs to discuss and list responses to the question.
  • Then merge two pairs of students together to create groups of four students. Have them discuss and add to the ideas they generated in their pairs.
  • Next, merge two groups of four students to form groups of eight students. Have students create a new combined list of ideas.
  • Finally, bring all students together for a class discussion about things that can be recycled to make new products.

    Follow-Up Activities

    Math. Share with students this chart, which shows the current cost of gasoline and diesel fuel in the U.S. (averaged) and in specific regions. Have students do the math" to determine the difference in the prices of gasoline and diesel in the U.S. and each of the nine regions listed. (For example, during the week of March 31, the average price of gasoline in the U.S. was $3.29 a gallon. The average price of diesel was $3.96. By doing the math, students will learn that diesel costs 67 cents more a gallon than gasoline.)

    Language arts phonics. The letters ie can make different sounds in different words. Ask students to identify the sound that ie makes in the word diesel. Then ask students to identify the sound ie makes in any of the words below that they might know.

    Easy words for young readers:
    believe, brownie, chief, cookie, die, field, friend, lie, movie, piece, thief, view

    Words for older readers:
    Note: In some of these words (for example, audience and fiery) the ie sound is actually split between two syllables; it does not make a single sound as it does in diesel. achieve, ancient, anxiety, audience, boyfriend, briefcase, calorie, cashier, conscience, dietician, efficient, experience, fiendish, fiery, fiftieth, frontier, glacier, grievance, hieroglyphic, hygiene, impatient, kerchief, lieutenant, masterpiece, menagerie, necktie, notoriety, nutrient, obedient, patient, prairie, premiere, quiet, quotient, recipient, relieve, rookie, scientific, society, variety, viewpoint, windshield, zombie

    Science. The exhaust from cars, trucks, and buses releases nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide into the air. Those pollutants are among the causes of acid rain. To help students understand the concept of acid rain, you might try one of these hands-on science experiments:

    For younger students:

    A Green Penny
    After completing the experiment, point out to students that the reason the Statue of Liberty turned green (from its original copper) is due to a somewhat similar reaction. The statue naturally would have changed color due to exposure to the oxygen in the air. However, the acid in acid rain speeds up the reaction just as the vinegar (acetic acid) caused the reaction with the penny to occur in less than a week.

    For older students:
    The Effects of Acid Rain on Radish Plants (Grades 7-12)
    Yucky Lab Activities: Acid Rain (Grades 2-6)
    Looking at Acid's Effects on Metal (Grades 3-12)

    For additional lesson ideas for Earth Day, see Education Worlds Earth Day Archive.


    Use the Comprehension Check (above) as an assessment. Or have students work on their own (in their journals) or in their small groups to respond to the Think About the News question on the news story page.

    Lesson Plan Source

    Education World

    National Standards

    LANGUAGE ARTS: English
    GRADES K - 12
    NL-ENG.K-12.2 Reading for Understanding
    NL-ENG.K-12.12 Applying Language Skills

    MATHEMATICS: Number and Operations
    GRADES 3 - 5
    NM-NUM.3-5.3 Compute Fluently and Make Reasonable Estimates
    GRADES 6 - 8
    NM-NUM.6-8.3 Compute Fluently and Make Reasonable Estimates
    GRADES 9 - 12
    NM-NUM.9-12.3 Compute Fluently and Make Reasonable Estimates

    GRADES K - 4
    NS.K-4.2 Physical Science
    NS.K-4.4 Earth and Space Science
    NS.K-4.5 Science and Technology
    NS.K-4.6 Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
    GRADES 5 - 8
    NS.5-8.2 Physical Science
    NS.5-8.4 Earth and Space Science
    NS.5-8.5 Science and Technology
    NS.5-8.6 Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
    GRADES 9 - 12
    NS.9-12.2 Physical Science
    NS.9-12.4 Earth and Space Science
    NS.9-12.5 Science and Technology
    NS.9-12.6 Science in Personal and Social Perspectives

    GRADES K - 4
    NSS-C.K-4.5 Roles of the Citizen

    GRADES 5 - 8
    NSS-C.5-8.5 Roles of the Citizen
    GRADES 9 - 12
    NSS-C.9-12.5 Roles of the Citizen

    SOCIAL SCIENCES: Economics
    GRADES K - 12
    NSS-EC.K-4.1 Productive Resources
    NSS-EC.K-4.7 Markets and Market Prices
    NSS-EC.K-4.8 Supply and Demand
    NSS-EC.K-4.9 Competition in the Marketplace
    NSS-EC.K-4.11 Money

    GRADES K - 12
    NT.K-12.1 Basic Operations and Concepts
    NT.K-12.2 Social, Ethical, and Human Issues

    See recent news stories in Education Worlds News Story of the Week Archive.

    Article by Ellen Delisio and Gary Hopkins
    Education World®
    Copyright © 2008 Education World