Nov 21, 2013 by

agenda-283x195Motivation Science, published by Mentoring Minds, have a liberal view of environmental matters (pro-alternative energy and pro-global warming

by Henry W. Burke



[Comments from Donna Garner:  Mentoring Minds is marketing its science instructional materials (please see two attachments) as being aligned with the Common Core Standards even though the Common Core Standards for Science (a.k.a., Next Generation Science Standards — NGSS) have not yet been finalized.


However, the first NGSS draft was made public on 7.14.10 with the formal draft of the NGSS being released on 5.11.12; and the same philosophy of education is used throughout the Common Core Standards.  


Publishing companies have been privy to these NGSS drafts for years, and they have busily been preparing their instructional materials to conform with the Common Core Standards for Science.


Please see chart of Type #1 (Traditional) vs. Type #2 (Common Core/CSCOPE/Mentoring Minds) —   — Donna Garner]



Response to Mentoring Minds Unit 13 on Alternative Energy


by Henry W. Burke





Scope — This Unit is intended to align with this TEKS:


          TEKS 5.7 (c) identify alternative energy sources




I cannot fully judge these lessons based on the scant information provided.  What do the books and instructional materials (IM) say about this subject?  When we look at the worksheets, we are seeing only the tip of the iceberg.  We will not know the full size of the iceberg until we see the instructional materials.  Also, the context is important.  What material comes before and after this Unit?


The authors of Motivation Science, published by Mentoring Minds, appear to have a liberal view of environmental matters (pro-alternative energy and pro-global warming).  Let me explain.




Page 143 — Station 1: Solar Power


At first glance, this appears to be an interesting but innocent experiment.  The water in a black pan will be heated by the sun (solar energy).  Many students might walk away from this experiment with a false assumption — We can cook all of our food by placing a pan in the sun.  Obviously, this is ridiculous!


The instructions are:


          1.  Fill a black cooking pan with 2 cm of water.


Why are the Mentoring Minds authors using the metric system (cm, ml, Celsius) throughout this lesson when most of the country relies on the English (FPS) system?  The scientific and medical communities have embraced the metric system but most of the U.S. refused to make the switch.  


The experiment says fill the pan with 2 cm of water.  Will 3/4-inch of water fill a 3-inch-deep cooking pan?  What is the initial temperature of the water?  Most sinks are connected to both hot and cold water lines.  The beginning temperature of the water is important in this experiment.




Page 144 — Station 2: Wind / Hydroelectric Power


Apparently, wind and hydroelectric power are grouped together because they are both renewable energy sources.  However, they are quite different; each type of power should be treated separately.   


1.  Wind Power


The authors should emphasize that wind turbines are extremely expensive!  Without a federal subsidy for wind power, these projects would never be built.  That should explain something about the economics of wind power.


Because wind turbines only generate power when there is ample wind, the electric utility company must find other power sources to pick up the slack during the “off” hours.  Also, high-voltage transmission lines must be run for many miles to transmit the power to the electric customers.  Finally, wind turbines kill thousands of birds, including many endangered eagles.  Is that ever mentioned when wind turbines are proposed?




Station 3: Biofuel Power


This experiment does not prove much about biofuels except that a gas is produced.


Please examine the small box at the top of Page 143 — “Motivation Station: Mike’s Cool Science Fact.”  I realize that they might have wanted a clever little item to start the lesson but it is misplaced.  It should have been placed under “Station 3: Biofuel Power.”


In this box, notice that the burning of wood is mentioned.  The authors conveniently do not say that the burning of wood (and biofuels in general) emits air pollution.  The production of biofuels (like ethanol) consumes huge amounts of energy!  The ethanol industry would not exist if the federal government did not subsidize it. 


Is ethanol mentioned in the instructional materials?  Texas does not add ethanol to its gasoline and has very little interest in ethanol.




Page 145 — Question Sheet for Unit 13


This question sheet provides a few clues about the biases of the Mentoring Minds authors.  I will go through the questions one by one.



          1.  Hydroelectric, geothermal, and biofuel energy are all renewable sources of energy.


A question is not asked here.  All of the answers are partially true.



          2.  Which energy source is considered nonrenewable?


Clearly, “G” Natural gas is the answer.



          3.  The diagram below shows a dam and power plant.


I will critique the diagram itself before I get into the other aspects.  The sketch is fairly good but it could be improved in several ways.  The label should read “Concrete dam” not “Dam wall.”  The water is being discharged from the draft tubes well above the tailrace elevation (downstream pool).  This is unrealistic.  Label the water passage “Penstock” not “Penstock tube.”  Show the penstock connected to an intake tower instead of tapping directly into the upstream reservoir.  (Trashracks and intake gates are needed.)  The spent water is falsely labeled “Spillway.”  It should be labeled “Tailrace,” instead.  A spillway is usually located at the side of the dam; it is used for the emergency discharge of water.


Hydroelectric power is truly renewable and does not consume energy in its production (unlike biofuels).  With hydroelectric power, the same water can generate electricity many times as it passes through numerous powerhouses on its path to the ocean.


Many radical environmentalists have a strong bias against dams and do everything possible to keep them from being built.  The possible answers below reflect this bias. 


          3.  What is one positive impact of this electric power plant on the environment?


Instead of listing several objective answers, they list one positive response (B – Produces electricity without pollution) and three negative answers.  Environmentalists often decry that a dam “Obstructs the migration of fish” and “Changes the natural water temperatures.”  Of course, they like to mention that a dam “Causes the relocation of animals and people.”  This is an old trick; influence the audience or the opinion poll results through the particular questions and possible answers.



          4.  What is an advantage of using wind to produce electricity?


Obviously, they want the students to select “G” – “It is cost effective over time.”



          5.  What is one disadvantage of using wind energy…?”


Answers “A, B, and D” are rather positive.  The correct answer is “C – “The turbines are too large.”  This is a very weak drawback of using wind power.


          6.  Geothermal energy…


“J” is the correct answer (“is continually produced inside Earth”). 




ANSWER CODINGS — Teacher Addition (Student pages 143 – 145)



Station 1 — Solar Power


Answers may vary



Station 2 — Wind / Hydroelectric Power


1.  O.K.


2.  O.K.


3.  Wind Energy


Clearly, the authors are favoring wind energy.  They stress that wind energy is clean, does not release air pollutants, reduces use of fossil fuels, and is cost effective.  They list “tax break” as an advantage.  It is only a tax break to the company building the wind farm.  This sizeable tax break places an additional burden on all of us as taxpayers.  (There are no free rides.)  I was pleased that they placed bird deaths on the list of disadvantages.



Station 3 — Biofuel Power


They mentioned ethanol in this discussion.  Clearly, Mentoring Minds is pushing renewable energy resources in this Unit.  Once again, Texas does not use ethanol in its gasoline.



Station 4 — Geothermal Power


Geothermal power is a very limited power source in this country.  Geothermal energy is expensive and the power plants must be located in geothermally active areas (like California).  Possible water pollution is a problem that must be properly handled.


They mentioned “releases less than 1 % carbon dioxide.”  Even though carbon dioxide is a harmless gas, the radical environmentalists proclaim that it causes global warming.  Please see my earlier article on this subject, “Bias in School Lessons: Common Core’s Global Warming.”










Bio for Henry W. Burke



Henry Burke is a Civil Engineer  with a B.S.C.E. and M.S.C.E.  He has been a Registered Professional Engineer (P.E.) for 37 years and has worked as a Civil Engineer in construction for over 40 years. 


Henry Burke has experience in the air pollution control field through employment with the National Air Pollution Control Administration (NAPCA).  


Mr. Burke had a successful 27-year career with a large construction contractor. 


Henry Burke serves as a full-time volunteer to oversee various construction projects. He has written numerous articles on education, engineering, construction, environmental issues, politics, taxes, and the economy.



Henry W. Burke


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1 Comment

  1. Avatar
    Regan Howell

    Texas DOES use ethanol in gasoline. Two reasons; (1) RFS2 obligates refiners to either blend renewables into the existing fuel pool or buy RIN credits, and (2) ethanol is the cheapest blend component in gasoline. Unless your station specifically says “No Ethanol”, look at the pump. There is probably a yellow sticker that says “May contain up to 10% ethanol”.

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