Grade Range: 4-6

ACF Lesson Plan: Science: Coal to Electricity


Students examine what electricity is, where it comes from, and how we use it.

Download a PDF version of this lesson.




Students will:
  1. Share their previous knowledge about electricity
  2. Explore how coal and other resources are converted to electricity
  3. Consider implications of electricity shortages
  4. Provide ways they can reduce their electricity consumption

National Standards:

  • NGSS-4-ESS3-1: Obtain and combine information to describe that energy and fuels are derived from natural resources and their uses affect the environment.

Time Needed:

One class period


  • Internet access
  • Paper and pencil, or access to word processing program


  1. Begin by asking students what they know about electricity.
    • What is it?
    • How is it used?
    • How is it generated?
  2. Have students watch these two videos:
  3. Ask students to explain the role that coal has in creating electricity.
    • Where does the coal come from?
    • What is done to coal in this process?
    • How does the steam created by the burned coal produce electricity?
  4. Ask students to think about things that happen in their community when the electricity goes off.
    • When does this happen?
    • Why does it happen?
    • What are at least 20 things that don’t work properly when there is no electricity? Think beyond your school or your house. When might public safety be an issue?
  5. In closing, ask students where electricity comes from to power their school. How about their home? Guide them to connect the use of coal at their local power plant.


Have the students compare their lists of ideas with a partner. What ideas did they have in common? Are there other ideas they can think of together?


  1. An extension is to investigate the implications of extended power outages, lasting a day, a week, a month, or more. Students might research powerful storms and find out what did happen due to the extended lack of electricity after events like Hurricane Katrina. They could report in a video format, playing the role of a newscaster, and discuss their findings.
  2. Students might also explore the different types of coal and their uses:
  3. Another option is for students to research your state’s role in coal and produce a written or video report:


Students needing more support could be required to come up with 10 ideas for each part of the activity instead of 20. You might have partners work together through the entire lesson as appropriate. Share