Fuels, Past & Future

Fuels, Past & Future lesson plan

Hurray for horsepower! Make a timeline to show how coal, oil, animals, and many other energy sources enable people and vehicles to stay on the move.

  • 1.

    Brainstorm all the ways people have traveled throughout history. Consider modes of transportation around the world. Research when each type was popular. What fuels were used to power the vehicle? What environmental and economic effects were associated with each new invention? How have fuels, and their effects on the environment, changed?

  • 2.

    Create stand-up timelines to show differences between modern and historic modes of transportation, such as trains, automobiles, or ships.

  • 3.

    Fold a long piece of paper in half so the long edges meet. Bring each open edge up to meet the fold. Arrange paper with the center fold at the top. Run a line of Crayola® School Glue between the folds to keep the inside together. Air dry.

  • 4.

    Use Crayola Washable Markers to draw two-sided modes of transportation on the stand-up part of the paper. Make sure tops of vehicles meet the fold. Cut away open areas with Crayola Scissors.

  • 5.

    On one side of the base below each vehicle, write the name of the mode of transportation. Include details about its fuel efficiency and levels of pollution created. On the other side of the vehicle base, list dates the vehicle was in popular use and fuel


  • Students research the evolution of personal and commercial transportation vehicles and their fuels.
  • Students identify the environmental and economic impact of each invention and its fuel.
  • Students create stand-up timelines to demonstrate how different vehicles and their fuels have evolved over time.


  • Imagine and design stand-up vehicles for the future that use a yet-to-be-perfected fuel source, such as the sun or recycled garbage. Add predictions about when this newly invented energy source might come into use.
  • Create cars that will exist the year you will be old enough to drive. Consider features that might meet people's needs and be environmentally considerate. Determine new fuel sources. Arrange all cars with details in a "My First Car" parade. Tape stand-up
  • Take an inventory of the fuels used by your school, for space heating and cooling, cooking, water heating, transportation, electric power. Research the relative efficiencies of each fuel and their impact on the environment.