ELEMENTARY CURRICULUM CORN ETHANOL. Fueling Our Future

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1 ELEMENTARY CURRICULUM CORN ETHANOL Fueling Our Future

2 I. Enduring Knowledge: Students will understand how the application of new technologies in corn production can transform Wisconsin farming to make it more productive and environmentally sensitive. Learning Targets: Students will know the components of a corn stalk, an ear of corn, and a kernel of corn. Students will understand that all of the parts of the corn plant are used to make consumer products, such as a variety of ethanol fuel, food additives, cosmetic additives, animal feed, paint, crayons, and other products. Students will learn about how corn is used to make ethanol. Students become informed about technology in farming today. Students learn about the renewal of energy in corn ethanol. Vocabulary: 1. Bran or Pericarp: Outer part of corn that protects the kernel. 2. Germ: The inner layer of a corn kernel contains protein, oil and enzymes that can be made into other products. 3. Endosperm: The rich carbohydrate (starch) part of the corn kernel. 4. Ethanol: A clean-burning renewable fuel made from corn, grain, or other biomass sources. 5. Exports: Goods for sale or exchange to other countries. 6. Fermentation: The breaking down of carbohydrates by microorganisms. 7. Fractionation: The breaking down of corn kernels into smaller parts. These parts are then used for different products or energy. 8. Pollination: The transfer of pollen for fertilizing plants. 9. Fertilizer: An organic or synthetic substance usually added to or spread on soil to support plant growth. 10. DDGS (Dried Distillers Grain with Solubles): the high protein feed product produced as a coproduct of the ethanol distillation process. 11. Distillation: the process of taking the fermented ethanol mix and removing all the water - creating a final product of nearly 100% alcohol. 12. Cellulosic Ethanol: Ethanol made from any plant matter that doesn t necessarily contain natural sugars or starch. Process breaks down the cellulose in the plant to produce a starch or sugar so the yeast can then produce ethanol from that sugar. 13. Yeast: Yeast are a group of unicellular fungi that make ethanol and carbon dioxide as byproducts as they consume a mixture of corn, grain or other plant material, plus water and sugar. 14. Enzyme: Proteins that break down starch into simple sugars in the fermentation process. 1

3 II. Background Notes for Teachers: The video could support learning about making energy, production of ethanol, recycling, plant life, technology, and farming. The short length video is a practical supplement to a unit on alternative energy. The video can be presented in its entirety or as a series of separate segments. The material can be divided into two sections for discussion (1) corn facts and (2) how corn is used to make ethanol and other products. III. Viewing Guide: How Corn is Grown and Harvested 1. On some farms today, corn is grown differently than it was in the past. Conservation tillage or no till planting means the ground is not tilled in the spring, but new corn crops are planted over the remnants of corn crops from the previous year. No till planting helps fight erosion, promotes healthier soil, and saves fuel. 2. Fertilization is important for growing crops and getting a better yield of corn. From 1967 to 2007 bushels per acre have almost doubled in yield due to fertilization practices. 3. Corn grows in about 130 days, and must dry before being harvested, except for sweet corn that is eaten by people. 4. Combines are used to harvest the corn. The most modern combines use high technology computers to maximize efficiency and production. How Corn is Used to Make Ethanol and Other Products 1. U.S. farmers grow about twelve billion bushels of corn each year, and out of that three billion is used to make ethanol. The remaining nine billion bushels leave plenty of corn to make other products and feed farm animals. 2. Some ethanol plants use fractionation to process the kernel of corn in order to make ethanol. The largest fractionation plant in the world is located in Jefferson WI. 3. Some ethanol plants fractionate the kernel into different parts, the bran, the germ, and the starch. 4. Fermentation of the starch produces ethanol. 5. After fermentation, the ethanol is separated from the residue grain through the distillation process. The ethanol becomes fuel and the residue grain is used to produce dried distillers grain with solubles (DDGS) to be used as animal feed. 6. Other parts of the kernel can also be made into other products such as corn oil, bran, germ, and animal feed. 7. E t h a n o l i s a n e f fi c i e n t, c l e a n b u r n i n g, a n d r e n e w a b l e f u e l ; t h i s m a k e s e t h a n o l g o o d f o r o u r e n v i r o n m e n t. 8. Every vehicle on the road can handle some ethanol. In fact, most of the fuel we use contains 10 percent ethanol. But to use E85, or 85 percent ethanol, you need a special engine called a Flex-Fuel engine. 9. Ethanol production - from the field to the vehicle - has a large and growing positive fossil energy balance - meaning ethanol generates more energy than it takes to produce it. 2

4 To make ethanol, corn has to contain less than 15 percent moisture, so corn is loaded into a dryer and the moisture is sweated out. It is then cooled and put into temporary storage until it is ready to be sent to the ethanol plant. At the ethanol plant, the corn goes through a hammer mill and is ground very fine, similar to chicken feed. That ground corn is then added to water and enzymes. The mash is cooked and the enzymes break down the starch in the corn. That starch is broken down into simple sugar. Yeast is added, which feeds on the sugar, creating ethanol. The ethanol plant makes a strong alcohol, so a bit of regular gasoline is added to make it inconsumable for humans. After that, the ethanol is loaded into tankers, where gas stations mix it and sell it as E85, which contains 85 percent ethanol or E10, meaning 10 percent ethanol. Out of every bushel, or 56 pounds of corn, producers can make almost three gallons of ethanol. But that s not the only valuable commodity produced. That same bushel of corn will also create roughly 18 pounds of a high protein, high fat feed known as DDGS, which farmers introduce back to their lifestock. And ethanol can be made from more than just corn - it can also be made from the sugars found in other grains such as sorghum and wheat, as well as potato skins, rice, and yard clippings. IV. Classroom Discussion: The viewing guide above can be used to create points of discussion in each section or at completion of video viewing. Some of the following questions may be given to the students before viewing the video. It is good to have the children pick a certain number of questions they think they could answer before viewing the video. This allows children to look over the questions first and also to make some choices in their learning. 1. As you watch the video, write down two or three facts that you think are important to understanding the topic. 2. As you watch the video, write down something you think would be important to teach someone else about this topic. 3. Why do you think it would be important to get more corn per acre? Do you think the farmers will reach their goal of producing 200 bushels of corn in 2030? Why or why not? 4. Finding new sources of energy is important to our world. What do you think about the idea of using corn to produce new energy? 5. Can you compare the ethanol energy with another source of energy? What are the advantages and disadvantages of either of the sources of energy? 6. Does ethanol production have a significant impact on U.S. oil usage? 7. How does using alternative fuels, such as ethanol, affect the U.S. s dependence on foreign oil? 3

5 V. Drawing Activity: There are a number of points where teachers may want to stop the video to have students make drawings of the information. Examples of this might be the place in the video where parts of the kernel of corn are shown or the visual showing the parts of a stalk of corn. These drawings may be used to help support another project or just for assessment. VI. Assessment and Extra Assignments: For credit or extended learning for higher level learners. Assessment will depend on how teachers use the video. 1. Teachers may want to use the material for other student driven projects. As an example, students could compare ethanol with other sources of energy. Some students might want to pick up on comparing farms of today with farms at a much earlier time period. 2. Teachers may use the viewing questions as assessment of student understanding of the topic. 3. Assessment might also be done by drawings done by the students. These drawings would show an understanding of a product or source material such as a kernel of corn, or a process such as how corn grows, or how ethanol is produced. 4. Encourage individual or group research projects such as this example on E85: How much E85 is now being produced? How many car/truck models can use E85? How many stations offer E85 in Wisconsin? 5. Refer students to corn-specific websites (National Corn Growers Association Iowa Corn Growers Renewable Fuels Association Growth Energy www. growthenergy.org) to design their own research projects. 6. Create debate activities around questions such as: How much energy is used to produce ethanol? Does it compare favorably to other forms of energy production? Has ethanol production reduced the amount of corn available for food or increased food prices at the supermarket? 7. Research a car purchase. Look at original costs of regular and flex-fuel cars; mileage efficiency; longterm cost savings (if any) of flex-fuel cars; and the effect of both types of cars on our environment. 8. Visit the American Lung Association ( website to examine the impact of emissions from ethanol and gasoline combustion. 4

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