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A Day In Science
Monday afternoon was extremely boring… I normally enjoy Physical Science, but today was confusing.
I look over at my best friend, Amber, and asked, “Hey, do you understand this?”
“No. Why do we have to learn this? We’re never going to use it!” Her sarcasm was immensely annoying today.
“Great, we are going to flunk the quiz,” I muffled through my arms.
“Come on, Kris. We’ll get it! Mr. Green will explain it.” Her reassurance was doubtful.
We sat there for about five more minutes before the teacher actually noticed Amber waving her pale hand in the air. Her bracelets clinked against her wrist as she almost bounced out of her seat. Her question popped the silent bubble in the classroom. Everyone turned and looked at the two of us with tired eyes from the long lecture that was flooding the blank walls.
“Yes,” the teacher said and pushed his glasses back on the bridge of his nose.
“Well, Mr. Green your lecture was amazing, but I’m still having trouble understanding the concept. What does it matter? So what if we use up the non renewable resources?” I slowly lifted my head as Amber continued.
“Okay, I see your point. So what? Well, what if we used all the fossil fuels; from where would we get future power? Because fossil fuels are limited we have to find another source, so you guys,” he waved his arm about the room suggesting everyone, “will still have electricity.”
“So what you’re saying is that if we don’t find a way to use renewable resources then we won’t have electricity in the future?” I glanced at her my sarcasm building, I thought, well duh, he just said that dork!
“Yes. Take solar power, for instance. The solar panels aren’t hard to use or fairly expensive. Cars are slowly being built with them. But it’s not convenient enough. I mean one day of solar power lasts the earth a whole year! So, why don’t we use it?” He took his glasses off.
“Because we’re too dependent on fossil fuels? I think we should take the time to try alternative power. It just makes sense to use it, if it is there to use.” Amber’s ideas pleased Mr. Green.
“That’s correct. Miss Marks, you look confused,” I was snapped out of my dream state when he spoke my name.
“What,” I asked and picked at the edge of my t-shirt.
“Do you understand,” Mr. Green asked.
“Well, I am still confused about the use of non-renewable resources. I mean, why can’t we just use wind power or hydroelectricity…wouldn’t they be more efficient?”
The smile that spread across his lips was full of pride, “First of all, let me just say that all of those are efficient…but they aren’t always the best choice, depending on where you live. For instance, if you’re in the middle of Arizona, then you aren’t going to use hydroelectricity…considering you’re in the middle of the desert, but solar power would be a perfect resource for those living conditions. People living on the coast, however, would have the most variety in the options of renewable resources. When living on the coast or near a river you can use hydroelectricity, from the sea, solar power from the sun, or wind power from the breezes on the beach. Wind power is also an effective resource considering the fact that if you’re in the right place, you can have an endless supply.”
“Alright,” Amber held her hands up and her rings flashed in the florescent lights, “Now you’re going a little too fast for me. There’s so many locations for these resources that I’m confused where they’d all be efficient. Let’s choose one location and then talk about the resources available there.”
“Well, let’s choose the coast; hydroelectricity is very convenient because you are by the water. If you were in the Great Plains you wouldn’t use hydroelectricity,” he explains to her.
“So in the Great Plains we would use-?”
“Wind power because it is open and a lot of wind is around there.” I saw her light bulb come on.
“And in the desert we would use solar power,” Amber said proudly.
“Then where would nuclear power be used?” Her question was one of my own.
“Well Nuclear power is used all around the world. Nuclear power plants need at least 200 or 300 acres of land and have to be by large bodies of water, because they are required to cool down. Most countries don’t have enough water to power them, so they end up going back to fossil fuels. And why is that bad?” Mr. Green looked at me then at Amber.
“Because fossil fuels are non-renewable,” Amber popped.
“Yes. Now let’s talk about geothermal energy. It is available anywhere, but it is dangerous because it could burn diggers, and they could go into the mantel. It is normally used to heat and cool homes, but again it is DANGEROUS.”
So we spent almost the whole class on alternative power, but I finally got it. Mr. Green has always been a teacher that explains, and helps. He normally doesn’t lecture, but that day he was really trying to get everyone to understand. Mr. Green’s short figure leaned against the board as he explained.
“Some Biomass comes from corn. Well, the ethanol in corn is converted into a resource we are able to use as an efficient fuel, which is biodiesel. Farmers get paid for the products that they provide, and the product prices will remain if they are able to continue growing these crops on their own land.” He paused and looked over to the window. “Before this school was built, it was a wheat field, but the School Board paid off the farmer, and we stripped away the grain and laid down the concrete for the school. So let’s say that the school wasn’t here right now, and the wheat field was a corn field. The farmers owning the land would be able to sell their products so that the people buying supplies would be able to convert it to ethanol. Although it is a reliable resource, there’s not that much energy per acre for using corn as bio fuel. But prairie grass is proven to be a more beneficial resource.”
The whole class was silent for once; Amber was trying to scribble the notes. She paused and chewed on the end of her pencil before looking up to see Mr. Green sit back at his desk.
“Wait,” she called, and her cat eyes took in the room still scribbling notes like she was doing before. “What about hydrogen?”
“What about hydrogen?” Mr. Green pushed a stack of paper away from him and rested his chin on folded hands.
“Well, isn’t it used as fuel as well?”
“Yes, in fact the government is at the forefront of the push for hydrogen energy. Generally, it is manufactured through steam reformation of natural gas. The most common use for it is to run fuel cells, and even though it is a great resource, we have to find a way to get it in a clean and cheap form--”
The bell rang and shattered his train of thought; we walked over to the front of the class as everyone else filed out of the room.
“Thanks for the lesson, Mr. G,” Amber said and waved as she pulled me out of the room.
“Thanks,” I called as we passed the doorway.
I was reminded that this was the last question of eighth grade and pushed the double doors open that led to the bus lanes. This was our last day in middle school, and I thanked Mr. Green for everything he taught us. I would miss his class, but he sent us away prepared for our teenage venture: high school.