Transportation of people and all of our stuff accounts for almost one-third of all carbon emissions in the U.S. This means that if you want to reduce your carbon footprint, one of the biggest ways you can make a difference is by how you get around.

About This Video

Grade level: 6-10
Length: 4 minutes
​NGSS Disciplinary Core Ideas: MS-ESS3.A, MS-ESS3.C, MS-ESS3.D, MS-ETS1.1

In this video, we'll navigate through some sustainable transportation options.  Below are discussion questions you can use in the classroom in conjunction with this video to get your students thinking critically about their own transportation habits.

Video Discussion Questions

  1. What are carbon emissions? Why does transportation contribute to carbon emissions?

  2. What do you think is meant by ‘carbon footprint’? Why might you want to ‘reduce your carbon footprint’? Are there benefits to doing this?

  3. What is one of the biggest ways we can reduce our carbon footprint?

  4. Why do you think carpooling or riding with other people on a bus uses less energy than driving alone?

  5. What are some of the advantages of carpooling? What are some drawbacks?

  6. Are electric vehicles always more energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly compared to gasoline-powered vehicles? Why or why not?

  7. How do electric vehicles work? Where do they get their energy from?

  8. What might be some advantages to electric vehicles? What might be some drawbacks?

  9. What do you think a ‘biofuel’ is? What types of materials can be made into biofuels?

  10. What do you think are some of the benefits of biofuels? What are some drawbacks?

  11. Where do you stand? Do you think we can convince more Americans to take public transportation? Are biofuels enough? Or should we focus on building a grid for electric vehicles?

  12. What do you think would be the best solution for your city or town? What kind of information might you need to gather to find out?

Vocabulary for Students

Some of the topics and vocabulary in this video might be new to your students. To help with this, we've created a handout that your students can refer to as they watch this video and work through the accompanying activity:

Accompanying Activity: Building Better Buses

Transportation lesson

This lesson is composed of three challenges, each addressing a different aspect of how to design an efficient public bus system for a fictitious town while taking into account the benefits and drawbacks of various fuel options. All challenges involve mathematical and computational thinking and modeling that is connected not only to the NGSS, but also to the middle school Common Core math standards. Depending on the time you have and your curriculum goals, you can employ one, two, or all three of the challenges in your classroom!

Connections to the Next Generation Science Standards

While this video doesn't necessarily cover the following standards in depth, it is a compelling resource you can use to supplement your curriculum that does.  

Disciplinary Core Ideas (Grades 6-8):

  • MS-ESS3.A: Natural Resource

  • MS-ESS3.C: Human Impacts on Earth System

  • MS-ESS3.D: Global Climate Change

  • MS-ETS1.1: Engineering Design

Crosscutting Concepts (Grades 6-8):

  • Influence of Science, Engineering, and Technology on Society and the Natural World

Exploring Energy: About This Unit

Energy is an important part of our everyday lives.  We use energy to cook, get around, and send emails.  In this unit, we'll explore the issues associated with fossil fuels and how people are coming up with innovative sustainable energy alternatives for a brighter future.


MIT News: Can today's EVs make a dent in climate change?
Read how researchers at MIT found that replacing conventional vehicles with electric ones could play a significant role in climate change mitigation.

USDOT: Sustainability and the Transportation System
How is the U.S. Department of Transportation incorporating sustainable principles and practices into the nation's transportation system?

Planes, Trains, or Bicycles: Being a Low-Impact Traveler
Another media-rich lesson for grades 6-8 from the California Academy of Sciences challenging students to develop a low-carbon travel plan.

Better Biofuels
The California Academy of Sciences' Science News team brings you a summary of articles and studies exploring biofuels.

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