Lesson – Pretzel Power

biofuel image


Title: Pretzel Power
Grade: 4th Grade
Duration: 45 Minutes

Please note: This is a Project Based Learning Project with four separate steps.


The students will recognize the energy efficiency of different kinds of transportation and the benefits of carpooling.



Step One:

  1. KWL-What do you know about how vehicles move?
  2. Discuss what they know and what they would like to know.
  3. Divide students into groups of 2-3, each representing a different type of energy source.
    • Natural Gas
    • Propane
    • Ethanol
    • Electric Vehicles
    • Hybrid Electric Vehicles
    • Biodiesel
    • Diesel
    • Gasoline
    • Petroleum
    • Hydrogen
  4. Next, introduce the unit of study, by sharing background information on different forms of energy used for transportation.
  5. Now it’s time for them to research their energy form.
  6. Allow access to the computer, school library and/or make copies of the suggested Informational Text found at:
  7. Allow 3-6 days for students to gather information.

Step Two:

1. Have groups create a display board, creatively, putting together acquired information on their energy source.

Suggested Materials:

  • 11X17 White/Manila Construction Paper
  • Colored Pencils/Crayons/ Markers

Step Three:

  1. Have groups present their boards.
  2. Have students complete the“L”from the KWL chart.
  3. Discuss their findings
  • What did they learn about the different types of energy sources?
  • Which one form better for them, society, or the future? Why?

Step Four:

  1. In this section, directions can be a bit tricky. However, it is a great exercise for students to apply their knowledge on energy sources used in transportation.

Pretzel Power Experiment

Prior to starting, prepare a plastic bag with ten pretzels for each group. You may do this in your classroom, however; you will need a large space. We recommend doing it outside.

  1. Have groups look up a car they would like to drive on FuelEconomy.gov. 
  2. Or you can distribute pre-made cards found at: Elementary Transportation Fuels Info Book
  3. On 3”x5”index cards, students should record the car’s name, model year, combined miles per gallon, and the number of passengers the car holds. See samples below:


physical science image


  1. Have students make three signs: one labeled “Home” one labeled “Near Town”and one labeled “Far Town”. The signs should be large enough to see from across the room.
  2. Select a large area and place the Home, Near Town, and Far Town signs on cones, poles, walls, or desks.
  3. Have students “guesstimate” where they think these locations should be.

Group members will need to determine who will represent HOME, NEAR TOWN, FAR TOWN.

  1. Distribute the bag of pretzels to each group.
  2. Tell groups not to eat the pretzels until they are told to.
  3. Explain to the students that each pretzel represents one gallon of gasoline, and each step (heel-to-toe) the student takes represents one mile traveled.
  4. Students eat a pretzel and take the appropriate number of steps before eating the next pretzel. All steps are heel-to-toe.

Round One:

  1. Using only 5 pretzels for this round. Each person will drive his/her car.
  2. Students will go to work in“ Near Town” and return “Home.” If anyone runs out of fuel (pretzels), he/she must stay at that point until round one is over.
  3. Now ask them to step heel-to-toe to Near Town approximately 50 steps from HOME.
  4. Line up at “Home” and start stepping!


  1. Which cars got you to work and home? Which didn’t?
  2. Did anyone have extra fuel remaining?
  3. What are the alternatives to driving your own car are there?

Round Two:

  1. Using the remaining five pretzels, try some of the suggestions discussed above. Expect “negotiations.” Suggest students carpool to work.
  2. Drivers may combine each passenger’s pretzels for fuel.
  3. Everyone will travel to “Far Town” and return “Home”. Line up at “Home” and start stepping!
  4. The distance to Far Town should be approximately 100 steps from HOME


  1. Who made it to “Far Town” and back? How did you do this?
  2. Who did not make it to “Far Town” and back? Why not?


Transportation Conventional and Alternate Fuels How is it Used? is a PBL assignment which was adapted from Pretzel Power found at: Elementary Transportation Fuels Info Book