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Systems and Scale | Activity 4.5

Activity 4.5: Explaining Ethanol Burning (40 min)

Students use the Explanations Tool to explain what happens to ethanol when it burns.

Materials You Provide

Resources Provided


Print one copy of the 4.5 Explanations Tool for Ethanol Burning for each student. Return students’ completed versions of the 4.3 Evidence-Based Arguments Tool for Ethanol Burning for review.


1. Use the instructional model to show students where they are in the course of the unit.

Show slide 2 of the 3.1 Predictions about Soda Water Fizzing PPT.


During the class, circulate while students are comparing their explanations. Listen to see if they are able to explain ethanol burning at both the macroscopic and atomic-molecular scales. Use 4.5 Grading the Explanations Tool for All Fuels Burning to grade your students’ work on the 4.5 Explanations Tool for Ethanol Burning. This worksheet accompanies explanations tools for all examples of combustion in this unit. At this point in the lesson, students should be held accountable for correct answers.


  • Make sure students understand that the chemical energy in ethanol (not ethanol itself) is converted to heat and light energy.
  • Make sure that students discuss and understand all three columns of the Three Questions 11 x 17 Poster or Three Questions Handout. They play a central role in all Carbon TIME units.


If time allows, have students revisit their initial predictions tools from Activity 4.1. Comparing their early predictions to their final explanations may show a greater change in their thinking over time.