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Content Benchmark E.8.C.7
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Atmospheric Process and Water Cycle
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Students know the characteristics, abundances, and location of renewable and nonrenewable resources found in Nevada. E/S

The discussion between renewable and nonrenewable resources has grown greatly in the past few decades, and will likely continue as the human population booms.  What makes one resource renewable and another nonrenewable is often open to interpretation and conservation.  An example would be lumber from trees.  Trees can be planted, and therefore many people believe that they are completely renewable.  This, however, is often not the case.  If we clear-cut and remove far more trees then can be grown within a lifetime the resource is not renewed within a usable amount of time.  When making an examination about which resources are renewable and which are nonrenewable we should consider a few terms:  infinite, extending, indefinitely, finite, and limited.  The importance of renewable and nonrenewable resources often revolves around two main usages, energy and material. 

Renewable vs. Nonrenewable Resources for Energy
Energy is derived from a multitude of sources, from damned rivers for hydroelectric power to nuclear fission, all with the same goal of electricity production.  The diagram below has categorized many of the renewable and nonrenewable resources used for the production of electricity. 

Energy Ant is the center of atoms.  The <a href=renewable energy atom is surrounded by pictures of renewable energy fuels: water, solar, wind, geothermal and biomass. The nonrenewable atom is surrounded by non-renewable energy fuels: oil, coal, nuclear, and natural gas. Secondary Energy Sources, electricity and hydrogen, are in the middle.">
Figure 1. Renewable and nonrenewable energy sources

The production of electricity is often generated by heating water to produce steam.  As the steam rises, because it is less dense then the surrounding material, it pushes a turbine that produces an electric current.  Wind power skips the steam process and uses the wind to turn the generator.  Solar power, photovoltaic cells, uses the Sun’s transferred energy to induce an electrical current. 

To learn more about the production of energy go to

Nonrenewable Resources
Of the energy sources listed above, what makes nonrenewable resources nonrenewable is their limited amounts, and slow regeneration processes.  Coal, natural gas, and oil (fossil fuels) are classified as nonrenewable not because they will never be produced again by Earth’s natural process, but because that process will take time in spans of millions of years.  So, to humans with life-spans far less, fossil fuels are nonrenewable resources.  Nuclear power, however, truly is a nonrenewable resource in that the presence of the fuel source (uranium 235) is finite on Earth. 

Renewable Resources
The energy sources listed on the right of the diagram (figure 1) show energy sources that are either constant like solar, wind, geothermal and water (as in rivers or rain collection), or can be reproduced within a reasonable amount of time such as biomass.  The Sun’s energy is constant and will be for at least the next 4.5 billion years.  The fact that we, especially in Nevada, can harness that power allows it to be classified as a renewable resource.  An interesting renewable resource is biomass.  Biomass can be thought of as trees and other fast growing plants such as corn and Sudan Grass, and the waste products of lumber harvesting.  Trees are a renewable resource as long as their removal doesn’t occur faster then their growth period.  More interestingly the byproducts of trees, like bio-fuels and oils, are proving to be very promising as fossil fuel alternatives.        

For more information about renewable and nonrenewable resources used for energy production go to

Ruby Hill open-pit gold mine.

 Figure 2. Ruby Hill open-pit gold mine picture

Renewable vs. Nonrenewable Resources for Production
What is most often heard in Nevada, as a great mining state, is that “If it isn’t grown, it has to be mined.”  The mining process is a means of obtaining natural resources from the Earth.  Resources like copper, gold, gypsum, etc., that are used in everyday life could be classified as both renewable and nonrenewable.  The total amount of these resources on Earth is finite, but unlike resources used in energy production, the minerals are not destroyed when used.  Water could easily be thought of as the most important natural resource for survival.  Fresh water is relatively finite on this planet.  Because it is a finite resource it could be thought of as a nonrenewable resource.  However, due to the water cycle, it is constantly being recycled throughout the environment.  The classification of water being a renewable or nonrenewable resource rests on our responsible use of this resource.  Gold is another great example of a resource that could be classified as a nonrenewable or renewable resource.  The gold in your computer could easily be used in jewelry just as it could easily be returned to the Earth through natural processes.  What makes these resources limited (nonrenewable) is their inability to be easily accessed and or recycled within a timely manner.  For example, the major gold deposits in Nevada were inaccessible until modern technology.  Now, Nevada production accounts for 87% of the total US gold production and is the third largest producer in the world behind South Africa and Australia.  Because minerals are mined according to their accessibility they are often classified as being a resource (mining is occurring) or as a reserve (they could be mined, but most likely it is cost prohibitive).

Go to and “Download the movie as a PowerPoint file (9.8 MB) for full movie of mining activity in Nevada 1851-1995.” to see a historical profile of mining in Nevada.

Go to  for the minerals produced in Nevada and some of their uses.

Figure 3. Map of Nevada resources

Resources of Nevada
Nevada is fairly abundant with natural resources.  Many of Nevada’s resources are used in production, like copper, gold, and other valuable industrial minerals, with fewer energy resources.  The map above clearly shows that most of the natural resources are located throughout the central and northern portions of the state.  The southern counties are home to some industrial mining mostly for gypsum, clay, and lime.  In Elko, Eureka, and northern Nye counties there are accessible resources of oil, along with many mineral resources.  Most of the geothermal power plants reside in the northwest of the state.

Nevada Division of Minerals web site has listed the resources of Nevada as PDF’s that can be downloaded.  The site also contains links to location and type of mineral resources found in Nevada. 

For further information about Nevada’s mineral resources go to

Content Benchmark E.8.C.7

Students know the characteristics, abundances, and location of renewable and nonrenewable resources found in Nevada. E/S

Common misconceptions associated with this benchmark

1. Students mistakenly believe that renewable resources are permanent, and that nonrenewable resources will never be produced by Earth’s natural processes. 

This misconception, more than likely, stems from vocabulary usage of the word “renewable” and “nonrenewable.”  Students often think that the word “renewable” when pertaining to resources means that there is a constant supply of material.  This seems to only be true in two energy cases, the Sun’s radiation and the Earth’s radioactive core; but even those energy sources will eventually run out.  Students also seem to think that if a resource is “nonrenewable” then once it is gone it will never return. 

This is untrue; in reference to fossil fuels, the time it will take for new organic material to complete the biogenic process, to turn into petroleum, takes millions of years. 

Due to the timeframes needed to produce and reproduce these resources
they are described as nonrenewable or renewable resources.

For further information about renewable and nonrenewable resources, go to

2. Students mistakenly think that all gold mining takes place in placer deposits (chunks of gold on the ground). 

When gold mining is first discussed or mining in general, students often think of the movies portrayal of a miner, knee deep in a river, panning for gold.  This mental image is not incorrect, but it negates the many other mining practices currently used.  For example, some major mining operations in Northern Nevada mine in distal-disseminated deposits and Carlin-type deposits.  In these deposits, gold is either suspended in rock at a microscopic level, or chemically bound.

For more information about the types of deposits and mining in Northern Nevada go to

3. Students think that all or most of the natural resources for materials are contained within Earth’s crust. 

Students with even a basic understanding of the rock cycle, and Earth’s structure will quickly realize that the crust is an extremely thin layer of Earth when compared to the rest of Earth’s layers.  A vast majority of Earth’s mineral resources are contained within the mantel, inner and outer core. 

For further information about Earth’s structure see MS TIPS Benchmark E.8.C.3.
For further information about Earth’s rock cycle see MS TIPS Benchmark E.8.C.2.
For further information about some of the minerals found in Earth’s layers go to    

4. Students think that all natural resources are rocks and minerals. 

Water, trees, fish, crops, and countless other naturally occurring resources are vital for human survival.  Any or all of these resources could easily be classified as nonrenewable if they were not used responsibly.  Fishing in an area at a rate above the fishes’ reproductive cycle would cause the resource to become more scarce and possibly extinct.  If continued, the resource may become extinct and thus, nonrenewable.  Water is another great example here in Nevada.  The amount of water available in Nevada is limited by the precipitation in and around the state.  This resource is often thought of as a nonrenewable resource due to the current rate of precipitation and its consumption.  The responsible use of these natural resources will allow them to be renewable for future generations.

To learn more about Nevada’s biological resources and their needs go to

For further information about Earth’s natural resources including: its minerals, energy, land, water, and biota, go to      

5. Students incorrectly believe that all precious metal deposits are profitable. 

The thought of mining a precious metal, such as gold, often conjures up images of large wealth.  This is often not the case.  The definition of an ore is a mineral or rock that can be mined at a profit.  Gold ore could be available in an area, but if it costs more to extract the gold from the ore than the gold is worth on the market, the mine will not stay open.  Resources need to be not only abundant, but easily processed in order for the mineral resource to be a mined ore.

For more information about ores, and the usages of their elements go to

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Content Benchmark E.8.C.7

Students know the characteristics, abundances, and location of renewable and nonrenewable resources found in Nevada. E/S

Sample Test Questions

1st Item Specification: Identify properties of renewable and nonrenewable resources.

Depth of Knowledge Level 1

  1. Which of the following would be classified as a renewable resource?
    1. A barrel of oil that would take 8 million years to form.
    2. A large piece of coal that would take 4 million years to form.
    3. Solar rays from the Sun that take 8 minutes to reach the Earth.
    4. Methane gas from the ocean floor that takes 7 thousand years to outgas.
  1. Which of the following is a property of a nonrenewable resource?
    1. It takes a long time to reform after its use.
    2. It can be grown with in a short time after it is used.
    3. It is recyclable after it is used through a quick and easy process.
    4. It releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere after it is used.

Depth of Knowledge Level 2

  1. One benefit to using renewable energy resources would be that
    1. renewable energy resources are inexpensive.
    2. solar power is available everywhere.
    3. renewable energy resources require less equipment to operate.
    4. The resources can be are replenished within a short amount of time.
  1. Which of the following energy sources would have the least ecological impact when used in the production of electricity?
    1. A hydroelectric plant that dams a river to produce electricity.
    2. A nuclear power plant to produce electricity.
    3. Burning wood to produce electricity.
    4. Solar panels on the roof of homes to produce electricity.      

2nd Item Specification: Identify the common renewable and nonrenewable resources found in Nevada (e.g., copper, oil, coal, geothermal, wind, and silver).

Depth of Knowledge Level 1

  1. Use the graph below to answer the question


  1. How much of Nevada’s energy usage is from Natural Gas?
    1. 30.2%
    2. 56.8%
    3. 93.2%
    4. 100%
  1. Use the graph below to answer the question.


  1. According to the graph what percent of the energy consumed in Nevada during 2004 was renewable?
    1. 6.8%
    2. 26.6%
    3. 30.2%
    4. 36.4%  

Depth of Knowledge Level 2

  1. Use the graph below to answer the question.


  1. How much of Nevada’s energy usage comes from nonrenewable resources?
    1. 30.2%
    2. 56.8%
    3. 93.2%
    4. 100%
  1. Geothermal, wind, and solar are some of the energy resources in which Nevada has an abundant supply.  What would be a benefit of their usage compared to other energy sources?
    1. They are relatively cheap to establish.
    2. They are constantly being replenished.
    3. They produce large amounts of carbon dioxide.
    4. They cover relatively small amounts of land. 

3rd Item Specification: Identify which resources are abundant and where they are
found in Nevada.

Depth of Knowledge Level 1

  1. Large gypsum formations can take up to millions of years to form.  As a result of the time it takes gypsum to form, gypsum deposits would be classified as a
    1. fossil fuel.
    2. nonrenewable resource.
    3. precious mineral.
    4. renewable resource.
  1. Use the map of Nevada’s major mines, oil fields and geothermal plants as of 2006 to answer the question that follows.


  1. Which portion of the state has the most abundant mineral resources?
    1. Southern
    2. Eastern
    3. Central Northern
    4. Central Southern

Depth Of Knowledge Level 2

  1. Nevada is one of the largest gold producing areas in the world.  One of the main reasons that Nevada produces such large amounts of gold is that
    1. gold ore deposits in Nevada cost less to mine than the value of the metal.
    2. the mining process requires little work because deposits in large amounts.
    3. gold ore deposits are very easy to locate and mine.
    4. Nevada has an unlimited supply of gold as a resource.
  1. Many of the natural resources found in Nevada are mined in the northern portion of the state.  This is most likely because the mineral resources
    1. are not found in the southern portion of the state.
    2. in the north are found farther from water sources.
    3. in the south are found in higher concentrations.
    4. in the north are found in greater amounts.

Constructed Response E.8.C.7

1. Use the map of Nevada’s major mines, oil fields and geothermal plants from 2006 to answer the following questions.


  1. Describe the factors that denote whether a resource is classified as renewable or nonrenewable.
  2. Is oil a renewable or nonrenewable resource?  Explain your answer.
  3. As mining technology improves, how would the classification of resources change?  Use evidence to support you thoughts.

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Content Benchmark E.8.C.7

Students know the characteristics, abundances, and location of renewable and nonrenewable resources found in Nevada. E/S

Answers to Sample Test Questions

  1. C, DOK Level 1
  2. A, DOK Level 1
  3. D, DOK Level 2
  4. D, DOK Level 2
  5. A, DOK Level 1
  6. A, DOK Level 1
  7. C, DOK Level 2
  8. B, DOK Level 2
  9. C, DOK Level 1
  10. C, DOK Level 1
  11. A, DOK Level 2
  12. D, DOK Level 2

Constructed Response E.8.C.7 Score Rubric:

 3 points

Response addresses all parts of the question clearly and correctly.
A. A resource is classified as renewable or nonrenewable according to the time it takes to regenerate (replenish) the resource.
B. Oil is classified as a nonrenewable resource because of the time it takes the Earth to replenish petroleum compared to the rate of its use. 
C. As mining technology improves we will be able to mine in new locations and discover new reserves.  Our ability to access resources may greatly improve, but the time it takes the Earth to regenerate or replenish these resources may not change.  Therefore, mining technology will only increase the supply of resources not change the classification.

2 points

Response addresses all parts of the question and includes only minor errors.

1 point

Response does not address all parts of the question.

0 points

Response is totally incorrect or no response provided.

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Content Benchmark E.8.C.7

Students know the characteristics, abundances, and location of renewable and nonrenewable resources found in Nevada. E/S

Intervention Strategies and Resources

The following is a list of intervention strategies and resources that will facilitate student understanding of this benchmark.

1. The Exploring Earth
website does a great job of explaining natural resources that are both renewable and nonrenewable.  The site’s slideshow has links to virtual fieldtrips through National Parks where the students can examine and list renewable and nonrenewable resources.  This resource culminates with an activity that allows the students to produce a brochure for a National Park.

For further information about this resource visit

2. The Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology
has a website that contains links to many valuable resources.  This website is a hub with connections to everything from copper mining to geodes.  The site provides links that could serve as the starting place for student projects, teacher education, educational mining resources, and many others.

To access these resources go to

3. The Environmental Protection Agency
website has a three activity lesson plan designed to help students apply the pollution prevention concept to the use of energy. It provides guidance and activities that explain renewable and nonrenewable energy sources, and how pollution prevention concepts can be used to conserve energy. This site also offers a fact sheet with background information and the definitions necessary to implement this lesson plan.

To access this resource go to

4. The Women in Mining
website offers many classroom activities on mineral and resource education.  Some activities are targeted at conservation of nonrenewable resources; mineral processing; mining steps, including how to find, extract, process and use mineral resources; core sampling techniques; how to produce a marketable mineral product; and economic factors of the minerals resources.  This resource provides on the spot lessons and activities to aid in the students’ understanding of natural resources.

For more information about this site go to

5. The Department of Energy’s website offers many grade appropriate activities and labs that address renewable and nonrenewable resources that pertain to energy.  The page is categorized by grade level, and has links to activities, labs, and lesson plans that would be available for immediate use. 

For more information go to

6. The Daily Lesson Plan
has a lesson about the water as a natural resource.  “Water, Water, Everywhere, Nor Any Drop to Drink.  Water as a Limited Resource and the Technologies Created to Attempt to Best Use It.” The lesson involves a reading, which is hyperlinked at the site, questions, and points of discussion.

For more information go to

7. Cookie mining is a great way to introduce the concept of mining nonrenewable resources.  This activity will help students discover what an ore is, to calculate % composition (as in % copper in an ore), understand the concept of waste produced during ore extraction (waste to get at the ore, waste from the ore), and understand the environmental impact of mining.  This activity helps students conceptualize the mining process and allows them to gain a better understanding of renewable and nonrenewable resources.

For a complete lesson plan, with resources, go to

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Support Pages

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Sample Questions:
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Intervention Strategies & Resources:
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Benchmark Related Vocabulary

Non-renewable resource