Search for Resources

Eco Footprints

A Model for Teaching Science in Combined Grades

Elementary

Description

This resource introduces the "eco footprint" concept by involving students in a series of activities designed to develop a sense of personal responsibility for energy use.  Environmental citizenship skills are also fostered through a student-led action project in which conservation goals are identified and implemented.  The learning unit has been developed for a Grade 4/5 classroom with a theme relevant to both grade levels and a hands-on approach that involves students in the following activities:

  • Researching the environmental impacts of everyday products.
  • Measuring non-recyclable garbage production.
  • Conducting school and home energy audits.
  • Exploring energy resources used in food production.
  • Building a class compost unit.
  • Creating a personal energy reduction plan.

General Assessment

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

  • Formulating questions
  • Data collection
  • Data analysis
  • Goal setting
  • Communication

Strengths

  • Includes an action project
  • Includes a well developed rubric for assessment.
  • Focuses on an environmental issue on which students can have an immediate positive impact through informed decision making.
  • Provides an opportunity for students to become advocates for reducing consumption and waste.

Weaknesses

  • There is no background information about energy use and manufacturing.
  • Does not include any student information about differences between renewable and non-renewable materials and recycling.

Recommendation of how and where to use it

This resource addresses science outcomes related to human impacts on ecosystems and social studies topics exploring the relationships between society and sustainability.  The lessons  provide a great platform for the development of community based environmental citizenship projects.  Students could organize events such as a school recycling drive, an anti-litter campaign, a book swap or a school yard sale. 

The resource also provides an excellent learning unit in preparation for Earth Day.  A class could learn more about the science behind the recycling process by visiting a local waste management centre.  The "Food Waste" lesson could be used as the basis of an Earth Day humanitarian project where students plant a community vegetable garden or collect items for the local food bank.

Teachers may wish to incorporate a footprint calculation activity by accessing this tool from Zero footprint Youth.

Relevant Curriculum Units

The following tool will allow you to explore the relevant curriculum matches for this resource. To start, select a province listed below.

  • Step 1Select a province
  • Alberta
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 4
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Earth Systems: Understandings of the living world, Earth, and space are deepened through investigating natural systems and their interactions.
    • Grade 5
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Canada: The Land, Histories and Stories: Physical Geography of Canada
  • British Columbia
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 5
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science 5: Earth materials change as they move through the rock cycle and can be used as natural resources.
  • Manitoba
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 4
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Habitat and Communities
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Manitoba, Canada, and the North: Places and Stories: Living in Manitoba
  • New Brunswick
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 3
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science 3.Our Local Environment: Science Technology Society and Environment (STSE)
        • Science 3: Our Local Environment:Scientific Literacy
    • Grade 4
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Social Studies: Exploring our World
  • Newfoundland & Labrador
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 4
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Habitats
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Exploring Our World
  • Northwest Territories
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 4
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Life Systems: Habitats & Communities
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • The NWT: Our Places, Stories and Traditions:Living in the NWT
    • Grade 5
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Energy and Control: Conservation of Energy
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Our Northern Land and Its People: The North's Resources
  • Nova Scotia
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 4
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Social Studies 4: Physical Environment
  • Nunavut
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 4
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Life Systems: Habitats & Communities
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Provinces and Territories: Our Places, Stories, and Traditions: The Land: Place & People
    • Grade 5
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Energy and Control: Conservation of Energy
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Our Northern Land and Its People: The North's Resources
  • Ontario
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 4
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science & Technology
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Life Systems: Habitats and Communities
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • People and Environments: Political and Physical Regions of Canada
    • Grade 5
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science & Technology
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Earth and Space Systems: Conservation of Energy & Resources
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • People and Environments: The Role of Government and Responsble Citizenship
  • Prince Edward Island
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 4
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Habitats
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Exploring Our World
  • Quebec
  • Saskatchewan
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 4
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Habitats and Communities
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Saskatchewan: Resources and Wealth
    • Grade 5
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Canada: Resources and Wealth
  • Yukon Territory
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 5
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science 5: Earth materials change as they move through the rock cycle and can be used as natural resources.

Themes Addressed

  • Citizenship (1)

    • Ecological Footprint
  • Energy (1)

    • Energy Use
  • Waste Management (3)

    • Composting
    • Rethink, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
    • Solid Waste Disposal

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Good

The student led investigations provide an opportunity for individual decision making without influence from others. Children will also gain a deeper understanding of the need to balance the negative impacts of resource use with the societal benefits that renewable resources provide.   

Consideration of Alternative Perspectives:
  • Satisfactory: absence of bias towards any one point of view
  • Good: students consider different points of view regarding issues, problems discussed
  • Very good: based on the consideration of different views, students form opinions and  take an informed position
Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions Good

Guided questioning in combination with personal energy audits provides a format for students to develop an understanding that sustainability is the balance between social, economic and environmental needs.

Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions:

Effectively addresses the environmental, economic and social dimensions of the issue(s) being explored.

  • Satisfactory: resource supports the examination of  these dimensions
  • Good:  resource explicitly examines the interplay of these dimensions
  • Very Good:  a systems-thinking approach is encouraged to examine these three dimensions
Respects Complexity Satisfactory

The ecological footprint concept is far more complicated than evaluating energy use and waste production since many other factors that affect ecosystems must also be considered.  However, this resource provides an age-appropriate introduction to the topic and engages students in dialogue that will support more complex discussions around this theme in later grades.

Respects Complexity:

The complexity of the problems/issues being discussed is respected.

Acting on Learning Good

Students have many opportunities to engage in meaningful, high impact activities that require introspection which will lead to positive changes in environmental behaviour.

Acting on Learning:

Learning moves from understanding  issues  to working towards positive change — in personal lifestyle, in school, in the community,  or for the planet

  • Satisfactory: action opportunities are included as extensions 
  • Good: action opportunities are core components of the resource
  • Very Good: action opportunities for students are well supported and intended to result in observable, positive change
Values Education Good

This resource effectively encourages student insight into consumer habits and associated impacts.  One of the strengths of the learning experience is the development of a personal action plan  with a communication strategy for informing their peers.

Values Education:

Students are explicitly provided with opportunities to identify, clarify and express their own beliefs/values.

Empathy & Respect for Humans Poor/Not considered

The food waste lesson could be used to build empathy skills in students by extending the learning with an examination of the relationship between food waste in affluent society and food shortages in poorer areas.

Empathy & Respect for Humans: Empathy and respect are fostered for diverse groups of humans (including different genders, ethnic groups, sexual preferences, etc.).
Personal Affinity with Earth Satisfactory

Although the activities are not outdoor based a great deal of attention is given to the impacts of waste on the environment.  To reinforce this connection between human activity and the earth a teacher could take students outside to do a litter assessment and clean-up of the school grounds.

Personal Affinity with Earth:

Encourages a personal affinity with -the natural world.  

  • Satisfactory: connection is made to the natural world
  • Good: fosters appreciation/concern for the natural world
  • Very Good: fosters stewardship though practical and respectful experiences out-of-doors 
Locally-Focused Learning Very Good

All of the lessons focus on waste production and resource use at the individual, home and school level.  Thus, students are actively involved in conducting environmental assessments on a very local and meaningful level.

Locally-Focused Learning:

Includes learning experiences that take advantage of issues/elements within the local community. 

  • Satisfactory: learning is made relevant to the lives of the learners
  • Good: learning is made relevant and has a local focus
  • Very Good: learning is made relevant, local and takes place ‘outside’ , in the community 
Past, Present & Future Satisfactory

Students consider the current impacts of the resources they use and develop a plan which includes future goals for reducing consumption and waste.  A teacher could add an interesting historical element by providing information about First Nations connections to the land and the resources it provides.

Past, Present & Future: Promotes an understanding of the past, a sense of the present, and a positive vision for the future.

Pedagogical Approaches

Principle Rating Explanation
Open-Ended Instruction Good

Students are investigating a complex real-world issue and identifying self-directed strategies for reducing their own environmental footprint. 

Open-Ended Instruction :

Lessons are structured so that multiple/complex answers are possible; students are not steered toward one 'right' answer.

Integrated Learning Satisfactory

This resource directly supports science and social studies outcomes surrounding the issue of sustainability.  Some math learning could be incorporated into the waste audits by having students weigh trash and document findings.

Integrated Learning:

Learning brings together content and skills  from more than one  subject area

  • Satisfactory: content from a number of different  subject areas is readily identifiable
  • Good:  resource is appropriate for use in more than one subject area
  • Very Good:  the lines between subjects are blurred 
Inquiry Learning Good

Students actively participate in their own research and evaluation of waste production.  An inquiry process is used to develop their individual action goals.  The lessons also support recognition of personal consumption habits and students will likely be surprised by the amount of renewable and non-renewable resources they use.

Inquiry Learning:

Learning is directed by questions, problems, or challenges that students work to address.   

  • Satisfactory: Students are provided with questions/problems to solve and some direction on how to arrive at solutions.
  • Good: students, assisted by the teacher clarify the question(s) to ask and the process to follow to arrive at solutions.  Sometimes referred to as Guided Inquiry
  • Very Good:  students generate the questions and assume much of the responsibility for how to solve them.  . Sometimes referred to as self-directed learning.

 

Differentiated Instruction Poor/Not considered

Some students may struggle with the amount of writing required, but the resource is structured to support partner or group work.

Differentiated Instruction:

Activities address a range of student learning styles, abilities and readiness.

  • Satisfactory:  includes a variety of instructional approaches
  • Good: addresses  the needs of visual, auditory &  kinesthetic learners
  • Very Good: also includes strategies for learners with difficulties
Experiential Learning Good

The emphasis on personal decisions will be very meaningful for students and should lead to an active interest in expanding the learning beyond the parameters of the lesson.  Many students will probably analyze their home energy assessment and include family in various conservation actions.

Experiential Learning:

Authentic learning experiences are provided

  • Satisfactory: learning takes place through ‘hands-on’ experience or simulation
  • Good: learning involves direct experience in a ‘real world context’
  • Very good: learning involves ‘real world experiences’ taking place’ beyond the school walls.
Cooperative Learning Poor/Not considered

The lessons are easily adaptable to group work.

Cooperative Learning:

Group and cooperative learning strategies are a priority.

  • Satisfactory:  students work in groups
  • Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught and practiced
  • Very Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught, practiced and assessed
Assessment & Evaluation Very Good

The final task in which students actively apply new learning to develop a personal conservation plan is complemented by an excellent rubric for evaluating student success.

Assessment & Evaluation: Tools are provided that help students and teachers to capture formative and summative information about students' learning and performance. These tools may include reflection questions, checklists, rubrics, etc.
Peer Teaching Satisfactory

In the "What You Use and What You Throw Away" activity students research the resource requirements of specific products and in a "Mantle of the Expert" approach deliver this information to their peers.  Pupils also raise awareness about lowering ecological footprints by developing media products for the school.

Peer Teaching:

Provides opportunities for students to actively present their knowledge and skills to peers and/or act as teachers and mentors.

  • Satisfactory: incidental teaching that arises from cooperative learning, presentations, etc.
  • Good or Very Good: an opportunity is intentionally created to empower students to teach other students/community members. The audience is somehow reliant on the students' teaching (students are not simply ‘presenting')
Case Studies Good

Collecting data at home and school ensures that students are exploring a conservation issue at the community level where positive changes can be easily implemented and have immediate environmental results.

Case Studies:

Relevant case studies are included.  Case studies are thorough descriptions of real events from real situations that students use to explore  concepts in an authentic context.

Locus of Control Good

All of the lessons support exploration and critical thinking.  The action goals also support the development and delivery of student defined objectives.

Locus of Control: Meaningful opportunities are provided for students to choose elements of program content, the medium in which they wish to work, and/or to go deeper into a chosen issue.