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Our Environmental Footprint - Introduction

Elementary

Description

This resource is the first in a series of lessons which combine indoor and outdoor activities that are particularly suited to teaching young children about the ecological footprint concept.  This introductory unit fosters a closer connection to nature while fostering student reflection about everyday choices that can harm or help the environment.  A dynamic learning approach provides an educational experience where pupils will:

  • Explore a natural area with their senses.
  • Examine natural resource concepts.
  • Investigate how humans affect nature.
  • Identify strategies for reducing personal impacts on nature. 

Materials supporting each lesson can be found at Lessons-in-a-Backpack.

General Assessment

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

  • Nature study
  • Communication
  • Problem solving
  • Analyzing environmental footprint
  • Responding to text

Strengths

  • There is an emphasis on hands-on learning.
  • Includes an outdoor component.
  • Incorporating the book :The Lorax" supports English Language Arts outcomes.
  • Provides an opportunity for very young students to develop meaningful environmental stewardship goals.

Weaknesses

  • Provides no evaluation strategies.
  • There is minimal teacher background, especially for the outdoor exploration.

Recommendation of how and where to use it

This resource supports science and social studies outcomes related to exploring ecosystems, describing natural features of communities and identifying the difference between wants and needs.  The use of the book "The Lorax" also provides an opportunity to integrate ELA outcomes as students read and analyze the story.  After reading the book students could write and illustrate their own short story that describes their nature exploration and how they intend to care for the environment.

The wrap-up lesson, "Count Yourself In" could become the basis of a citizenship project where students expand their learning beyond the classroom.  Working with adult volunteers a class could initiate a habitat conservation program like building a small wildlife pond or cleaning up a local stream.  These activities could be documented and presented to peers to encourage a school-wide conservation approach that also involves the local community.

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.

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  • Alberta
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        • Comprehension: Text comprehension is supported through applying varied strategies and processes, and considering both particular contexts and universal themes
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        • Earth Systems: Understandings of the living world, Earth, and space are deepened through investigating natural systems and their interactions.
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        • Comprehension: Text comprehension is supported through applying varied strategies and processes, and considering both particular contexts and universal themes.
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        • Earth Systems: Understandings of the living world, Earth, and space are deepened through investigating natural systems and their interactions.
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        • Comprehension: Text comprehension is supported through applying varied strategies and processes, and considering both particular contexts and universal themes
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        • Exploring connections strengthens our understandings of relationships to help us make meaning of the world
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        • Local Communities:: We shape the local environment, and the local environment shapes who we are and how we live.
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        • Regional and Global Communities: Local actions have global consequences, and global actions have local consequences.
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        • Comprehend and Respond
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        • The World and Me
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        • Life Systems: Growth and Changes in Plants
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        • Being Together: Citizenship
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        • Comprehend and Respond
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        • Life Systems: Characteristics and Needs of Living Things
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        • Connecting and Belonging: Citizenship
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        • Comprehend & Respond
      • Science
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        • Life Science: Growth and Changes in Animals
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        • Communities in Canada: The Land: Place & People
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        • Comprehend and Respond
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        • Life Systems: Growth and Changes in Plants
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        • Connecting With the World: The Land: Place & People
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        • Local Communities:: We shape the local environment, and the local environment shapes who we are and how we live.
    • Grade 2
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Regional and Global Communities: Local actions have global consequences, and global actions have local consequences.

Themes Addressed

  • Citizenship (2)

    • Ecological Footprint
    • Sustainable Consumption
  • Ecosystems (2)

    • Appreciating the Natural World
    • Biodiversity

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Good

The activities support the development of new learning where students are able to link the environmental footprint idea with the needs of plants and animals.  Thus the important connection between responsible natural resource use and ecological sustainability is made.

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

Students are able to identify the social and environmental implications of positive choices about resource use.   A teacher could easily address the economics of these decisions with group discussions about work as it relates to resource stability.  For example, many coastal regions of Canada have experienced economic hardship as a result of the over harvest of fish stocks.

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 Good

The resource presents an age appropriate and balanced view of the key factors like water use that affect the ecological footprint of an individual.  The issue is also examined from a global perspective with activities where students evaluate the potential environmental impacts of a range of human activities.

Respects Complexity:

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

Acting on Learning Good

The culminating activity, "Count Yourself In" encourages student engagement by offering a forum for whole class discussion about individual actions.  The student objectives from this activity can be easily translated into broader conservation goals that involve the entire school and local community.  One effective strategy for reaching a wider audience could be the development of a school to school environmental footprint reduction challenge.

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 uses a varied and interactive approach to provide an introduction to the environmental footprint concept. The emphasis on the understanding of basic principles rather than actual footprint calculations develops closer connections to the topic in young students and provides them with an opportunity to achieve personal conservation goals.

Values Education:

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

Empathy & Respect for Humans Satisfactory

This resource primarily addresses the environmental issue of resource use but the group discussion following the reading of  "The Lorax" involves examining the difference between needs and wants.  A human element could be easily added by exploring inequality and basic needs in poverty stricken areas compared to wealthier communities.

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 Very Good

If conducted outside as suggested, the "Nature is Neat" activity involves students in a quiet, introspective experience that will definitely strengthen their connections to the natural world.

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

This resource uses an informed decision-making process to involve students in constructive behaviour changes that reduce natural resource use at home and school.  This emphasis on community-based action makes the learning much more meaningful for students.

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

Student driven strategies for reducing environmental impacts support looking towards the future with long-lasting changes in the way they think about sustainability.

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 able to participate in a self-directed nature exploration and accompanying guided questioning session that supports the analysis and synthesis of new learning.

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 resources supports science and social studies outcomes surrounding nature, natural resources and sustainability. English Language Arts outcomes related to reading, reflection and responding are also addressed by using "The Lorax" as the focus of a class discussion about how humans impact Earth.

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

The hands-on lessons actively involve students in new learning and independent decision making.

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 Satisfactory

The variety of activities complemented by a relevant outdoor experience will appeal to a wide range of learners.

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 teacher role in most of the activities is to support rather than direct student discussion and reflection. This strategy ensures there are many opportunities for self discovery which facilitates active student involvement in the learning outcomes.

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

There are several group discussions but cooperative learning is not a strategy used in this resource.

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 Poor/Not considered

There are no evaluation strategies included with this unit but the final task where students identify personal goals for reducing their ecological footprint could be used to assess learning.

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

Peer teaching is not central to the outcomes of this resource, but a teacher wishing to expand this aspect could have students communicating the results of their work through initiatives such as peer to peer interviews.

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 Satisfactory

Focusing on the resource use topic from the context of small changes leading to big differences clearly demonstrates the strength of individual actions in addressing global environmental issues.

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

Students have a great deal of choice in the decision-making process where they identify strategies for lowering their environmental footprint. They are also able to explore a natural area with minimal direction in order to create their own outdoor experience.

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.