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Whose Responsibility is It?

Secondary, Middle


This resource introduces students to environmental stewardship and tasks them to develop and implement a personal plan of action to address an environmental issue.  It touches on conservation, citizenship, human-made disasters, natural resources, pollution, and activism.

After a group discussion defining the four economic sectors (government, for-profit business, non-profit, household) and some of their responsibilities, each student is given a handout describing various man-made environmental problems. They are asked to cut and paste these descriptions in a sector table, assigning each piece to the sector that they feel is "most responsible" for addressing the problem.

Students are then placed in groups of 3-4 and asked to reach consensus on the various choices made by the group. These are presented to the class. After a class discussion, students identify a problem that pertains to an environmental issue in their community (or one identified in the lesson) and  develop a plan of action.  Action plans are then shared with the class.


General Assessment

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

  • Building consensus
  • Working cooperatively with team members to develop and carry out a plan
  • Listening critically to others ideas, thoughts and points of view


  • The resource is up-to-date
  • Connects students to issues in their community
  • Prepared student handouts provide for flexibility and ease of use
  • Group work allows for shared dialogue, incidental peer teaching, and consensus building
  • Important, relevant topic
  • Written in student-friendly language
  • Students have the opportunity to choose their own environmental issues to address
  • Students design their own action plan
  • Promotes environmental stewardship


  • Assessment tools needed
  • Students need more opportunities to clarify and express their values
  • More background information on the causes of environmental problems is needed
  • Students need more guidelines on developing and implementing an action plan

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 9
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Environmental Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Environment and Outdoor Education: Commitment to Action
        • Environment and Outdoor Education: Environmental Investigations
    • Grade 10
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Technological Education
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Wildlife - WLD1050: People, Culture and Wildlife Heritage
  • Manitoba
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 10
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Senior 2 Science: Dynamics of Ecosystems
  • New Brunswick
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 10
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Learning and Living Sustainably (STSE)
        • Science 10 Science for Sustainable Societies
  • Newfoundland & Labrador
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 10
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science 1206: Sustainability of Ecosystems
    • Grade 11
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science 2200: Ecosytems
  • Northwest Territories
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 10
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Social Studies 10-1(Perspectives on Globalization) Globalization & Sustainable Prosperity
  • Nova Scotia
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 10
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science 10: Sustainability of Ecosystems
  • Nunavut
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 8
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Interactions in Our Environment
  • Ontario
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 8
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science & Technology
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Structures and Mechanisms: Systems in Action
    • Grade 9
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Geography
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Issues in Canadian Geography (Academic): Interactions in the Physical Environment
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • :Biology: Sustainable Ecosystems
  • Prince Edward Island
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 10
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science 431A: Life Science, Sustainability of Ecosystems
  • Quebec
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 10
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science & Technology
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Applied Science & Technology:The Living World
        • Environmental Science & Technology: The Living World
        • Science & Technology:The Living World
        • Science and the Environment: The Living World
  • Saskatchewan
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 10
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science 10: Climate and Ecosystem Dynamics

Themes Addressed

Citizenship (2)

  • Community-Building and Participation
  • General Guide to Taking Action

Economics (1)

  • Corporate Social Responsibility

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Good

There is a positive bias in the presumption that students have the ability to bring about environmental improvements in their own community. The economic sector activity suggests that the "household" sector plays a substantial role in addressing environmental problems.

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 Satisfactory

The resource links the environmental problems (both locally and globally) to lifestyle choices made by society. The solutions to these problems and the attitude changes that must accompany these may have some economic and financial implications.

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

Although not examining all aspects of this complex issue, it promotes dialogue and discussion within groups of students. It encourages open-ended solutions and relates well to environmental and social issues.

Respects Complexity:

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

Acting on Learning Satisfactory

The resource asks students to create an action plan to address an environmental problem. The lesson is more about creating awareness rather than the actual "doing" or carrying out of that plan. The action plan template lacks the actual series of steps the student will need to follow in order to make an impact on their chosen issue.

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 Satisfactory

The resource gives the students some opportunities to do some self-reflection and identify their own values and roles in environmental stewardship. There needs to be more opportunities for students to clarify and express these values.

Values Education:

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

Empathy & Respect for Humans Satisfactory
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 Good

The resource encourages environmental stewardship.

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 Good

Students are asked to create an action plan to deal with an environmental issue in their own community.

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

There are no discussions or information about the past. Present day situations are discussed and students are asked to play a role in implementing solutions. The future is seen as positive only if students begin to contribute and volunteer their time towards environmental stewardship.

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 encouraged to consider and develop their own thoughts and opinions.

Open-Ended Instruction :

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

Integrated Learning Satisfactory

Although primarily a science resource, there are opportunities for learning in social studies and language arts.

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 Satisfactory
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

Both cognitive and affective domains are touched upon. Appropriate groupings should address issues of different intelligences and help students who experience learning difficulties.

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 Satisfactory

The activity itself has no "hands-on" experiences, but the completion of the student action plan would have experiential learning opportunities.

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 Satisfactory
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 tools provided for assessment.

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:

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 Poor/Not considered

There are no thorough descriptions of specific real events. The resource contains brief scenarios of environmental problems.

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 are given the opportunity to choose the environmental issues that they wish to address in their own communities.

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.