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Buy, Use, Toss?

A Closer Look at the Things We Buy

Secondary

Description

Buy, Use, Toss? is a two-week unit that provides multiple entry points to help students think critically about consumption. This series of ten thoroughly planned lessons lead your students through an exploration of the systems of producing and consuming goods that are called the material economy. This resource aims to develop students’ knowledge behind the story of things we buy, use and toss and to equip students with knowledge and skills to help them be informed and empowered consumers. While this unit was designed as a comprehensive whole, each lesson can also stand alone

Lesson 1: Garbology- Students will read an article to help conclude how different artifacts found in trash reflect the lifestyles of the people that dispose of them. (Identifying luxury vs necessity)

Lesson 2: Mapping the Impact - Students create a web diagram. This activity expands knowledge on the ecological footprint and helps understand the impact associated with material goods on our economy, environment and society.

Lesson 3: Drilling Down Sustainability - This guided discussion and role-playing activity helps students further their knowledge of the three key components when looking at sustainability: Economy, Environment and Society.    

Lesson 4: The Cost of Production - Manufacturing, Labor Laws, Corporate Policy In this activity, students will be able to come to their own conclusions on what laws and conditions are appropriate in a work environment.

Lesson 5: On the Road to Retail - Students will analyze information related to distribution by coming up with ways this process could be more sustainable.

Lesson 6: Why Buy? Marketing and advertisements should additional information be included - Students will analyze different ads by looking at strategies and techniques used to help promote different product goods.

Lesson 7: Defining Happiness - This reflection activity will help students determine what is essential to living a good life and how their personal consumption habits impact the progress to improve their quality of life.

Lesson 8: It’s a Dirty Job -This lesson will help students understand economic, social and environmental factors connected to waste disposal.

Lesson 9: A System Redesign - Students will work in pairs to determine ways to make the materials economy more sustainable.

Lesson 10: Analyzing the Message - This lesson is only to be used if the students have watched the videos associate to each activity listed above. Students analyze the persuasive film by looking at the pros and cons of the message.

This lesson pairs well with multiple Social Studies and Sciences units with additional activities for geography, history, language arts, etc. Included in each lesson are ideas for action projects, extension activities, background readings, and additional resources.

General Assessment

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

The activities in this resource focus on helping students develop the skills related to critical thinking, with particular emphasis given to asking appropriate questions and taking meaningful action when looking at consumption. 

Strengths

  • All handout and assessments are included
  • Alternative options are listed
  • Videos are included to support each lesson, but are optional
  • Each lesson can be independently used
  • Action projects are available
  • Additional lessons for different subjects are included, but optional

Weaknesses

  • All information and statistics are based on the United States
  • There are no additional activities for students with learning disabilities

Recommendation of how and where to use it

This lesson could be used as an effective introduction to the study of sustainable consumption. It would motivate discussion on the role of government, big corporations and our own personal lifestyles in promoting and benefitting from our spending and consumption on material goods. It could also be used in science and social studies classes to introduce or summarize outcomes involving energy use, exploiting natural resources and environmental contamination.

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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        • Environmental Science 12: Human activities cause changes in the global climate system
        • Environmental Science 12: Living sustainably supports the well-being of self, community, and Earth.
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Physical Geography 12: Interactions between human activities and the atmosphere affect local and global weather and climate

Themes Addressed

  • Air, Atmosphere & Climate (1)

    • Climate Change
  • Citizenship (2)

    • Ecological Footprint
    • Sustainable Consumption
  • Economics (1)

    • Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Human Rights (1)

    • Social Justice
  • Waste Management (1)

    • Rethink, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Very Good

The toolkit is designed to have students consider the concept of sustainable lifestyles within the context of responsible living. The ten activities included in the lesson plans encourage students to generate their own ideas and questions about the choices they make as consumers; to recognize the competing perspectives of producers, sellers and consumers.

The common theme in each of these activities is not to provide students with answers but to have them think critically about the choices we make, the options available, and the consequences associated to different choices. 

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 Very Good

In examining the concept of sustainable consumption, students are giving consideration to the 3 key components of a sustainable life and analyzing the impact of the choices they make as consumers. The activities ask students to consider these issues by analyzing and discussing different choices made. 

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
Respects Complexity:

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

Acting on Learning Satisfactory

Action opportunities are included, but not mandatory

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

The activities aim to have students adopt values and attitudes that inform their consumer choices and reflect an awareness and respect for the needs of current and future generations.

Values Education:

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

Empathy & Respect for Humans Good

When looking at one of the activities in the toolkit, students are asked to look at manufacturing, labor laws and corporate policy in different countries.

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

Student examination of their personal consumption patterns and the related concept of sustainable living requires that they consider the impact of their choices on the planet and environment.

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

The focus is on the student as a consumer and therefore, satisfies the requirement for relevancy. Local examples can be and are used to encourage student consideration of the impact of their choices with respect to buying material goods.

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

The lessons are designed to have students understand how living responsibly today can ensure a better and more sustainable future.

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 Very Good

The activities have adopted the pedagogy associated with transformative teaching in which the teacher's role is to encourage student questioning and critical thinking.  Students are charged with both asking and answering relevant questions and, in doing so, construct their own understanding, meaning and values.

Open-Ended Instruction :

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

Integrated Learning Very Good

A study of our consumer choices and their impact will have relevance for several subjects. Each lesson also includes extended activities for a number of different subjects.

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 Very Good

The activities encourage critical thinking skills and allow students to develop their own values and opinions.

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

A variety of instructional strategies are employed like role playing activities, pair sharing, individual work, and group activities, but no differential instruction is suggested.

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
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 Good
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 Good

A number of activities conclude by having students reflect on what they learned, with a few discussion questions. The lessons also generate a number of student worksheets that can be picked up at the end of each lesson, and one simple evaluation is included at the end of the ten activities. Lesson 9 includes a project-based assessment and a more traditional summative assessment in the form of a pre/post-test.

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 Good

The lessons place the responsibility for learning on the students for the most part. Students are asked to work in small and large groups to generate questions, seek answers, debate options and carry out and evaluate options chosen.

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
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

There is considerable opportunity for students to decide on the questions to be pursued, how answers may be found, how information might be shared, and what action to take to address perceived problems.

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.