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Calculating and Interpreting Your Ecological Footprint

Secondary, Middle

Description

Students explore the concept of ecological footprint, calculate their own "footprint", consider what individual measures might reduce that footprint, and debate the merits of government regulation and technology in reducing our ecological impact.

A paper and pencil alternative to the footprint calculator can be found here.

General Assessment

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

The focus of the lesson is on analyzing one's ecological footprint. The result is a better understanding of the link between causes and consequences.

Strengths

Analyzing one's ecological footprint is an effective way to introduce larger issues related to resource use, consumerism, carrying capacity, and sustainable development. It makes rather abstract issues concrete. 

In allowing students to adjust their answers to the questions asked, the resource provides immediate feedback as to the consequences of changing one's choices, thereby encouraging more responsible choices.  

The Solutions segment of the lesson plan allows students to investigate the issues raised by footprint activity and introduces possible actions that the student may encourage at the community level. 

Recommendation of how and where to use it

The lesson will support the teaching of courses in Geography, Social Studies, Environmental Science that have students 

  • analyse the roles and responsibilities of individuals in promoting the sustainable use of resources.
  •  analyse the personal use of natural resources
  • compare Canadian use of natural resources with that of other countries

Math teachers may find it a rich resource for satisfying outcomes related to data analysis.

The lesson is perhaps best used as an introductory exercise that moves from the personal and concrete to the more universal and abstract in examining our impact on the planet and the need to adopt more sustainable practices.

Relevant Curriculum Units

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        • Knowledge and Employability: Patterns and Relations
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        • Environment and Outdoor Education: Environmental Investigations
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        • Analyzing the validity, reliability, and representation of data enables us to compare and interpret.
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        • Analyzing the validity, reliability, and representation of data enables us to compare and interpret.
    • Grade 10
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        • Foundations of Mathematics and Pre-calculus: Representing and analyzing situations allows us to notice and wonder about relations.

Themes Addressed

  • Air, Atmosphere & Climate (1)

    • Climate Change
  • Citizenship (2)

    • Ecological Footprint
    • Sustainable Consumption
  • Ecosystems (2)

    • Biodiversity
    • Carrying Capacity
  • Governance (1)

    • Government Regulations

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Good

The lesson assumes that we cannot continue to exploit the planet's resources at the current rate - an assumption generally accepted. Using the ecological calculator provided, students measure their individual impact on the planet and discuss what changes they might make to reduce that impact. If we assume the viability of the calculator, students will emerge from the exercise having taken informed positions on a vital issue.

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 measuring their footprint, students will recognize the environment consequences of their "lifestyle". This includes a variety of socio-economic factors - what they eat, the resources they consume in building and maintaining their homes, the trash they generate, the energy they consume in getting from A to B, etc.

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 lesson helps student understand the implications of the choices they make - the consequences of which we often give little thought. It also asks that they consider other choices and the consequences that may follow.  

Respects Complexity:

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

Acting on Learning Very Good

The lesson asks students to consider the consequences of current and alternative choices in their daily lives. Armed with this information, the students are more likely to take actions that will reduce their ecological footprint to the benefit of the planet.

The lesson also includes a section  - Move the Date Solutions- where students are asked to consider various solutions and suggestions are made as to how they may lobby for those solutions.

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 Very Good

The choices we make in our daily lives reflect the values we hold. If we are to "do the right thing" we must be aware of what is the right thing. Measuring one's ecological footprint helps students understand better what is the right thing.

Values Education:

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

Empathy & Respect for Humans Good

In measuring one's ecological footprint and comparing it with others, students will come to an appreciation of the inequities in the world - particularly as they apply to people in the developed world and the developing world. This should result in a greater sense of empathy for those peoples who do not have the choices they have and how these people must live with the consequences of the choices the students make.

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 adoption of a sense of stewardship is the underlying goal of the lesson. Students are helped to see the link between their decisions, their actions and the natural world. Recognition of the consequences of those decisions may be expected to result in informed action to the benefit of 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

The focus of study is the student - the choices each student makes, the consequences of those choices, and the possibility of making other choices that reduce one's ecological footprint.

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 Good

In taking the "footprint" test, the student learns of the current impact on the planet of their daily lives. In considering what changes they might make to reduce their demands on the planet, the student considers what the future may look like.

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

The lesson asks students to consider the demands they make on the planet's resources, to compare their demands to others and to investigate how they might reduce that demand. In this sense the lesson does not provide students with an "answer" but with information that allows them to formulate their own answers. 

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

Student examination of their ecological footprint requires that they consider the carrying capacity of the planet (Environmental Science), the economic forces that influence our consumption patterns (Economics), the management of natural resources (Geography), the inequities between the developing and developing world (Social Studies), the ethical implications of their choices ( Ethics and Citizenship) 

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

Students are asked to consider a series of questions - what choices do you make with respect to the food you eat, the comforts of your home, how you get from one place to another?; what is the impact of those choices on the carrying capacity of the planet?; and what, if any, changes might you consider in order to reduce your ecological footprint? 

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 Good

The lesson is self -directed, allowing students to proceed at their own pace and the information presented makes good use of visuals.

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 students are the agents of their own learning. They are investigating their roles as consumers of the world's resources,  the consequences of their consumption for the planet and others, and what they might do as more responsible consumers. 

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

The lesson concludes with a class debate on issues of sustainability. This allows students to share and defend their perspective on the issues arising from their study.

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

The lesson plan is an exercise in self assessment. Students take the measure of their own "lifestyle", consider the responsibilities attached therein, and evaluate the merits of changes in their behaviour. 

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 discussing the results of their ecological footprint study, students are asked to share ideas as to how they might make positive changes and empower others to make changes.

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 Very Good

The student is the case being studied in this lesson.

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 Very Good

The ecological footprint test is self administered. Once complete, the student is invited to look at different solutions outlined as part of the lesson and to take what action they might with respect to the larger community.

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.