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Climate Change: Connections and Solutions- Gr. 6-8

Elementary, Middle

Description

This unit consists of nine interdisciplinary lessons that introduce the complexity and interconnectedness of the climate change issue. The lessons, while designed as a package, can be used separately.

  • Lesson 1: The Carbon Link - Students take on roles as part of an interactive carbon cycle model, then witness a greenhouse effect demonstration and explore it's role in effecting climate.
  • Lesson 2: Carbon Dioxide Trends - Students graph data to examine atmospheric carbon dioxide trends during  the past 45 years. They then predict future trends based on their graph and discuss ways to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
  • Lesson 3: Effects of Climate Change on Living Things - Students read scenario cards that describe the impacts of climate change on living things in a variety of ecosystems. They then share their learning through skits.
  • Lesson 4: My Carbon Footprint - Students collect information about their daily lives to calculate their own carbon footprints using an online calculator. They compare and contrast their results and discover what they can do to reduce their footprint.
  • Lesson 5: Energy Exploration - Students read about various sources of energy used in electricity production. They identify the pros and cons of these energy sources and take a position, either encouraging or discouraging the class to use a particular energy source.
  • Lesson 6: Making Climate Change Connections - Students read and share eyewitness accounts that illustrate impacts of climate change experienced by people living around the world. Together, they discuss how these effects are connected.
  • Lesson 7: How Much Does Carbon Cost - By participating in simulations and a game, students explore and compare individual limits and cap and trade limits as ways businesses are reducing emissions.
  • Lesson 8: Shopping Heats Up - Through simulation, students experience resource distribution and access to resources based on  wealth. They monitor consumption by paying attention to their environmental and social impacts.
  • Lesson 9: Energy Policies for a Cooling Future - Students compare energy use and CO2 emissions by country. They discuss energy impacts and suggest policies for addressing global climate change related to energy use at a "Summit".

General Assessment

Strengths

  • The lessons break down big ideas about climate change into manageable, understandable pieces.
  • The lessons offer current information.
  • The lessons answer questions that many students this age have about climate change.
  • The lessons are easy to use and pedagogically interesting.
  • The information for students and teachers is of good quality and quantity.

Weaknesses

  • Teaching directly about climate change to younger students can cause fear and hopelessness if action is not built in. Action ideas are extensions rather than being built into the learning.

What important ideas are implied by the resource, but not taught explicitly?

  • Human consumption patterns have caused changes in the Earth's systems and cycles.

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Themes Addressed

  • Air, Atmosphere & Climate (1)

    • Climate Change
  • Citizenship (2)

    • Ecological Footprint
    • Sustainable Consumption
  • Economics (2)

    • Corporate Social Responsibility
    • Trade
  • Ecosystems (1)

    • Carrying Capacity
  • Energy (1)

    • Alternative Energy
  • Human Rights (1)

    • Social Justice

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Bias Minimization Very Good
Bias Minimization: Presents as many different points of view as necessary to fairly address the issue(s).
Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions Very Good
Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions:

The resource effectively addresses multiple dimensions of problems and solutions. These should include the environmental, economic and social dimensions of the issue(s) being explored.

Respects Complexity Very Good
  • Many elements of the issue are explored.
Respects Complexity: The complexity of problems is respected. A systems-thinking approach is encouraged.
Action Experience Satisfactory
Action Experience: Provides opportunities for authentic action experiences in which students can work to make positive change in their communities.
  • Poor = action activities poorly developed
  • Satisfactory = action opportunities are extensions instead of being integral to the main part of the activity
Action Skills Satisfactory
Action Skills: Explicitly teaches the skills needed for students to take effective action (e.g. letter-writing, consensus-building, etc.).
Empathy & Respect for Humans Good
  • Worldwide scenarios involving climate change are presented.
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
  • The unit focuses on the human experience.
Personal Affinity with Earth: Actively encourages a personal affinity with non-humans and with Earth. For example, this may involve practical and respectful experiences out-of-doors.
Locally-Focused Good
  • The Carbon Footprint activity places responsibility on individuals as does the Shopping activity.
Locally-Focused: Encourages learning that is locally-focused/made concrete in some way and is relevant to the lives of the learners.
Past, Present & Future Very Good
  • The unit's focus is the present and future, but a look at past carbon emmisions is used in the Trend activity.
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 lessons utilize coupled inquiry - a combination of guided and open inquiry.

Open-Ended Instruction :

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

Interdisciplinary and Multidisciplinary Learning Very Good
  • The focus is strongly rooted in social science and science content. Math and language arts also figure into the lessons.
Interdisciplinary and Multidisciplinary Learning: Multidisciplinary= addresses a number of different subjects Interdisciplinary= integrated approach that blurs subject lines Good: The resource provides opportunities for learning in a number of traditional 'subject' areas (eg. Language Arts, Science, Math, Art, etc.). Very Good: The resource takes an integrated approach to teaching that blurs the lines between subject boundaries.
Discovery Learning Good
  • This varies lesson to lesson.
Discovery Learning:

Learning activities are constructed so that students discover and build knowledge for themselves and develop largely on their own an understanding of concepts, principles and relationships. They often do this by wrestling with questions, and/or solving problems by exploring their environment, and/or physically manipulating objects and/or performing experiments.

  • Satisfactory = Students are provided with intriguing questions, materials to use & some direction on how to find answers. The learning involves unique experience & provides some opportunity for an 'ah-hah' event
  • Good = Students are provided with intriguing questions, materials to use, & make their own decisions on how to find answers. The learning involves unique experience & provides definite opportunity for an 'ah-hah' event.
  • Very Good = Students choose what questions to investigate as well as the materials/strategies to use to answer them.
Values Clarification Good
Values Clarification: Students are explicitly provided with opportunities to identify, clarify and express their own beliefs/values.
  • Poor = Students are not explicitly given an opportunity to clarify their own values.
  • Satisfactory = Students are given a formal opportunity to clarify their own values. The range of perspectives in the resource is limited, therefore, students do not have an appropriate amount of information to clarify their own values.
Differentiated Instruction Satisfactory
  • Many of the tasks are reading, talking and writing 'heavy'.
  • Adaptations are not suggested.
Differentiated Instruction: Activities address a range of learning styles/different intelligences. They teach to both cognitive and affective domains. Accommodations are suggested for people with learning difficulties.
Experiential Learning Satisfactory
Experiential Learning: Direct, authentic experiences are used.
  • Satisfactory = simulation
  • Good = authentic experience
  • Very Good = authentic experience related to the primary goal of the lesson
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 Good
  • The lessons rely heavily on reflection questions for assessment.
  • The extension ideas offer other suggestions that could augment assessment.
  • Weekly assessments, tests, an essay, and a 'where's it really from' activity, are provided.
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
  • Lesson five requires that students learn and then share out in a loose jigsaw style.
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
  • This varies lesson to lesson.
Case Studies: Relevant case studies are used. Case studies are thorough descriptions of real events in real situations that can be used to examine concepts in an authentic context.
Locus of Control Satisfactory
  • The extension ideas are generally where students have opportunity to move beyond the guided inquiry.
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.