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Teaching Geography Through a Sustainability Lens

Secondary, Middle

Description

This kit was created to thread sustainability-related knowledge, skills and attitudes throughout the Ontario grade nine geography course. While the kit consists of separate modules designed to match the conventional units of study in the Ontario course, these materials will effectively support geography programs as well as other areas of study in all provinces and territories.  The modules are as follows:

1. What is Fair? Students are put into an unfair situation to provoke them to reflect on their own definition of what is fair.

2. Sense of Place Module. This module includes a walk in the local community, the development of a map of the area and a task in which students take photos of places they like and dislike and justify their choices.

3.Lens Module. This module helps students to understand that we see the world through a certain lens and that there is a conventional way of seeing the world that is dominant in Canada. Students learn that the lens colours the way we see things and examine alternative lenses (eg. the traditional aboriginal lens). Students then analyse different lenses and choose features that they would like to have for their own lens.

4.Physical Geography Module. The students use a field trip to a local natural place to see more concretely how the physical features of geography (geology, soil, vegetation, etc.) are interconnected in a real setting. The students demonstrate their learning through a mind map which they build upon in later modules. The students also do some sensory activities to encourage their appreciation of the natural site.

5. Human Unit Module. Students participate in a simulation of applying to immigrate to Canada. They experience other peoples' genuine stories of moving to Canada. Students analyse the Canadian immigration system from a sustainability perspective.

6.Human-Environment Module. Students examine the environmental, social and economic consequences of the resources we use. Water is used as an example. Students then examine the consequences of certain products that they use. They take on a structured challenge to examine their use of a particular product and reflect on the opportunities to use it differently.

7. Global Unit Module. Students examine the interconnected nature of our world through mapping the origins of the products studied in the Human-Environment module (module 6). Students are given an opportunity to examine an alternative way of aspiring to make the relationships in the world fair and 'persistable' through a micro-loan project.

8. Culminating Assessment Opportunity. This mind map activity weaves the interconnections of all of the modules in this resource.

General Assessment

Strengths

This resource is extremely thorough and easy-to-use. It provides many student-ready sheets for the activities.

The resource helps to thread the idea of sustainability throughout an entire course.

The modules work well together and can be used separately.

The resource was designed by a group of teachers who are currently teaching the course thus everything in the resource is extremely user-friendly and timely.

In the lens activity, students are asked to look at many aspects of society through different lenses. It is a rare opportunity to take an explicit, activity-based approach to this important concept. 

There is a skills-based approach to encouraging students to examine issues from multiple perspectives.

There are explicit, skill-building activities to help students build their group-work skills. One activity helps students to reflect on their use of 'air time' in a group setting. The other provides concrete opportunities and tips to help students to build and reflect upon their listening skills.

Some good simulations as well as authentic experiences.

Weaknesses

Many of the activities are fairly conventional.

The activities are fairly teacher-driven.

The action opportunities are very structured. Students do not get experience designing their own action projects nor developing action-project related skills.

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

Examining the (figurative) lens we use that impacts the way we see the world.

Listening to peers.

Monitoring the amount of time one speaks in a group setting.

Examining a product from a life-cycle perspective.

Deciding if a behaviour/action is 'persistable'.

Creating a list of parameters for our personal assessments of what is 'fair'.

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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    • Grade 9
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        • Aboriginal Studies 10: Aboriginal Worldviews
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        • Social Studies 10-1 (Perspectives on Globalization) Globalization & Identity
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        • Native Studies: Expressing Aboriginal Cultures: Identity
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        • Issues in Canadian Geography (Academic): Geographic Inquiry and Skill Development
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        • Native Studies: Aboriginal Peoples in Canada: Identity
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        • Aboriginal Beliefs,Values, and Aspirations in Contemporary Society (College Prep.) Challenges
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        • Current Aboriginal Issues in Canada (Univ./College Prep.) Challenges
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        • English: Contemporary Aboriginal Voices (Univ. Prep) Challenges
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        • Geographics: The Geographer’s Toolkit (Workplace Prep) Human-Environment Interactions
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        • Philosophy: The Big Questions (Univ./College Prep.):The Relevance of Philosophy
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        • Aboriginal Governance: Emerging Directions (Univ./College Pre.) Identity
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        • Issues of Indigenous Peoples in a Global Context (Univ./College Prep.) Relationships
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        • Analysing Current Economic Issues (Univ. Prep.) Economic Institutions
      • Geography
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        • Global Connections
        • Canada & World Issues: A Geographic Analysis (Univ. Prep.): Human-Environment Interactions
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        • Geomatics :Geotechnologies in Action (Univ./College Prep.) Global Connections
        • Geomatics :Geotechnologies in Action (Univ./College Prep.) Human-Environment Interactions
        • The Environment & Resource Management (Univ./College P
        • The Environment & Resource Management (Univ./College Prep.): Global Connections
        • The Environment & Resource Management (Univ/College Prep.) Understanding and Managing Change
        • The Environment & Resource Management (Workplace Preparation): Human-Environment Interactions
        • The Environment & Resource Management (Workplace Prfeparation)
        • World Geography: Human Patterns & Interactions (Univ. prep) Human-Environment Interactions
        • World Geography: Urban Patterns & Interactions (College Prep.) Global Connections
        • World Geography: Urban Patterns & Interactions (College Prep.) Human-Environment Interactions
      • Philosophy
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        • Philosophy: Questions and Theories(Univ, Prep.) Supplementary Topics: Social and Political Philosophy
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        • Challenge and Change in Society (Univ. Prep.): Social Patterns and Trends
  • Prince Edward Island
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        • Canadian Identity: Reflections on Canadian Identity
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      • Geography
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        • Geography of Canada 421A: Canadian Connections
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        • Canadian Studies 401A: Canada Work & Worth
        • Canadian Studies 401A: Canada's Global Connections
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      • Geography
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        • Geography 521A, Global Studies: Physical Patterns of the World
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      • Economics
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        • Introductory Economics 621A: Introduction and Basic Concepts
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        • Environmental Science 621A: Introduction to Environmental Science
      • Geography
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        • What can I do?
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        • Practical Social Studies pt. 1
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        • Contemporary World: Environment
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        • The Individual in Canadian Society: Resources & Wealth
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        • The Roots of Society : People, Land and Environment
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      • Aboriginal Studies
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        • Native Studies 10: Identity and Worldviews, Aboriginal Perspectives
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        • Social Studies 10: Economic Decision Making
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        • Social Studiees 20:World Issues - Environment
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      • Aboriginal Studies
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        • Native Studies 30: Social Development
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        • Canadian Studies 30: Economic Development
  • Yukon Territory
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    • Grade 11
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      • Social Studies
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        • Social Studies 11: Human Geography
    • Grade 12
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      • Aboriginal Studies
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        • First Nation Studies 12: Cultural Expression
      • Geography
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Geography 12: Resources and Environmental Sustainability

Themes Addressed

  • Citizenship (1)

    • Sustainable Consumption
  • Economics (2)

    • Poverty Reduction
    • Trade
  • Human Rights (1)

    • Refugees and Immigration
  • Waste Management (1)

    • Cradle-to-Cradle
  • Water (1)

    • Privatization & Sale of Water

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Very Good

In the lens activity, students are asked to look at many aspects of society through different lenses. The students compare the conventional way of looking at society with at least one other lens (the traditional aboriginal lens is suggested). Then students have the opportunity to reflect and create their own 'lens' by cutting and pasting the perspectives they have learned about and/or naming/creating their own perspectives.

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

There is a skills-based approach to encouraging students to examine issues from multiple perspectives. Throughout the resource students are encouraged to examine issues from environmental, social and economic perspectives.

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 Very Good

Water is used as an exemplar to help students to understand all of the impacts a bottle of purchased water has throughout its life cycle. Then, students are given the opportunity to transfer this approach to a product of their own choosing.

Respects Complexity:

The complexity of the problems/issues being discussed is respected

Acting on Learning Good

There are two action opportunities in this resource. The opportunities are very structured but still provide an opportunity for a sense of efficacy and for reflection.

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
Values Education:

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

Empathy & Respect for Humans Good

Students apply to immigrate to Canada. Their application is scored. Students may or may not get in. Guided reflection questions and pairing up of 'those' who got in with those who did not, help students to reflect on their own feelings and to try to understand the feelings of someone in the opposite position. Two 'commercials' are offered in which the power relationship is shifted from what we conventionally experience in Canada.

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

Explicit sensory activity to cultivate personal affinity with Earth is offered in Module 4.

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 Sense of Place module is explicitly designed to do this through a local walk, map-making, and photo activities in which students document what they like and don't like about their 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

The question, 'is it persistable' arises over and over again which is an adequate future focus. Students also have at least two opportunities to make a positive change for the future. The past is not well-addressed.

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 instructions in the resource are careful to leave room for students to come to their own conclusions. The action opportunities provide explicit instructions for students who do not 'buy in'. The bias of the resource toward a sustainable approach will probably still be obvious to most students.

Open-Ended Instruction :

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

Integrated Learning Poor/Not considered

The nature of 'geography' is multi-disciplinary. This resource does not attempt to break-down conventional secondary school subject barriers.

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

The What is Fair? activity does this well.

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

Activities address a range of learning styles. An opportunity is provided to differentiate the instruction based on academic success on an assignment. No accommodations are suggested for students with 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 Good

The 'What is Fair' activity and the Immigration Application activities are simulations. The map-making activity, the sensory activities, the challenge to alter uses of a product and the micro-loan opportunity provide authentic experiences.

Experiential Learning:

Authentic learning experiences are provided

  •  Satisfactory: learning is made concrete. Working with real objects,  using real sources of information
  • Good: learning takes place in a real-world context. Simulation, mentorship
  • Very good: learning provides experience beyond the classroom.  Addressing real world issues and problems 
Cooperative Learning Good

There are a few well-developed activities at the back of this guide to help students with their group-work skills. One activity helps students to reflect on their use of 'air time' in a group setting. The other provides concrete opportunities and tips to help students to build and reflect upon their listening skills.

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 Satisfactory

Culminating assessment activity is provided but no assessment tools were included.

Listening to Presentations: The Note Organizer could be used for formative assessment.

Self and 'other' (peer or teacher) assessment tool is provided for listening skills.

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 'Using our natural resources' activity is created so that the only source of information that students have for the natural resources other than the one they studied arises from their peers' presentations. Students must learn about 5 other natural resources in this way. An organizer is provided to help students to capture this information while listening.

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 Satisfactory

Students get to choose the natural resource and the product they wish to study.

Students get to choose the medium they use to share their knowledge about their product of study.

Students get to choose the personal challenge they wish to take on.

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.