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Tread Lightly: Learning From the Past, Defining Our Future

Secondary

Description

Students are divided into 3 groups and presented with handouts on 3 extinct societies - the Vikings in Greenland, Eastern Islanders of the Pacific and the Anasazi of south western North America.

The first hand outs tells the story of each unique society when it was flourishing. From the accounts, students are asked to extrapolate maladaptive practices that might have led to the decline and destruction of each society. The groups are asked to report back to the class, describing their assigned society and what they think its fate may have been and the causes.

In the second part of the exercise, the groups are given another handout which provides extensive explanations of what actually  led to the collapse of each society. In groups, students are asked to establish what could have been done in each society to avoid collapse.

Finally, working in one large plenary group, students are asked to discuss any re-occurring patterns and warnings these collapsed societies might have for us today in the face of serious climate change and ecological catastrophe.

General Assessment

Strengths

  • The resource is interesting and raises important questions about the inability of our society to act more to counteract the imminent threat of climate change
  • The case studies have an appropriate level of information for the student and the multiple dimensions of problems are mostly well covered
  • The central purpose of the activity is clearly stated
  • The resource uses open-ended instruction and encourages interdisciplinary learning.

Weaknesses

  • A personal affinity with the Earth is the chief s.e.p. that relates to the subject matter. A learning activity should be included on this principle
  • In terms of pedagogy, there is no opportunity for students to go deeper into issues or choose content they want to explore further
  • There are no assessment and evaluation tools
  • There is no support offered to teachers
  • There are no action experiences or experiential learning opportunities.

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

  • Can we actually transfer learning about the past, from pre-industrial societies, to our context and our future
  • Are there case histories to share of industrial societies that came back from social and ecological disaster and their near destruction.

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Themes Addressed

  • Citizenship (2)

    • Ecological Footprint
    • Sustainable Consumption
  • Ecosystems (3)

    • Carrying Capacity
    • Habitat Loss
    • Interdependence
  • Food & Agriculture (1)

    • Local Food
  • Indigenous Knowledge (1)

    • TEK -- Traditional Ecological Knowledge
  • Land Use & Natural Resources (2)

    • Fisheries
    • Forests

Sustainability Education Principles

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

A strength of this resource

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 Good
Respects Complexity: The complexity of problems is respected. A systems-thinking approach is encouraged.
Action Experience Poor/Not considered
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 Poor/Not considered

These skills are not explicitly addressed.

Action Skills: Explicitly teaches the skills needed for students to take effective action (e.g. letter-writing, consensus-building, etc.).
Empathy & Respect for Humans Satisfactory

Students are introduced to past civilizations.

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 case studies connect students to the severe consequences of over-consumption for all living things and the physical environment.

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 Satisfactory

Case study approach conveys authenticity of events

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 Good
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
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
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 Satisfactory
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 Satisfactory
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 Poor/Not considered

Poor/not considered.

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 Poor/Not considered

Poor/not considered.

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 Poor/Not considered

Poor/not considered.

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 Good
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 Poor/Not considered

Poor/not considered

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.