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Understanding Sustainable Development

Understanding Sustainable Living

Elementary, Middle, Secondary

Description

The lesson plan consists of a series of activities designed to introduce students to the concept of sustainable development and "ecological accounting."  Students measure their own ecological footprint and compare it to others as a means of calculating how much pressure one's lifestyle is putting on the planet.

Once students have done the "calculating", they are asked to consider what changes they might make to reduce their footprint. 

General Assessment

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

The resource helps students develop those skills associated with ecological accounting -  analyzing and presenting data, 

Strengths

A number of factors contribute to the appeal of the lesson:

  • it allows students to examine the concept of sustainable development in a manner that moves it from the abstract to the everyday lives of the students
  • it moves the issue from understanding to empowerment by encouraging students to consider what they may do on a daily basis to contribute to more sustainable  communities.
  • it adopts a case study approach that is effective in introducing the inequities in the world with respect to the demands made on the planet's resources.
  • the lesson is self contained, providing all the necessary supporting materials.

Weaknesses

Teachers may enhance the lesson by including a post-mortem discussion on the strengths, limits and cautions associated with the concept of ecological footprint.   

Recommendation of how and where to use it

Understanding Sustainable Living may be used to introduce students to the concept of sustainable development and the line between our daily activities and sustainable communities.

It can be used to support those units in Social Studies and Science that deal with our use of resources, the link between consumerism and responsible citizenship and regional and global inequities.  It can also be used as a real-world example in those Math units dealing with Statistics and Probability and Patterns and Relations. 

Relevant Curriculum Units

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        • Environment and Outdoor Education: Commitment to Action
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Themes Addressed

  • Citizenship (1)

    • Ecological Footprint
  • Waste Management (1)

    • Source Reduction
  • Water (1)

    • Water Use

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Satisfactory

The lesson assumes that sustainable development is a desirable goal and that achieving it requires that we be aware of what is meant by sustainable development and how we might contribute to its achievement  through our lifestyle choices. It accepts the use of the concept of ecological footprints as scorecard in measuring sustainable living.

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 Good

In examining their daily activities (social) and making comparison with others, students will recognize the interplay between one's economic status and the demands made on the environment.

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

In calculating their ecological footprint, students will recognize the impact their daily activities have on the planet and be less inclined to regard these as benign. In comparing their footprint with others, they may be expected to appreciate something of the inequities that exist with relation to the demands we make on the planet's resources. What should emerge is a heightened sense of  individual responsibility and a greater awareness of social inequities.  

The use of individual ecological footprints as a measurement  of sustainable living is useful but has limits. 

Respects Complexity:

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

Acting on Learning Good

Teachers are advised that if they wish to encourage students in the belief that that they are not helpless, that change is possible, and that they can drive it, they should make use of Design for Change. The Design for Change website provides a generic framework to guide students in taking collective action on issues of concern to them. The framework is based on a series of steps - Feel, Imagine, Do, Share - and may be used to help students take action related to their findings on ecological footprints.

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

Examining one's ecological footprint is an exercise in stocktaking and may be expected to lead students to a consideration as to what value they place on convenience, on self indulgence, on consumption, on nature, and on their responsibility for the collective good. 

Values Education:

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

Empathy & Respect for Humans Good

In comparing their ecological footprint with others, students will gain an appreciation of the advantages enjoyed and challenges faced by their peers around the world.

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

As students measure their ecological footprint, they will begin to recognize the demands they make on the natural world, both in resources consumed and waste generated. Further investigation based on the concept of sustainable development would have students investigate how fast nature can absorb our waste and generate new resources. 

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

In measuring their own ecological footprints and those of their classmates, students gain an appreciation of their individual and collective impact on local resources such as water land, and energy

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

An ecological footprint provides a snap shop of current practices and their consequences. Once students have the data, consideration can be given as to what changes they might make that would ensure a 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 Good

In evaluating various lifestyle choices for sustainability,students analyze the relative impact of their daily activities and that of others. The data gathered will enlarge their understanding of the economic and environmental consequences of one's actions. Their "answer" or response to their findings will depend upon their sense of responsibility in realizing a more sustainable future.  

Open-Ended Instruction :

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

Integrated Learning Good

The lesson addresses issues related to resource use and disposal, local and global inequities, and responsible citizenship that are found in Social Studies curricula. The gathering and analyzing of relevant data is the stuff of mathematics and the organization and presentation of the information gathered supports the realization of a number of skills related to the Language Arts curriculum. 

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 Good

The lesson plan adopts a guided inquiry approach. The teacher introduces the concept of sustainable development and ecological footprint  in a series of open or small group discussions and provides a framework for students to measure the individual's level of "sustainable living". 

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

Each of the lesson plan segments includes suggestions for differentiation and alternatives for instruction. The alternatives provide another possibility for whole class instruction while the differentiation is intended to suggest activities that may be suited to certain individuals in the class.  

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 concepts of sustainable living and ecological accounting help students approach and understand the larger issue of sustainable development in a way that is both concrete and relevant. The data gathered by students in analyzing ecological footprints provides them with a unequivocal and unambiguous picture of the impact of our daily lives and a blueprint for taking meaningful action.

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

Students are introduced to the concept of ecological footprint by working  in open or small groups to discuss their lifestyle and work in mixed-ability groups where they read  profiles of students in different countries to identify clues and information that would allow them to calculate their character's ecological footprint.

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

Student presentations on the ecological footprint of their assigned character allow teachers to make a formative judgement of student understanding, while the bar graphs produced as part of the exercise may be used for summative evaluation purposes. 

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

The lesson plans rely on guided discussion to explore the concepts of sustainable living and  ecological accounting but there are opportunities for students to share their ideas with others as to how one may reduce their footprint.

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 core of the lesson is the activity in which students are assigned profiles of students in other countries and asked to calculate their character's ecological footprint using the online Personal Footprint Calculator. This helps students see in a vary concrete manner the relative impact others have on the planet and against which they can compare their impact.  

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 are guided through a series of activities by the teacher but the segment of the lesson entitled Differentiation and Alternatives includes suggestions for individual students to undertake further investigation of certain topics.

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.