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Understanding the Challenges of Finite Resources

Seeing the Bigger Picture; Lesson 3

Secondary

Description

This lesson is part of a series of lessons which introduce students to a different way of thinking about
how our economy could work: a circular economy. The series builds up exactly how a circular economy
is different from the status quo, and looks at the economic, environmental and social advantages of a
new approach.

This lesson is part of the Seeing the Bigger Picture series of lessons designed to introduce students to a different way of thinking about how our economy could work: a circular economy. The series builds on exactly how a circular economy is different from the status quo, and looks at the economic, environmental and social advantages of a new approach.

This lesson  helps students understand what is meant by a circular economy.  Illustrative examples are explored with the help of engaging videos and an inspiring testimonial.  Guiding questions are provided to help students examine the merits of a linear vs circular economy and generate discussion and debate as to their relative impact on the environment.

 

General Assessment

Strengths

The strength of the lesson plan is found in the content addressed therein. While other lessons have had students investigate our consumption of finite resources or our environmental foot print and argued for more responsible consumption, this lesson plan is unique in that it offers an interesting response for our consideration - the circular economy. 

Recommendation of how and where to use it

Understanding the Challenges of Finite Resources is part of a series of lesson plans that examine the concept of a circular economy and should be used in conjunction with the other titles in the series in order to help students better understand the concept and  its implications in greater depth.

The lesson should be part of any Economics course that looks at the workings of our current free market system. It may also be used by teachers of Environmental Science, Social Studies and Geography to support the teaching of those units that have students examine resources use and environmental impact.

Relevant Curriculum Units

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        • Macroeconomics 30: Course Content
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Themes Addressed

  • Citizenship (2)

    • Ecological Footprint
    • Sustainable Consumption
  • Economics (1)

    • Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Ecosystems (1)

    • Carrying Capacity
  • Science and Technology (1)

    • Appropriate Technology
  • Waste Management (4)

    • Cradle-to-Cradle
    • Rethink, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
    • Solid Waste Disposal
    • Source Reduction

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Good

The lesson plan introduces students to the concept of the circular economy as an alternative to the prevailing linear economy. The aim is to have students understand what is meant by a circular economy, to provide some illustrative examples, and to make a case for the benefits of a circular economy. It therefore starts with certain assumptions about the current economy and argues for an alternative - a new perspective about how we may produce and consume goods. 

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

The lesson argues for the environmental and social benefits of an economy that recognizes that the earth's resources are finite, that the present trajectory is unsustainable, and that we must devise an economy that uses nature as a model - one in which the concept of waste is foreign.

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 problem is presented in simple, stark terms - the earth's resources are finite. An understanding of the workings of the current linear economy and the possibilities of a circular economy, however, will make demands on students. The lesson takes that first step for students by having them view and reflect on several interesting an engaging videos.

The lesson should not be viewed as "the answer" to the problem but as an opportunity to engage students in a discussion critical to the planet's future.

Respects Complexity:

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

Acting on Learning Good

The lesson includes a "Take Action for Global Goals" component that consists of suggestions for immediate action by students and a "Take Action" website that outlines projects in their local communities for deeper engagement. 

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

Student consideration of their values will emerge as they consider the impact of their own and societies consumption patterns, the waste produced by that consumption, and the human rights implications the current linear economy has for future generations. 

Values Education:

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

Empathy & Respect for Humans Poor/Not considered

The lesson does not explore the issue of poverty and wealth but teachers may have students consider that if, indeed , the earth's natural resources are finite, competition for those resources will favor certain groups over others.

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 natural world is presented as a model for developing the circular economy. Proponents of the circular economy argue that the concept of waste is foreign to the natural world. There are no landfills in the natural world because one species waste is another's food. The current linear economy, it is argued, is unsustainable as the earth's  natural resources are finite.

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 Good

The introduction to the lesson plan personalizes the issue by having students consider the use of finite resources in their everyday life, the limitations of that use, and what they may do about it. 

Other lessons in the series examine the implications of adopting a circular economy and this may lead to consideration of what this means in local terms. 

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 Very Good

The short video accompanying the lesson (Re-thinking Progress) argues that our current linear economy has its roots in the Industrial Revolution and is unsustainable, given the finite nature of our natural resources. It argues that we are trapped in the frustrations of the present arrangement and must adopt a new perspective that represents a paradigm shift. 

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 argues that we have a problem - an operating system (the linear economy) that cannot continue, given that it is dependent on a continued supply of finite resources. The answer, according to the lesson plan, is an economy based on the concept of a circular economy. While this would seem to be proselytization, one may defend the lesson as starting a discussion in which students and teachers can weigh the merits of the competing systems.  

Open-Ended Instruction :

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

Integrated Learning Good

Economic teachers will welcome a lesson plan that introduces students to the relative merits of a linear and circular economy. The debate as to their relative impact on the environment has relevance for various units in Environmental Science and for a variety of subject areas that examine the possibilities of creating a more sustainable world. 

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 is designed to have students inquire into the urgent challenges that finite resources pose to our current economic system; to evaluate our current  consumption and production systems; and to explore better ways of dealing with resources. It accomplishes this by having students watch and discuss two videos.

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

The lesson makes use of videos, student worksheets, and small and large group discussion to compare the virtues of a linear and circular economy. The questions posed to students range from those  requiring a factual response to those involving more thoughtful consideration.

Part of the strength of the lesson is the personal element in which Ellen MacArthur tells her "story". 

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 Poor/Not considered

The lesson plan relies on the traditional teaching strategy of watch, listen, and talk. 

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 is introduced by having students work in pairs or small groups to discuss societies use of finite resources followed by a series of large group discussions in which students respond to questions that emerge from their viewing of videos. or reading of transcripts. 

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 completion of worksheets provide some data for summative evaluation while class discussion will serve to indicate the level of student understanding.

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 is limited to knowledge and understanding gained by listening to other students in small group and class discussions.

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 Satisfactory

The lesson is part of a five part series dealing with the circular economy. This particular lesson (Understanding the Challenges of Finite Resources) provides examples of the difficulties associated with the linear economy but one has to look to other lessons in the series (Designing a Circular Economy and The Circular Economy and Modern Agriculture) to find case studies illustrating the workings of the circular economy.

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 Poor/Not considered

The lesson plan would be described as guided inquiry. Students proceed through the lesson in lock step. There is an opportunity following the completion of the lesson to have students pursue the issue further by having them determine the possible economic benefits of a circular economy 

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.