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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.
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.
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.
The following tool will allow you to explore the relevant curriculum matches for this resource. To start, select a province listed below.
|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: |
|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.
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
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.
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.
|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.|
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.
Lessons are structured so that multiple/complex answers are possible; students are not steered toward one 'right' answer.
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
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.
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.
|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
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.
|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 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.
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.|