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Earth Quest: A game of Environmental Literacy

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6th to 12th Grade Resources

Themes

Research

Lessons

 

 

Themes for 6-12 Grades

Goal for 6-8: Humans and Environment - Deepen the understanding of nature and of how humans depend on and impact natural systems.  Make connections to places locally to globally.  Connect with the social studies teachers if possible to explore ways citizens can make and change policy. 

Sixth Grade " Food"  - Understand how photosynthesis transforms sunlight to food, what it requires and what the end products are. Distinguish between biotic and abiotic factors in the environment, understand how they affect living organisms. Understand how competition between species can affect their populations.  Describe aquatic and terrestrial food webs.  Explore human food webs, local and global, and their dependence on natural food webs.  Understand how abiotic factors like soil quality can impact plant growth and agriculture, and thereby human welfare.  Understand the difference between fresh and salt water and how much there is of each and where each is located on the planet.  Explore human impacts on soils and water and make predictions about how these impacts could affect agriculture in the future at a local, state, national and global level.

Seventh Grade " Energy"  - Understand how atmosphere, weather and climate interact to provide particular weather in a particular place.  Understand how the water cycle transfers heat around the globe and is affected by the amount of heat on the planet, and how the atmospheric composition affects heat.  Classify renewable and nonrenewable energy sources, find out where they are located and what the rate of use or disappearance is. Predict what will happen to the resources at current rates of use, and how society might be affected. Understand how each energy source has different end products or impacts. Understand how the water cycle works and affects the distribution, abundance and quality of water available in different parts of the state and the planet.

Eighth Grade "Health"  - Develop understand of the human body as a system that transforms and distributes nutrients from plants and animals, and which responds to environmental changes.  Understand the causes of diseases, differentiating between infectious and noninfectious and investigating proximate and ultimate causes. Explore patterns of disease incidence in relation to biotic, abiotic and human factors. Understand differences between rocks and minerals, how they are distributed and how they are used. Describe and use Oxygen and Carbon cycles to address questions about the environment.

Field Trips - You must have one or more specific objectives - data that can be collected and analyzed as a result of the trip e.g. water quality measurements that will answer a question of interest.  Prepare by teaching procedures in class before hand, preparing data tables, explaining about natural hazards (and how to avoid or deal with them).  Practice in teams before going out to ensure good working relationships.  Go on the trip, collect data or information, come back to school and analyze and write up the data, prepare posters or presentations, and help students evaluate quality of evidence.  Consider waste water treatment plants, drinking water plants and wells, landfills, power plants, alternative energy projects, different kinds of farms, even grocery stores - but always have a question of interest that can only be answered by going to the place.

Goal for 9-12- "Issue Investigation"
Focus on development of the Inquiry  and Science, Technology and Human Activity Strands using environmental issues and problems to develop mastery of basic concepts, fluency with inquiry and leadership in social contexts.   Excellent opportunity for team teaching - pulling in math, social studies, communication to address discovery and characterization of a problem, analysis of its proximate and ultimate causes; development of a workable solution and promotion of the solution within society.

Inquiry Skills

Science, Technology and Human Activity Skills

Environmental Issues to Explore (Local issues - if they don't open a can of worms - are best). Pesticides (DDT to Atrazine); Ozone Hole; Global Warming; Environmental Justice (siting of waste transfer stations, hazardous waste sites, nuclear power plants, etc); Ground and Surface Water Pollution; Air Pollution (ozone, sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter); Bioaccumulation/ Biomagnification (chlorinated hydrocarbons, heavy metals); Overfishing; Invasive Species; Endangered Species; Embedded Energy (energy and resources required to make objects); Urban Sprawl (traffic congestion, fuel use, air pollution, water pollution); Selection for Antibiotic and Herbicide Resistance; Peak Oil and Alternative Fuels (like ethanol), Water Scarcity

Social Aspects to Keep in Mind

 

Research on EE for Schools

Most of environmental education research is devoted to the effectiveness of different strategies on changing environmental knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors. However the Alameda County Waste Management Authority and Source Reduction and Recycling Board commissioned a study in 2006 to review the literature on the impact of environmentally-related education on academic achievement (Norman et al. 2006). 

The researchers reviewed 24 original research studies, including theses and dissertations.  They categorized papers based on two relevance criteria: 1) changes in academic achievement measured by widely-used standardized tests in core curriculum areas: writing, reading, math, science or social studies; and 2) programs delivered as part of a K-12 program.

Studies were also categorized based on whether they met five research quality criteria: 1) a randomized or other technique to avoid group bias; 2) peer review with a description of intervention and participants; 3) at least 300 students or 50 classrooms/schools; 4) valid outcome measures (standardized tests); and 5) statistical tests on significance of impact.

Eight of the reviewed studies met all the criteria. Of these, seven showed positive outcomes for students who received environmental education (2 in writing/language arts, 2 in reading, 3 in math). One study showed no impact (science) and one showed a slight negative impact (reading). (results do not sum because some studies covered more than one subject). 

Twelve studies met some but not all of the criteria. Of these, eleven showed positive outcomes for students who received environmental education (2 in writing/language arts, 1 in reading, 3 in math, 3 in science and 2 in social studies). One study showed a negative impact (math).

While not as definitive, the remaining studies found improvements in attendance, behavior, retention, increased enthusiasm for learning, greater pride of ownership, increased interest in reading and "greater volumes of higher quality writing".

The study summary included these findings --

and these recommendations --

Norman, N., A. Jennings, L. Wahl.  2006. The impact of environmentally related education on academic achievement. Community Resources for Science. http://www.crscience.org/providers/research.html accessed: September 20, 2011

(Note - the study included both elementary and upper grades)