Global temperatures continue to be affected by the combustion of fossil fuels and the subsequent release of carbon dioxide. This 3-week unit is designed to give 9th grade physical science or environmental science student an introduction to climate change, how humans are influencing it, and what efforts we can make to help limit or prevent it. Topics necessary for this unit include electricity, circuits, greenhouse gases, alternative energies, embodied energy, payback period, and life cycle assessments. This unit functions as a culminating project incorporating all of the topics listed above and challenges students to conduct research, engineer their own alternative energy solutions and prove their efficiency through calculation. Individually or in pairs students must pick an alternative energy, spend a day or more researching it, a day drawing a blueprint for it and creating a materials list, two or three days building model “power plants” to light 3 LEDs, and two to three days writing summary research papers. The quantitative analysis of their models (included in their research papers) and student’s ability to prove their models environmental superiority over fossil fuels will be weighted heavily.
My first experience teaching climate change came after a unit covering the mechanisms and impacts of climate change. After this unit, I realized students may have a pessimistic outlook on the future. However, in the past humans have successfully reversed some major environmental problems. One example is banning the use of DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane) as an insecticide which caused birds egg shells to be too thin. Another example is a global agreement to stop the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) which caused a hole in the ozone layer. Also the banning of lead in gasoline was another environmental success. The unit presented here is a engineering solutions oriented unit focused on climate mitigation. The mitigation strategies considered are carbon sequestration and alternative energies. This unit will cover the engineering design process with activities to practice this process while learning about carbon sequestration or wind energy. Information provided here includes background on climate change, information on the engineering design process, and different alternative energies or carbon sequestration.
This four week curriculum is for elementary learners to explore environmental engineering in urban environments. The unit starts with a broad question of “how can we make our community more sustainable?”, the unit will cover what the field of environmental engineering is, what predictability, mitigation and sustainability are, and how they relate to each other. These principles will be taught as vocabulary and will be supported with the use of anchor charts; students will be expected to use them during discussions. The unit will teach about urban infrastructure and the phenomenon of the Urban Heat Island effect. Students will then learn about and explore the possibilities of alternative energy sources and cities that already implementing green engineering. Students will explore how they can answer the question that was presented to them at the beginning of the unit. Following the engineering design process students will plan changes that they would make to their own city (in our case New Haven, Connecticut). Students will act as environmental engineers to come up with potential solutions to answer the broad question posed at the beginning of the unit.
This unit is geared for high school biology students. The unit will take place after the students have learned about ecology and population growth. The students will use their prior knowledge on subjects like food webs and balance within ecosystems to understand how small factors can cause great changes.
The unit will start off by considering invasive species and how the introduction of a single new organism into an ecosystem that is already in balance can disrupt the flow of energy. With this in mind, the students will think about how humans have done something similar. We introduced ourselves into new areas and have caused environmental harm. From there, we will study climate-based damage caused by humans and consider the environmental and biological impacts.
Finally, we will design strategies to adapt to a changing planet. This will have the students looking into how the world has changed, and what we can do to cope with the diverse climate-based impacts.
In today’s world, the most debated environmental issues are climate change, pollution, deforestation, acid rain, ozone layer depletion, waste management and genetically modified organisms (GMO’s). However, there is an issue that most people don’t even think about and yet has important effects on human health: the quality of indoor air. A poor indoor air quality (IAQ) has been found responsible for the death of 4.3 million people in 2012, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
The purpose of this unit is to provide the middle and high school Science teachers with an overview of the main sources of indoor air pollution (breathing and carbon dioxide emissions in highly occupied classrooms, tobacco smoking, use of electronic cigarettes and emissions of organic compounds resulted from the use of cleaning agents, building materials). Students will explore and study the indoor air compounds that are harmful for human health, identify the sources of indoor air pollution and learn what they can do to reduce that pollution inside classrooms and homes. Teachers will use the concepts of indoor air pollution to expose students to organic and inorganic chemistry and introduce students to the basic nomenclature of organic compounds.
Students will also study and model the concentration of indoor pollutants and find out how much a classroom must be ventilated in order to keep the concentrations of some pollutants (for example carbon dioxide) at a low level.
The unit is intended to be taught in high school Chemistry, Physical and Environmental Science classes, but it can be used also by middle school 7th and 8th grade Science teachers to introduce students to concepts related to indoor air pollution.
The unit will last approximately two weeks.
Clean and purified drinking water is a basic human need and over ¾ of the Earth’s human population has the luxury of having it piped directly into their homes. Unfortunately, that leaves almost 2 billion people worldwide where access to clean water is questionable. This unit will help students understand the risks involved with drinking untreated water and engage them in an engineering project to produce a means of filtering water to make it less risky. The beginning of this unit is designed to first help students understand the risks of drinking dirty water by introducing them to the world of microbial pathogens. Students will learn about some of the most common bacteria, viruses, and protozoa that can be lurking in a potential drinking water source. Then students will learn the basics of water treatment and how water treatment has evolved over the past thousand years. Students will use this knowledge to finally construct and test a water filter of their own design.
The unit was written in partnership with Dr. Jordan Peccia, a professor of Environmental Engineering at Yale University. It is designed for elementary students as young as third grade, but the concept and strategies involved can easily be adapted to learners of any age.
“Ocean Acidification, Imminent Mass Extinction?” is a unit for an Earth, Physical, or Environmental Science classroom. This unit is easily included in larger curricula focusing on climate change, the carbon cycle, human impact on Earth, or ocean chemistry. A backdrop for the unit is that ocean acidification may be jeopardizing global primary production because phytoplankton are being forced to adapt to a lower and lower pH. Loss of this piece of the food web has the potential to collapse massive, if not the most massive, ecosystems, hence mass extinction. Past mass extinction events are briefly discussed.
The unit begins by presenting the phenomenon of an ocean pH that is changing and then delves into the chemistry behind the change. The unit also considers the biological consequences of an ocean that is more acidic than it had been in millennia. Furthermore, implications to global carbon cycling are considered as the planet relies on microscopic ocean creatures to sequester carbon and transport it into long term storage. Lastly, the unit presents some recent research into the effects of the increased ocean acidity on an array of different organisms. Student activities are focused on hands on demonstrations that help students gain an understanding of pH; how pH is affected by carbon dioxide; and how shells are vulnerable to acidic conditons.
Whatever method we use to get a drink, we don't have to consider the environmental and water quality engineering underlying clean water. Living in the industrialized world, like the United States, we are fortunate - we don't have to worry about the quality of our drinking water. But in many parts of the world, people don't have this luxury. The focus in this six-week curriculum unit is for primary-grade scientists to build an appreciation for the outdoors, impart an understanding of how many people in the world struggle to find clean water, and empower them to solve a problem. Students will spend time learning new concepts and experiencing laboratory and field demonstrations as they move through this curriculum unit on environmental engineering and specifically, water filtration.
The curriculum unit begins with the primary mentor texts, The River Ran Wild: An Environmental History by Lynne Cherry and The Water Princess by Susan Verde. Classroom activities include learning about water treatment and access, experience carrying water, engineer a working water filter, field trips to the pond, and connecting with an area in need of easier access to clean water.