Lesson 1: Living Sustainably
Terms and Vocabulary:
- ECOSYSTEM-The animals, plants, and nonliving resources in a particular area.
- SUSTAINABILITY-Conditions under which humans and nature exist in harmony while meeting the needs of current and future generations.
- FOREST MANAGEMENT-Providing a forest with proper care so that it remains healthy while providing desired products and benefits.
Learn the difference between sustainable and unsustainable harvesting of resources. Research and write a position paper that focuses on managing forests sustainably.
Introductory Activity: If your class has not previously discussed sustainable choices and resource management, consider using the lesson What is sustainability? and/or the corresponding worksheet "It's a Truffula seed. It's the last one of all!" to introduce these concepts more slowly. It provides simple, clear foundational knowledge for classes and is a useful lead-in to this lesson.
1. Divide the class into two unequal groups-one group will contain about 80 percent of the students, the other group 20 percent. Explain that you will distribute an imaginary treat, such as iPhones or laptops, for the students to share. Say that the larger group will be given four items to share among themselves. The smaller group will be given 16 to share. Ask: Is this fair? Why or why not? Explain: The world's resources are not divided evenly. Eighty percent of the world's resources are used up by just 20 percent of the world's population. Consider: Given these statistics, why is it important to not waste resources?
2. Read "It's a Truffula seed. It's the last one of all!" student worksheet silently or as a class. Then expand the classroom discussion to talk about issues of sustainable forests. Explain: Sustainable resources can be used by humans without harming their health or the environment, and without destroying that resource for future generations. Yet many resources can be either sustainable or unsustainable, depending on how they are used. Forests, for instance, are valuable resources that are likely to be used for human benefit. Forests are sustainable resources when managed well. If important forest areas (such as areas where rare plants or animals live, or areas around important water sources) are conserved, human activities like logging can occur in other parts of the forest without having a negative impact. But without responsible management, forests can be harvested unsustainably-for example, by activities such as illegal logging or cutting trees in an area that negatively impacts the health of streams.
3. Explain: Forest management is not just about harvesting wood for lumber and paper . Forests may be cut for agriculture or development. Wood may be used as fuel. There are many uses of forested lands, some of which conflict with sustainability goals. An understanding of the interconnected needs of people and ecosystems is needed in order to act in a sustainable manner.
4. Elaborate: Managing resources responsibly can be tricky, and not always obvious. For example, do you think it's better to cut down one big tree or several small trees? (In some cases, cutting down the large tree might be better; it's absence clears space for smaller trees to grow, and lets more light reach the young saplings.)
5. Distribute "Living Sustainably" student worksheet. Guide students as they consider the ways that humans and other species rely on forests and forest products. Review the sidebar and discuss the characteristics of a sustainable forest. After the discussion, help students craft position papers in their writing journals.
Think and Discuss:
6. Discuss the benefits of using sustainably produced or harvested forest products. Ask: How can forests be managed to use and protect their resources? How can you (as a consumer) figure out whether products were sustainably harvested?
7. Have students search online to find information about choosing sustainably harvested wood and paper products. Sustainable paper, for example, is denoted with forest certification markings. When purchasing wood products, one helpful resource is available from WWF. Visit the site to learn about different kinds of wood, and how to choose wood that has been harvested sustainably.
8. For another source of information about sustainable forest products, watch this short film from the Forest Stewardship Council, a not-for-profit organization that promotes responsible management of the world's woodlands. Explain: The Forest Stewardship Council certifies sustainable wood products so that consumers can make educated purchases. The video explains how unsustainable forest harvests destroy the habitat of threatened creatures such as the Amur tiger.
9. Encourage students to consider how wood products affect both animals and people. Ask: How do people rely on wood products? How might the harvesting and production of these products affect people's livelihoods? How can these people continue to work while harvesting wood products sustainably?
10. Ask students to respond to these questions in their writing journals: Do you think your purchasing choices make a difference? Do you look for the "made from recycled materials" symbol on products you purchase? When buying paper and wood products do you look for ones that are labeled "produced by sustainable practices," Will you do so in the future? Why or why not? What other sustainable choices can you make when purchasing goods?
11. The best way to learn about nature is to visit nature! If possible, visit a forest or other natural place with your class. Discuss sustainability and forest management as you walk through the woods. During your visit, give students time to record their observations of the forest in their writing journals.
12. Help students understand that protecting the world's wild places begins with making smart choices at home. Take a vote to select a green issue to focus on as a class project this year. (Examples: Building a school garden and compost bin; calculating how many trees could be saved or pounds of plastic avoided if staff, students, and faculty brought reusable drinking containers to school: planning a fund-raiser for an environmental cause.)
- Forest Stewardship Council: http://www.fsc.org/
- U.S. Forest Service: Forest Management: http://www.fs.fed.us/forestmanagement/
- Edutopia: Green Projects for the Classroom: http://www.edutopia.org/environmentally-conscious-lesson-ideas
- WWF: http://wwf.panda.org/what_we_do/footprint/forestry/certification/
- NRDC: http://www.nrdc.org/land/forests/qcert.asp
- Sierra Club: http://www.sierraclub.org/committees/forestcertification/
- The Nature Conservancy: http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/habitats/forests/howwework/responsible-forest-trade-forest-certification.xml