Learn about various environmental issues
Develop a plan to make a difference
Next Generation Science Standards Skills Sheet
Get Inspired! Activity Sheet
Pen or pencil
Access to Internet or library
Warm-up Discussion: Protecting the Environment
1. Tell the class: Name some environmental issues facing our planet. Call on volunteers to write their answers on your whiteboard or chalkboard.
2. Divide your class into several groups. Assign one of the environmental problems to each group. Ask:
Why might these problems be hard to solve? How could solutions benefit people and the planet?
Give the groups a few minutes to write down their answers. Then have them share with the class.
3. Get students thinking about how they can take action to help the environment by asking:
How many of you would like to make a change for the good of your community? How about for the good of the world?
How much do you think one person's or group's actions can accomplish?
Main Lesson: Making a Difference
Step 1: Read the following passage out loud or display it for students to read on their own using a computer/projector combination or interactive whiteboard. The text introduces students to Rachel Carson, a scientist who helped launch the environmental movement.
Rachel Carson started her career on a part-time basis at the United States Bureau of Fisheries in 1935. As a marine biologist and editor there, she wrote pamphlets, radio scripts, and books about nature.
When the use of new chemical pesticides began to increase in popularity, Carson turned her attention elsewhere. She began researching their effects. In 1962, Carson published her findings in a book called Silent Spring. The book is famous for alerting the public to the dangers of a chemical called DDT.
Introduced in the United States for the purposes of commercial use in 1945, farmers employed DDT to kill insects that harmed their crops. Little did they know that the pesticide was also poisoning waterways. It seeped into rivers and lakes and built up in the bodies of marine animals.
Birds who ate large fish at the top of the food chain were hit particularly hard. The chemical affected their ability to reproduce. It caused their eggshells to thin and crack, killing the unborn chicks inside. Some birds, such as the bald eagle, the brown pelican, and the peregrine falcon, faced decline due to the use of DDT.
Carson was attacked by the chemical industry for her stance on DDT. But she continued to speak up on behalf of the environment and on the importance of protecting it. Her work led to a government investigation into the use of DDT and a decision to ban it.
Step 2: Assess students' understanding of the text by asking the following:
Use context clues to define the phrase "food chain."
Explain how DDT harms birds.
How did Rachel Carson inform the public about DDT? What was the outcome of her efforts?
Step 3: Some environmental issues may seem too large for one person or even a small group to face. Remind students that in Carson's story, it just took one person to make a difference. Carson stood up for her ideas because she felt strongly about the issue of protecting waterways and marine life. Ask:
Are there any environmental issues you personally find important? If so, what are they and why are they important to you?
Step 4: Carson's actions spotlighted a national problem. Many times, though, environmental efforts begin by focusing on local issues. Have students think of examples of people working to make a difference for the environment in their community. Maybe they organized a local beach cleanup, created a community garden, or set up a recycling program. Ask: Do their actions inspire you to do something to improve life in your town or city? If so, what would you do?
Step 5: Explain that ideas that start locally can catch on. They can then expand to the regional, state, national, or even global level. Ask:
How might people working to make changes in their own community share their ideas with others?
What actions in your community could play a bigger role in solving global environmental issues?
Wrap-up Activity: Using the Get Inspired! Activity Sheet
1. Divide students into groups, and hand out a copy of the Get Inspired! Activity Sheet to each. This activity guides groups to research a problem impacting the environment and come up with possible solutions using an organizational tool called a mind map.
2. Read the Get Inspired! Activity Sheet introduction together as a class. Give groups about 15 minutes to complete the mind map on their own. Note: They'll need access to the Internet or library for this portion of the activity.
3. When done researching, students will write an essay based on the information they gathered. This can be done during class time or as a take-home assignment.