Discuss current issues facing the planet
Next Generation Science Standards Skills Sheet
Analyze the Issue Activity Sheet
Pen or pencil
Access to Internet
Warm-up Discussion: The Big Issues
1. Have students brainstorm some of the major environmental issues affecting the planet. Write down students’ ideas on your whiteboard or chalkboard. Then have the class vote on what they consider to be the top five "big issues." Engage in a discussion as to why they think these problems are the most pressing.
2. Choose one item from your class’s top-five list. Ask students to think critically about this issue by asking:
What is the cause of the problem?
Are people responsible for or contributing to this problem? How?
What are the impacts that result from this environmental problem? How do they happen?
What solutions could help fix the problem?
What don’t we know about this problem?
Are you personally curious about anything related to this issue?
Main Lesson: Environmental Stewardship
Step 1: Help students make a connection between human actions and their effects on the environment. People can have a negative influence—or a positive one—on the world around us. Explain that students can help solve issues facing the planet by practicing environmental stewardship—the responsible use and protection of the natural world. Ask students:
What are some ways people could put environmental stewardship into action in their homes? Schools? Community?
Step 2: Taking on the task of caring for the planet might seem daunting. But when many people make small changes in their own lives to help the environment, it can have a big impact on everyone. Share the following examples with your class to illustrate how environmental stewardship can work on a large scale.
By replacing regular light bulbs with more energy-efficient compact fluorescent ones, Americans would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes for a year.
Americans throw away enough paper and plastic cups and plastic cutlery each year to circle Earth 300 times. If people were to stop using these disposable items, it would reduce a huge amount of waste that would otherwise end up in landfills.
Step 3: Introduce students to some people who have made environmental stewardship their life’s mission. Have students access the links individually or in small groups to learn how each of the following environmentalists has worked to protect the planet.
Wangari Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement to stop deforestation. Since Maathai started the movement in 1977, 51 million trees have been planted: yesmagazine.org/issues/media-that-set-us-free/the-green-belt-movement-the-story-of-wangari-maathai
Jane Goodall, a famous chimpanzee researcher, has now turned her attention to protecting the environment. She offers this advice to young people on environmental stewardship: youtube.com/watch?v=skAbsyRkCLg
Sylvia Earle is a marine biologist who works to save the seas and encourage others to do the same: outsideonline.com/2030946/marine-biologist-sylvia-earle-profile
Step 4: Engage students in a classroom discussion about the environmentalists they read about by asking:
What led Maathai, Goodall, and Earle to choose a particular environmental issue to focus on?
How did they get others involved?
Describe Goodall’s advice to young people in your own words.
Wrap-up Activity: Local Impacts
1. Many environmental stewards take on problems that have a direct impact on people, places, and wildlife close to their hearts. They’re passionate about these issues, and that passion helps inspire others. Have students think about whether there are any environmental issues they find important. Why does this issue resonate with you?
2. Explain that students will learn about an environmental issue affecting their community. They’ll search for news articles on the Internet that highlight this problem, and then conduct further research to find out more information.
3. Distribute copies of the Analyze the Issue Activity Sheet to each student. Have students read the worksheet introduction individually. Then ask them to complete the steps to analyze their chosen issue and find out whether environmental stewardship has helped solve the problem. When done, students will write an informative paragraph summarizing their research.