Environmental Literacy and Sustainability

Provide resources to integrate environmental literacy and sustainability standards into existing curricula and coursework.
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All resources in Environmental Literacy and Sustainability

Ice Fishing - Climate Wisconsin

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Climate change is affecting the duration of ice cover on Lake Monona in Madison, Wisconsin. Learn about the relationship between ice fishing and decreasing ice cover through the eyes of two local ice fishers. This story is from Climate Wisconsin — an educational multimedia project featuring stories about the impact of climate change in Wisconsin. Available resources include an interactive and ten videos along with background essays and teaching tips. Climate Wisconsin connects stories of personal observation and experience to current climate change research. Discover more at ClimateWisconsin.org.

Material Type: Diagram/Illustration

Author: PBS Wisconsin Education

Birkebeiner - Climate Wisconsin

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In this story, follow John Kotar through the 2010 American Birkebeiner cross-country ski race from Cable to Hayward, WI. Having skied every 'Birkie' since it started in 1973, John shares his experience and how the race is being threatened by climate change. This story is from Climate Wisconsin — an educational multimedia project featuring stories about the impact of climate change in Wisconsin. Available resources include an interactive and ten videos along with background essays and teaching tips. Climate Wisconsin connects stories of personal observation and experience to current climate change research. Discover more at ClimateWisconsin.org.

Material Type: Diagram/Illustration

Author: PBS Wisconsin Education

Climate Wisconsin - Stories from a State of Change: Sugaring

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This resource has a short video (3:34) to a digital story on maple sugar harvesting in Wisconsin and the impacts of climate change on this Wisconsin cultural tradition. The resource includes: 1) teaching tips with video discussion questions, 2) background information on maple sugaring and climate change, and 3) links to data bases on maple syrup production and climate change models.

Material Type: Diagram/Illustration, Reading

Extreme Heat - Climate Wisconsin

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Elijah Furquan, a spoken word artist in Milwaukee, WI, describes the effects of extreme heat on his urban community. This story is from Climate Wisconsin — an educational multimedia project featuring stories about the impact of climate change in Wisconsin. Available resources include an interactive and ten videos along with background essays and teaching tips. Climate Wisconsin connects stories of personal observation and experience to current climate change research. Discover more at ClimateWisconsin.org.

Material Type: Diagram/Illustration

Author: PBS Wisconsin Education

Adaptation and Mitigation - Climate Wisconsin

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After watching this video, students will be able to distinguish between the roles of mitigation and adaptation in responding to climate change. The video offers examples of actions that humans can take as individuals and a society to adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change on natural and built environments. Adaption and Mitigation is from Climate Wisconsin — an educational multimedia project featuring stories about the impact of climate change in Wisconsin. Available resources include an interactive and ten videos along with background essays and teaching tips. Climate Wisconsin connects stories of personal observation and experience to current climate change research. Discover more at ClimateWisconsin.org.

Material Type: Diagram/Illustration

Author: PBS Wisconsin Education

Sugaring - Climate Wisconsin

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Follow Kat Becker and Tony Shultz, third generation maple syrup producers in Athens, WI, through a day of sugaring. Kat and Tony describe the process of collecting and boiling down sap to produce maple syrup. They explore how specific weather conditions are necessary for the process and how those conditions may be impacted by climate change. This story is from Climate Wisconsin — an educational multimedia project featuring stories about the impact of climate change in Wisconsin. Available resources include an interactive and ten videos along with background essays and teaching tips. Climate Wisconsin connects stories of personal observation and experience to current climate change research. Discover more at ClimateWisconsin.org.

Material Type: Diagram/Illustration

Author: PBS Wisconsin Education

Great Lakes Shipping - Climate Wisconsin

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Come aboard with Pilot Randy Hayes on the Isa, a Great Lakes cargo ship carrying steel to the Port of Milwaukee, and explore the impacts of climate change on Great Lakes shipping. Learn how water level and shipping season affect the amount of cargo a ship can carry. This story is from Climate Wisconsin — an educational multimedia project featuring stories about the impact of climate change in Wisconsin. Available resources include an interactive and ten videos along with background essays and teaching tips. Climate Wisconsin connects stories of personal observation and experience to current climate change research. Discover more at ClimateWisconsin.org.

Material Type: Diagram/Illustration

Author: PBS Wisconsin Education

Composting Competition

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In a multi-week experiment, students monitor the core temperatures of two compost piles, one control and one tended, to see how air and water affect microbial activity. They daily aerate and wet the "treated" pile and collect 4-6 weeks' worth of daily temperature readings. Once the experiment is concluded, students plot and analyze their data to compare the behavior of the two piles. They find that the treated pile becomes hotter, an indication that more microbes are active and releasing heat. Through this activity, students see that microbes play a role in composting and how composting can be used as a carbon management process.

Material Type: Activity/Lab

Authors: Membrane Biotechnology Laboratory,, Robert Bair, Ivy Drexler, Jorge Calabria, George Dick, Onur Ozcan, Matthew Woodham, Caryssa Joustra, Herby Jean, Emanuel Burch, Stephanie Quintero, Lyudmila Haralampieva, Daniel Yeh

Composting – Nature's Disappearing Act

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Students explore the concept of biodegradability by building and observing model landfills to test the decomposition of samples of everyday garbage items. They collect and record experiment observations over five days, seeing for themselves what happens to trash when it is thrown "away" in a landfill environment. This shows them the difference between biodegradable and non-biodegradable and serves to introduce them to the idea of composting. Students also learn about the role of engineering in solid waste management.

Material Type: Activity/Lab

Authors: Amy Kolenbrander, Integrated Teaching and Learning Program,, Janet Yowell, Jessica Todd, Malinda Schaefer Zarske

3RC (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Compost)

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In this lesson, students expand their understanding of solid waste management to include the idea of 3RC (reduce, reuse, recycle and compost). They will look at the effects of packaging decisions (reducing) and learn about engineering advancements in packaging materials and solid waste management. Also, they will observe biodegradation in a model landfill (composting).

Material Type: Lesson Plan

Authors: Amy Kolenbrander, Integrated Teaching and Learning Program,, Janet Yowell, Jessica Todd, Malinda Schaefer Zarske

Biorecycling: Using Nature to Make Resources from Waste

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By studying key processes in the carbon cycle, such as photosynthesis, composting and anaerobic digestion, students learn how nature and engineers "biorecycle" carbon. Students are exposed to examples of how microbes play many roles in various systems to recycle organic materials and also learn how the carbon cycle can be used to make or release energy.

Material Type: Lesson Plan

Authors: Membrane Biotechnology Laboratory,, Robert Bair, Ivy Drexler, Jorge Calabria, George Dick, Onur Ozcan, Matthew Woodham, Caryssa Joustra, Herby Jean, Emanuel Burch, Stephanie Quintero, Lyudmila Haralampieva, Daniel Yeh

What Will Biodegrade?

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Students investigate what types of materials biodegrade in the soil, and learn what happens to their trash after they throw it away. The concepts of landfills and compost piles will be explained, and the students will have an opportunity to create their own miniature landfill in which the difference between organic and inorganic waste will become clear.

Material Type: Activity/Lab, Lesson Plan

Authors: Engineering K-PhD Program,, Roarke Horstmeyer

Soil Biosolarization: Using Food Waste and the Sun to Get Rid of Weeds in Soil

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Over the course of three sessions, students act as agricultural engineers and learn about the sustainable pest control technique known as soil biosolarization in which organic waste is used to help eliminate pests during soil solarization instead of using toxic compounds like pesticides and fumigants. Student teams prepare seed starter pots using a source of microorganisms (soil or compost) and “organic waste” (such as oatmeal, a source of carbon for the microorganisms). They plant seeds (representing weed seeds) in the pots, add water and cover them with plastic wrap. At experiment end, students count the weed seedlings and assess the efficacy of the soil biosolarization technique in inactivating the weed seeds. An experiment-guiding handout and pre/post quizzes are provided.

Material Type: Activity/Lab

Authors: Jesús D. Fernández Bayo, RESOURCE GK-12 Program, College of Engineering, University of California Davis

Dome It Challenge Scenario Cards

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Student teams find solutions to hypothetical challenge scenarios that require them to sustainably manage both resources and wastes. They begin by creating a card representing themselves and the resources (inputs) they need and wastes (outputs) they produce. Then they incorporate additional cards for food and energy components and associated necessary resources and waste products. They draw connections between outputs that provide inputs for other needs, and explore the problem of using linear solutions in resource-limited environments. Then students incorporate cards based on biorecycling technologies, such as algae photobioreactors and anaerobic digesters in order to make circular connections. Finally, the student teams present their complete biorecycling engineering solutions to their scenarios in poster format by connecting outputs to inputs, and showing the cycles of how wastes become resources.

Material Type: Activity/Lab

Authors: Caryssa Joustra, Ivy Drexler, Jorge Calabria, George Dick, Onur Ozcan, Stephanie Quintero, Emanuel Burch, Erin Morrison, Robert Bair, Daniel Yeh, Membrane Biotechnology Laboratory, College of Engineering,

Solid Waste Takes Over

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In this lesson, students explore solid waste and its effects on the environment. They will collect classroom trash for analysis and build model landfills in order to understand the process and impact of solid waste management. Students will understand the role of engineers in solid waste management.

Material Type: Activity/Lab, Lesson Plan

Authors: Amy Kolenbrander, Integrated Teaching and Learning Program,, Janet Yowell, Jessica Todd, Malinda Schaefer Zarske

Berkeley Unified School District: Garden-Based Learning Curriculum

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This curriculum builds upon many years of educating students in the garden and scales up content across grades and lessons for instructional scaffolding. It is designed as an interactive teaching tool to be co-taught with classroom teachers and garden instructors as leads. Each lesson connects directly to standards: Next Generation Science, Common Core State, Physical Education, and Environmental and Health Education. The concise and easy to-follow lessons are a packed 45 minutes for preschool through fifth grade. Flexibility is important, so some lessons include several activities that teachers can choose from to accommodate their lesson plans. Consistency is also important, so lessons follow themes and structures found in the Curriculum Map. 360 pages.

Material Type: Activity/Lab, Lesson Plan, Teaching/Learning Strategy

Design a Net-Zero Energy Classroom

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Students create a concept design of their very own net-zero energy classroom by pasting renewable energy and energy-efficiency items into and around a pretend classroom on a sheet of paper. They learn how these items (such as solar panels, efficient lights, computers, energy meters, etc.) interact to create a learning environment that produces as much energy as it uses.

Material Type: Activity/Lab

Authors: Integrated Teaching and Learning Program,, Janet Yowell, Malinda Schaefer Zarske, William Surles