All resources in Environmental Literacy and Sustainability

Biomes and Population Dynamics - Balance within Natural Systems

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With a continued focus on the Sonoran Desert, students are introduced to the concepts of biomes, limiting factors (resources), carrying capacity and growth curves through a PowerPoint® presentation. Abiotic factors (temperature, annual precipitation, seasons, etc.) determine the biome landscape. The vegetative component, as producers, determines the types of consumers that form its various communities. Students learn how the type and quantity of available resources defines how many organisms can be supported within the community, as well as its particular resident species. Students use mathematical models of natural relationships (in this case, sigmoid and exponential growth curves) to analyze population information and build upon it. With this understanding, students are able to explain how carrying capacity is determined by the limiting factors within the community and feeding relationships. By studying these ecological relationships, students see the connection between ecological relationships of organisms and the fundamentals of engineering design, adding to their base of knowledge towards solving the grand challenge posed in this unit.

Material Type: Lesson Plan

Authors: Amber Spolarich, Megan Johnston, VU Bioengineering RET Program,, Wendy J. Holmgren

Technology and Nature in American History, Spring 2008

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Subject considers how the visual and material world of "nature" has been reshaped by industrial practices, beliefs, structures, and activities. Readings in historical geography, aesthetics, American history, environmental and ecological history, architecture, city planning, and landscape studies. Several field trips planned to visit local industrial landscapes. Assignments involve weekly short, written responses to the readings, and discussion-leading. Final project is a photo-essay on the student's choice of industrial site (photographic experience not necessary).

Material Type: Full Course

Author: Pietruska, Jamie

Biomimicry: Echolocation in Robotics

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Students use ultrasonic sensors and LEGO© MINDSTORMS© NXT robots to emulate how bats use echolocation to detect obstacles. They measure the robot's reaction times as it senses objects at two distances and with different sensor threshold values, and again after making adjustments to optimize its effectiveness. Like engineers, they gather and graph data to analyze a given design (from the tutorial) and make modifications to the sensor placement and/or threshold values in order to improve the robot's performance (iterative design). Students see how problem solving with biomimicry design is directly related to understanding and making observations of nature.

Material Type: Activity/Lab

Authors: AMPS GK-12 Program,, James Muldoon

Build a Birdhouse

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Students construct bird nests and birdhouses. They research birds of their choosing and then design houses that meet the birds' specific needs. It works well to conduct this activity in conjunction with a grades 9-12 woodshop class by partnering the older students with the younger students (but it is not required to do this in order to conduct the activity).

Material Type: Activity/Lab

Author: K-12 Outreach Office,

Engineers Speak for the Trees

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Students begin by reading Dr. Seuss' "The Lorax" as an example of how overdevelopment can cause long-lasting environmental destruction. Students discuss how to balance the needs of the environment with the needs of human industry. Student teams are asked to serve as natural resource engineers, city planning engineers and civil engineers with the task to replant the nearly destroyed forest and develop a sustainable community design that can co-exist with the re-established natural area.

Material Type: Activity/Lab

Authors: Denise W. Carlson, Integrated Teaching and Learning Program,, Jacob Crosby, Kate Beggs, Malinda Schaefer Zarske

Life Cycles

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In this lesson, students will extend their knowledge of matter and energy cycles in an organism to engineering life cycle assessment of a product. Students will learn about product life cycle assessment and the flow of energy through the cycle, comparing it to the flow of nutrients and energy in the life cycle of an organism.

Material Type: Activity/Lab, Lesson Plan

Authors: Integrated Teaching and Learning Program,, Janet Yowell, Kaelin Cawley, Malinda Schaefer Zarske

5th Grade Rain Garden Design Challenge Handouts

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These handouts accompany the 5th Grade Rain Garden Design Challenge Lesson Plan. The handouts give criteria for identifying areas of erosion and non-point source pollution entering waterways on school property, slope and soil suitability criteria for situating the rain garden, and data collection procedures for phosphate testing. The handouts also include guidelines and criteria for the final poster presentation design and Claim-Evidence-Reasoning, as well as rubrics for scoring and guidelines for peer feedback.

Material Type: Activity/Lab, Formative Assessment, Interim/Summative Assessment, Learning Task, Lesson Plan, Reference Material, Rubric/Scoring Guide, Unit of Study

Author: Amy Workman

5th Grade Rain Garden Design Challenge Lesson Plan

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This lesson engages 5th grade students in identifying areas of erosion and non-point source pollution entering waterways on school property, making a claim on the most suitable site to locate a rain garden by conducting field tests on slope and soil type, and testing for the presence of phosphates in waterways on school forest property. Students then compete in a rain garden design challenge using their data to create a poster presentation, including a map and claim evidence reasoning, for the best rain garden design plan, scored using a rubric.

Material Type: Activity/Lab, Formative Assessment, Interim/Summative Assessment, Lesson Plan, Rubric/Scoring Guide, Unit of Study

Author: Amy Workman

BioBlitz: A Spark for Civic Engagement

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The resources and project outline are the collaborative efforts of the Chain Exploration Center Grades 5 & 6 teachers and a FIELD Edventures educator. The goals of the project were for students to take civic action on environmental issues of local importance. Additionally, the teachers wanted students to become familiar with the four habitat areas, and observable species present in each area.  It was decided that conducting a bioblitz across 4 days–one in each area–would provide students with data that would be the basis for individual and small group investigative questions, issue definition and investigation, and a proposal for conservation, protection, and/or restoration of natural resources, habitats, or species of Wisconsin. Students then presented their proposals to their state senator in a visit to the Wisconsin State Capitol.

Material Type: Unit of Study

Authors: Sandy Benton, Mackenzie Loken, Brianna Hass

Christmas Bird Count

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A pdf file that contains slides with visuals to be shown. It explains the CBC from its beginning to end with an example of Data taken from our local bird count. Students will be instructed to build a data table and graph representing data. Then draw conclusions.

Material Type: Data Set, Lecture Notes

Author: Daniel Rye

Extinction of Passenger Pigeons

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Students learn about the impacts of humans on the enviroment.  Students will read an article about the overharvesting of pigeons. They will also  participate in a simplified simulation of how hunting contributed to passenger pigeon decline and eventual extinction.

Material Type: Lesson

Green Careers for a Changing Climate Instructional Supplement for Grades 6-8

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Green Careers for a Changing Climate is a twenty-minute documentary that introduces students to Green STEM Careers as a solution to climate change. Your students will discover these careers through interviews with eight green STEM professionals, learning the skills needed and possible pathways to a Green STEM Career. This free video is available after creating a login.

Material Type: Activity/Lab

Author: Climate Generation

Citizen Science Central

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This site is a gateway to projects involving public participants in real-world research, with hopes of fostering connections for sharing ideas and resources.

Material Type: Activity/Lab, Case Study, Diagram/Illustration, Game, Interactive, Lesson Plan, Teaching/Learning Strategy, Unit of Study

Citizen Science with Zooniverse

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Students learn that ordinary citizens, including students like themselves, can make meaningful contributions to science through the concept of "citizen science." First, students learn some examples of ongoing citizen science projects that are common around the world, such as medical research, medication testing and donating idle computer time to perform scientific calculations. Then they explore Zooniverse, an interactive website that shows how research in areas from marine biology to astronomy leverage the power of the Internet to use the assistance of non-scientists to classify large amounts of data that is unclassifiable by machines for various reasons. To conclude, student groups act as engineering teams to brainstorm projects ideas for their own town that could benefit from community help, then design conceptual interactive websites that could organize and support the projects.

Material Type: Activity/Lab

Authors: GK-12 INSIGHT Program,, Paul Cain, Yasche Glass, Jennifer Nider, Sujatha Prakash, Lori Rice

Climate Change and Citizen Science

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This animation describes how citizen observations can document the impact of climate change on plants and animals. It introduces the topic of phenology and data collection, the impact of climate change on phenology, and how individuals can become citizen scientists.

Material Type: Simulation