Climate Change Science Unit – Lesson #11: Taking Action!
This lesson encourages students to take action on climate change. The class is introduced to a simple model of understanding taking action and after class discussion they move on to using an online greenhouse gas calculator to measure changes that they can personally take. They then look at wider change and some examples of ‘taking action’ that are already happening. This lesson is a stand-alone activity as well as part of the Climate Change Science Unit (this complete unit can be found by the same name in the database).
Time Required: Two 75 minute periods
Ministry Expectations (Ontario, Academic SNC2D):
A1. demonstrate scientific investigation skills (related to both inquiry and research) in the four areas of skills
A1.1 formulate scientific questions about observed relationships, ideas, problems, and/or issues, make predictions, and/or formulate hypotheses to focus inquiries or
D1. analyse some of the effects of climate change around the world, and assess the effectiveness of initiatives that attempt to address the issue of climate change
D1.1 analyse current and/or potential effects, both positive and negative, of climate change on human activity and natural systems
D2. investigate various natural and human factors that influence Earth’s climate and climate change;
D2.1 use appropriate terminology related to climate change, including, but not limited to: albedo, anthropogenic, atmosphere, cycles, heat sinks, and hydrosphere
D2.2 design and build a model to illustrate the natural greenhouse effect, and use the model to explain the anthropogenic greenhouse effect
D3. demonstrate an understanding of natural and human factors, including the greenhouse effect, that influence Earth’s climate and contribute to climate change.
D3.1 describe the principal components of Earth’s climate system (e.g., the sun, oceans, and atmosphere; the topography and configuration of land masses) and how the system works
D3.3 describe the natural greenhouse effect, explain its importance for life, and distinguish it from the anthropogenic greenhouse effect
D3.6 describe how different carbon and nitrogen compounds (e.g., carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide) influence the trapping of heat in the atmosphere and hydrosphere
D3.7 describe, in general terms, the causes and effects of the anthropogenic greenhouse effect, the depletion of stratospheric and tropospheric ozone, and the formation of ground- level ozone and smog
Show students the sheep cartoon. Have pairs answer the following questions and then have a short class discussion to share answers:
1. Have you ever tried to take action on something you felt strongly about? What did you do? Who helped you? Were you able to influence others to act as well?
2. Why should we take action on climate change?
3. What barriers are there to us acting?
Understanding Taking Action
Show students the Action Matrix. Have them generate examples of actions and attempt to put them on the matrix thinking of the horizontal variable of how many people are involved and the vertical axis of how large the action is. Next give them some examples of actions that they place on the matrix. Ask the class how these actions could be modified to be more collective and/or have a larger impact. Some possibilities are:
- carrying your own refillable water bottle
- buying products made from recycled paper
- supporting a band that speaks out on issues
- signing a petition (NB: there is no minimum age for signing a petition in Canada)
- running for student government
- doing your community service hours with an organization working for social change
Commitment to Action
Students are placed/form small groups. Each give themselves a name related to saving energy. Tell them that the groups are going to have a friendly competition in which the environment is the winner. You might choose to have a environmentally themed prize available. Conduct a quick review by asking these two questions:
1. What are greenhouse gases (GHG)?
2. Briefly explain how these gases warm the earth
Explain, display or distribute these instructions to each group:
Taking Action to Reduce Your GHG Emissions
In your group, brainstorm a list of activities in your lives that contribute to GHG production. Which of these activities could you change to reduce your GHG emissions? Open the GHG Calculator spreadsheet on your computer. Are the list of actions in column A similar to your list of actions that you could take to reduce your GHG emissions? In order to calculate exactly how much GHG you could save you must quantify your action. For example, the action of “turn off TV” is too vague. You must specify how many hours the TV will be off when previously it had been on. Your action might be to reduce TV time by 1 hour per day. If you enter 1 in cell B25, you will find that this action reduces your GHG emissions by 24.04 kg per year (see cell E25). Open the sample GHG Calculator spreadsheet. What actions are being pledged by this individual? Which action is most effect in reducing GHG emissions? How much is the individual’s annual reduction? Complete the GHG Calculator spreadsheet for your own actions. Now work as a group to combine all your actions into one spreadsheet. Submit it to your teacher.
Broadening the Environmental Impact
Discuss with students how the energy calculator and much of the advertising and promotion of energy savings concentrates on what consumers can do. Why is this so important? Explain how, for example, rebates on everything from light bulbs to house renovations to electric cars can help encourage people to save. Have the groups brainstorm what else can be done and display the ideas in the class to keep them thinking. They could place these ideas on their Action Matrix and/or there could be a large size version displayed in the class. Tease out ideas like:
• supporting the ‘Green Club’ in the school
• helping the school become an EcoSchool (or raise their level)
• pressure any or all levels of government to make the environment and energy issues a higher priority
• spread knowledge to school families of the rebates that are available
• see the “Environmental Citizenship” Topic Resource in GreenLearning’s eCards program for more suggestions
Energy Success Stories
Young people need hope – we all need hope!. We need to see the potential for change to yield results if we are expected to take action. The “Energy Success Stories” Topic Resource Centre (TRC) in GreenLearning’s eCards program gives many examples of people, small groups and large organizations taking action on climate change. Have the groups choose one of the stories (or the teacher could make it faster by choosing). Have them read and discuss them in their groups and then present to the rest of the class by:
1. Summarizing the story
2. Placing it on the Action Matrix
3. Answering the question: Why does this story give you hope?
1. This lesson could be used at the beginning of the Unit if classes want to follow through on their GHG reduction and compare notes at the end of the Unit. Have the students look at actual versus projected actions and have them reflect. Which actions will you continue, and why? Which will you not, and why? What were the barriers to taking action? How did you overcome them? What were the most effective methods you used to influence your friends/family/others to act? Alternatively student and/or groups could continue saving past the Unit end and celebrate at something like the Earth Day Assembly or year end.
2. The extent to which the groups compete is flexible. In addition, teacher’s could use the COOL 2.0 collaborative space to have classes compete – for the good of the environment.
3. There are always new energy success stories! Classes can research these instead of or in addition to using the ones in the eCards program. They could also post these to the COOL 2.0 database.
4. The core of this activity is the work with the GHG calculator and this could be studied on its own if time is short, but we certainly advocate helping students understand the wider concepts of taking action and the idea of collective and large-scale change.
GHG Tracking Tools (Excel spreadsheet)
Web Pages Used
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