This resource is for teachers to develop their knowledge around climate science along with NGSS-aligned teaching strategies . Teachers can learn more about the following climate change impacts: coastal hazards, fire, human health, floods & droughts, agriculture and species & ecosystems. Users should reference the "STEM Seminar Slides_Template" as a guide for a daylong training and use the other materials as supplemental information and resources.
Students will construct a model of the carbon cycle to explore the cycling of matter in decomposition. Students will design a process to compost food waste and recycle products used during lunchtime to reduce the amount of garbage the school produces.
Through eight lessons, students are introduced to many facets of dams, including their basic components, the common types (all designed to resist strong forces), their primary benefits (electricity generation, water supply, flood control, irrigation, recreation), and their importance (historically, currently and globally). Through an introduction to kinetic and potential energy, students come to understand how dams generate electricity. They learn about the structure, function and purpose of locks, which involves an introduction to Pascal's law, water pressure and gravity. Other lessons introduce students to common environmental impacts of dams and the engineering approaches to address them. They learn about the life cycle of salmon and the many engineered dam structures that aid in their river passage, as they think of their own methods and devices that could help fish migrate past dams. Students learn how dams and reservoirs become part of the Earth's hydrologic cycle, focusing on the role of evaporation. To conclude, students learn that dams do not last forever; they require ongoing maintenance, occasionally fail or succumb to "old age," or are no longer needed, and are sometimes removed. Through associated hands-on activities, students track their personal water usage; use clay and plastic containers to model and test four types of dam structures; use paper cups and water to learn about water pressure and Pascal's Law; explore kinetic energy by creating their own experimental waterwheel from two-liter plastic bottles; collect and count a stream's insects to gauge its health; play an animated PowerPoint game to quiz their understanding of the salmon life cycle and fish ladders; run a weeklong experiment to measure water evaporation and graph their data; and research eight dams to find out and compare their original purposes, current status, reservoir capacity and lifespan. Woven throughout the unit is a continuing hypothetical scenario in which students act as consulting engineers with a Splash Engineering firm, assisting Thirsty County in designing a dam for Birdseye River.
Geographic information systems (GIS), once used predominantly by experts in cartography and computer programming, have become pervasive in everyday business and consumer use. This unit explores GIS in general as a technology about which much more can be learned, and it also explores applications of that technology. Students experience GIS technology through the use of Google Earth on the environmental topic of plastics in the ocean in an area known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The use of this topic in GIS makes the unit multidisciplinary, incorporating the physics of ocean currents, the chemistry associated with pollutant degradation and chemical sorption to organic-rich plastics, and ecological impact to aquatic biota.
Energy Matters is an adaptable science unit designed for middle school students. Through the activities in the unit, students will increase their knowledge of energy concepts, with a focus on energy efficiency and conservation, as well as build understanding of the relationship between energy production/consumption and climate change. The unit includes four modules that represent different levels: Home, State, Global, Community. The Next Generation Science Standards Science & Engineering Practice of Developing and Using Models is highlighted throughout the modules as a way for students to make sense of complex ideas. There are also connections to several Social Studies and Geography Standards. Each activity includes a “Foundation” and “Extension” note for teachers to consider before and after each of the activities
Use this board game to introduce the concepts of energy use in our lives and the very real impact that personal choices can have on our energy consumption, energy bills and fuel supply. The game begins as students select cards that define their modes of transportation and home design. The players roll dice and move around the board, landing on "choice" or "situation" blocks and selecting cards that describe consumer choices and real-life events that impact their energy consumption and annual energy bills. As the players pass gasoline stations or energy bill gates, they must pay annual expenses as defined by their original cards, with amounts altered by the choices they've made along the way. Gasoline cards are collected to represent total consumption. Too many gas-guzzling vehicles can result in total depletion of their gasoline supply – at which point everyone must walk or ride the bus. At the end of the game, the players count their remaining dollars to determine the winner. Discussion questions probe the students to interpret what choices they made and which situations they encountered had the most impact on their energy consumption and energy bills. All game board, card and money files are available online free of charge.
In an active way, students discover a few critical facts about how we use energy and how much energy we use. Each student has a "clue," some of which are pertinent energy facts and others are silly statements that are clearly unrelated to the topic. Students mingle and ask each other for clues until they have collected all the facts they need. This provides a more interactive way to communicate energy statistics, compared to a lecture and introduction with board work. The goal is to introduce students to some key terms and issues associated with energy as a necessary prerequisite for the remainder of the unit.
Students utilize data tables culled from the US DOE Energy Information Agency to create graphs that illustrate what types of energy we use and how we use it. An MS Excel workbook with several spreadsheets of data is provided. Students pick (or the teacher assigns) one of the data tables from which students create plots and interpret the information provided. Student groups share with the class their interpretations and new perspectives on energy resources and use.
Students discover that they already know a lot about energy through their own life experiences. As active consumers of various forms of energy, they are aware of energy purchases for electricity, home heating/cooling and transportation. Through the pedagogical technique of a "carousel," all students become involved in brainstorming and contributing ideas. The goal is to introduce students to key terms and issues associated with energy, as a prerequisite for the rest of the unit.
Students learn about the wonderful and fascinating country of China, and its environmental challenges that require engineering solutions, many in the form of increased energy efficiency, the incorporation of renewable energy, and new engineering developments for urban and rural areas. China is fast becoming an extremely influential factor in our world today, and will likely have a large role in shaping the decades ahead. China is the world's largest energy consumer and the largest producer of carbon dioxide emissions, leading engineers and scientists to be concerned about the role these emissions play in rural and urban public and environmental health, as well as in global climate change. Through exploring some sources of air pollution, appropriate housing for different climate zones, and the types of renewable energy, the lessons and activities of this unit present ways that engineers are helping people in China, using an approach to cleaner, smarter, healthier and more-efficient ways of living that apply to people wherever they live.
In this unit, students explore the various roles of environmental engineers, including: environmental cleanup, water quality, groundwater resources, surface water and groundwater flow, water contamination, waste disposal and air pollution. Specifically, students learn about the factors that affect water quality and the conditions that enable different animals and plants to survive in their environments. Next, students learn about groundwater and how environmental engineers study groundwater to predict the distribution of surface pollution. Students also learn how water flows through the ground, what an aquifer is and what soil properties are used to predict groundwater flow. Additionally, students discover that the water they drink everyday comes from many different sources, including surface water and groundwater. They investigate possible scenarios of drinking water contamination and how contaminants can negatively affect the organisms that come in contact with them. Students learn about the three most common methods of waste disposal and how environmental engineers continue to develop technologies to dispose of trash. Lastly, students learn what causes air pollution and how to investigate the different pollutants that exist, such as toxic gases and particulate matter. Also, they investigate the technologies developed by engineers to reduce air pollution.
Air is one of Earth's most precious resources, and we need to take care of it in order to preserve the environment and protect human health. To this end, students develop their understanding of visible air pollutants with an incomplete combustion demonstration, a "smog in a jar" demonstration, and by building simple particulate matter collectors.
Students take part in a hypothetical scenario that challenges them to inform customers at a local restaurant of how their use and disposal of plastics relates/contributes to the Great Pacific garbage patch (GPGP). What students ultimately do is research information on the plastics pollution in the oceans and present that information as a short, eye-catching newsletter suitable to hand out to restaurant customers. This activity focuses on teaching students to conduct their own research on a science-technology related topic and present it in a compelling manner that includes citing source information without plagiarism. By doing this, students gain experience and skills with general online searching as well as word processing and written and visual communication.
Students participate in a global campaign to observe and record the faintest visible stars as a means of measuring light pollution in a given location. By locating and observing the constellation Orion in the night sky and comparing it to stellar charts, students from around the world will learn how the artificial lighting in their community contribute to light pollution. Student contributions to the online database will document the visible night time sky.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) is an intriguing and publicized environmental problem. This swirling soup of trash up to 10 meters deep and just below the water surface is composed mainly of non-degradable plastics. These plastic materials trap aquatic life and poison them by physical blockage or as carriers of toxic pollutants. The problem relates to materials science and the advent of plastics in modern life, an example of the unintended consequences of technology. Through exploring this complex issue, students gain insight into aspects of chemistry, oceanography, fluids, environmental science, life science and even international policy. As part of the GIS unit, the topic is a source of content for students to create interesting maps communicating something that they will likely begin to care about as they learn more.
Students are introduced to innovative stormwater management strategies that are being used to restore the hydrology and water quality of urbanized areas to pre-development conditions. Collectively called green infrastructure (GI) and low-impact development (LID) technologies, they include green roofs and vegetative walls, bioretention or rain gardens, bioswales, planter boxes, permeable pavement, urban tree canopy, rainwater harvesting, downspout disconnection, green streets and alleys, and green parking. These approaches differ from the traditional centralized stormwater collection system with the idea of handling stormwater at its sources, resulting in many environmental, economic and societal benefits. A PowerPoint® presentation provides photographic examples, and a companion file gives students the opportunity to sketch in their ideas for using the technologies to make improvements to 10 real-world design scenarios.
Students are presented with a guide to rain garden construction in an activity that culminates the unit and pulls together what they have learned and prepared in materials during the three previous associated activities. They learn about the four vertical zones that make up a typical rain garden with the purpose to cultivate natural infiltration of stormwater. Student groups create personal rain gardens planted with native species that can be installed on the school campus, within the surrounding community, or at students' homes to provide a green infrastructure and low-impact development technology solution for areas with poor drainage that often flood during storm events.
This activity simulates the extraction of limited, nonrenewable resources from a "mine," so students can experience first-hand how resource extraction becomes more difficult over time. Students gather data and graph their results to determine the peak in resource extraction. They learn about the limitations of nonrenewable resources, and how these resources are currently used.
Students keep track of their own water usage for one week, gaining an understanding of how much water is used for various everyday activities. They relate their own water usages to the average residents of imaginary Thirsty County, and calculate the necessary water capacity of a dam that would provide residential water to the community.
Students will compare and contrast renewable and non-renewable resources, and construct an argument from evidence showing how human populations affect the consumption of natural resources.
In this activity, students will simulate the equal and unequal distribution of our renewable resources. Also, they will consider the impact of our increasing population upon these resources and how engineers develop technologies to create resources.
Through an overview of some of the environmental challenges facing the growing and evolving country of China today, students learn about the effects of indoor and outdoor air pollution that China is struggling to curb with the help of engineers and scientists. This includes the sources of particulate matter 2.5 and carbon dioxide, and air pollution impacts on the health of people and the environment.
Students are presented with examples of the types of problems that environmental engineers solve, specifically focusing on water quality issues. Topics include the importance of clean water, the scarcity of fresh water, tap water contamination sources, and ways environmental engineers treat contaminated water.
The University of Iowa Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research and College of Education teamed up to develop free eighth grade science curricula on land use and climate science, in response to Iowa’s grade level alignment of the middle school Next Generation Science Standards.
Primary author Dr. Ted Neal, clinical associate professor of science education, led a team of graduate and pre-service teaching students and CGRER scientists to develop the material. They grouped standards, resources and lesson material into six bundles, each designed to engage Iowa’s middle schoolers with local data and information on relevant topics like athletic concussions and agriculture.
These lessons are built on NGSS principles and put learning in the students’ hands with hands-on activities for groups and individuals. Kids will have ample opportunity to get curious, generate questions and lead themselves to answers.
The goal of this activity is to understand how techniques of persuasion (including background, supporting evidence, storytelling and the call to action) are used to develop an argument for or against a topic. Students develop an environmental case study for presentation and understand how a case study is used as an analysis tool.
Students will brainstorm ways that they use and waste natural resources. Also, they will respond to some facts about population growth and how people use petroleum. Lastly, students will consider the different ways that engineers interact with and use our natural resources.
Students learn the function of the liver and how biomedical engineers can use liver regeneration to help people. Students test the effects of toxic chemicals on a beef liver by adding hydrogen peroxide to various liver and salt solutions. They observe, record and graph their results.
Through an overview of the components of the hydrologic cycle and the important roles they play in the design of engineered systems, students' awareness of the world's limited fresh water resources is heightened. The hydrologic cycle affects everyone and is the single most critical component to life on Earth. Students examine in detail the water cycle components and phase transitions, and then learn how water moves through the human-made urban environment. This urban "stormwater" water cycle is influenced by the pervasive existence of impervious surfaces that limit the amount of infiltration, resulting in high levels of stormwater runoff, limited groundwater replenishment and reduced groundwater flow. Students show their understanding of the process by writing a description of the path of a water droplet through the urban water cycle, from the droplet's point of view. The lesson lays the groundwork for rest of the unit, so students can begin to think about what they might do to modify the urban "stormwater" water cycle so that it functions more like the natural water cycle. A PowerPoint® presentation and handout are provided.
Students are introduced to acids and bases, and the environmental problem of acid rain. They explore ways to use indicators to distinguish between acids and bases. Students also conduct a simple experiment to model and discuss the harmful effects of acid rain on our living and non-living environment, as well as how engineers address acid rain. In an associated literacy activity, students learn how persuasive techniques are used to develop an argument, and create an environmental case study.
This lesson will allow students to explore an important role of environmental engineers: cleaning the environment. Students will learn details about the Exxon Valdez oil spill, which was one of the most publicized and studied environmental tragedies in history. In the accompanying activity, they will try many "engineered" strategies to clean up their own manufactured oil spill and learn the difficulties of dealing with oil released into our waters.
For students that have already been introduced to the water cycle this lesson is intended as a logical follow-up. Students will learn about human impacts on the water cycle that create a pathway for pollutants beginning with urban development and joining the natural water cycle as surface runoff. The extent of surface runoff in an area depends on the permeability of the materials in the ground. Permeability is the degree to which water or other liquids are able to flow through a material. Different substances such as soil, gravel, sand, and asphalt have varying levels of permeability. In this lesson, along with the associated activities, students will learn about permeability and compare the permeability of several different materials for the purpose of engineering landscape drainage systems.
Simulating the Tragedy of Commons illustrates for students to how sustaining our natural resources requires conservation and the cooperative use of those resources.
A quantitative illustration of how non-renewable resources are depleted while renewable resources continue to provide energy. Students remove beads (units of energy) from a bag (representing a country). A certain number of beads are removed from the bag each "year." At some point, no non-renewable beads remain. Student groups have different ratios of renewable and non-renewable energy beads. A comparison of the remaining beads and time when they ran out of energy shows the value of utilizing a greater proportion of renewable resources as a sustainable energy resources.
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.
Shellfish like oysters and clams are an important part of Washington State native traditions, the economy and coastal ecosystems. Shellfish have faced and continue to face many challenges including overfarming, pollution and ocean acidification. Shellfish also have an important role in addressing these challenges because of their ability to provide habitat for other species and filter pollutants, bacteria and excess nutrients from the water.In this unit students learn about the stakeholders, history, economics and cultural importance of shellfish in the Puget Sound/Salish Sea regions. Then they learn about how shellfish interact with their environment and their importance in local ecosystems. Finally they learn about some of the current environmental challenges and some solutions linked to shellfish. They will create a persuasive product from the viewpoint of one of the stakeholder groups. They should argue from evidence why shellfish are important to that group and what should be done with shellfish in the future.
Through an adult-led field trip, students organized into investigation teams catalogue the incidence of plastic debris in different environments. They investigate these plastics according to their type, age, location and other characteristics that might indicate what potential they have for becoming part of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP). Students collect qualitative and quantitative data that may be used to create a Google Earth layer as part of a separate activity that can be completed at a computer lab at school or as homework. The activity is designed as a step on the way to student's creation of their own GIS Google Earth layer. It is, however, possible for the field trip to be a useful learning experience unto itself that does not require this last GIS step.
In a student-led and fairly independent fashion, data collected in the associated field trip activity are organized by student groups to create useful and informative Google Earth maps. Each team creates a map, uses that map to analyze the results, adjusts the map to include the analysis results, and then writes a brief summary of findings. Primarily, questions of fate-and-transport of plastics are are explored. If data was gathered in the field trip but the teacher does not desire to do the mapping activity, then alternative data presentation and analysis methods are suggested.
Contamination in drinking water sources or watersheds can negatively affect the organisms that come in contact with it. The affects can be severe causing illness or, in some cases, even death. It is important for people to understand how they can contribute to the contaminants in drinking water and what treatment can be done to counter these harmful effects. Students will learn about the various methods developed by environmental engineers for treating drinking water in the United States.