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.
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.
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.
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.
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.