The Way We Live

...and how our choices impact our environment

Educator Resources 

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Find educational resources easily. The full list of resources is available in alphabetical order by title. You may also search by grade levels, subjects and topics. To search for multiple grades, subjects or topics, press and hold the CTRL key (Windows) or Command key (Mac) on your keyboard then click to select the materials you need. Many of the educational resources can be downloaded from the website.
 



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Educator Resources Materials Available Grade Level Content Areas Topic
Just Look at Our Shoes

Just Look at Our Shoes Lesson Plan (PDF)    Just Look at Our Shoes Lesson Plan (DOC)

In this interdisciplinary lesson, students learn about the life cycle of shoes and calculate the quantity of shoes discarded. They learn that the earth is a closed system and that there is no “away.” Math exercises can be designed for almost any grade level, such as Math Exercises for Grades 1-6.  

What teachers say…

The shoes activity was a huge hit with my class, a cross curricular winner. In math we charted, averaged, multiplied decimals…to figure the [shoes]…thrown in the trash. In writer's workshop they wrote an explanatory and persuasive piece both explaining what the problem is and…researched possible solutions... In computer we searched web sites...and hunted for ways to deal with "shoes." In social studies we discussed third world countries, labor issues...
 
 
Activity 3-5, 6-8 Math, Science, Social Studies Reduction/Consumption, Natural Resources/Life Cycles
Leyla Acaroglu: Paper beats plastic? How to rethink environmental folklore

See Leyla Acaroglu's Ted Talk video here:  Paper Beats Plastic?  How to Rethink Environmental Folklore.

Most of us want to do the right thing when it comes to the environment. But things aren’t as simple as opting for the paper bag, says sustainability strategist Leyla Acaroglu. A bold call for us to let go of tightly-held green myths and think bigger in order to create systems and products that ease strain on the planet. (Video description thanks to TED Talks.)

Videos 6-8, 9-12, Post-secondary Science Reduction/Consumption, Natural Resources/Life Cycles
Life Cycle of Everyday Stuff (by Reeske, Mike and Shirley Watt Ireton)

Check your library or store for this resource.

This 95-page curriculum offers ways to explore the science of consumer products. Life cycles, design, manufacturing and redesign are several of the seven units included in this guide.

   2001: National Science Teachers Association, Arlington, VA 0-87355-187-7 (95 pgs., Nonfiction Curriculum Guide)

Book/Reading 6-8, 9-12 Science Reduction/Consumption, Natural Resources/Life Cycles
Life of a Hamburger

See Life of a Hamburger Lesson Plan Here (PDF)

This lesson helps students understand the complex and invisible chain of production that occurs to get a common, everyday product to us. Its kinesthetic component is great for most learners, but especially for movement-oriented students.

Lesson objectives:

  • Students will demonstrate awareness of the chain of environmental impacts caused by the creation of a product
  • Students will be able to explain what portion of a product's life cycle is household wasted
  • Students will be able to name a minimum of two stages of a product's life

You'll need to download and print the following sets of cards for the activity:  

Activity 3-5, 6-8, 9-12 Science, Social Studies Reduction/Consumption, Natural Resources/Life Cycles
Lorax (by Seuss, Dr.)

Check your library or store for this resource.

The Lorax shares a powerful message about the environment in this classic. Brilliant and whimsical rhymes and delightful creatures tell the story that "UNLESS someone like you...cares a whole awful lot...nothing is going to get better...It's not."

  1971: Random House Books for Young Readers 0-39482-337-0 ( 72 pgs. Illustrated picture book)

Book/Reading PreK-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12, Post-secondary Arts, Language Arts, Science, Social Studies Citizenship/Service, Natural Resources/Life Cycles
Matching Match

See The Quest for Less:  Activities and Resources for Teaching K-8.

This lesson can be found on page 25 in the Environmental Protection Agency's Quest for Less curriculum. The objective is to teach students that products come from natural resources.

Activity PreK-2 Arts, Science Natural Resources/Life Cycles
Material World: A Global Family Portrait (by Menzel, Peter)

See Material World Lesson Plan Here (PDF). Check your library or store for the accompanying book.

The activity is based on a 255-page photographic look at 30 families, their homes and their possessions. The families represent 30 United Nations countries. Beautiful photos, and brief but compelling narratives and fascinating statistics about the countries, the energy they use, population per capita, etc. Though an older book (1994), it continues to be an excellent classroom resource when current statistics from the World Population Reference Bureau are used.

Here is a Worksheet/Handout to use in conjunction with the book/activity.  A shorter handout with additional questions from the 2012 World Population Data Sheet is found here (Material World Scavenger Hunt). See here for the 2012 World Population Data Sheet. See here for the 2013 World Population Data Sheet.

Availability of Material World books:  Several Iowa Area Education Agency libraries have multiple copies of Material World, and they are available through interlibrary loan.  The following, at a minimum, should be available: Grant Wood: 15 books in one set; Area 267: 6 sets of 5; Heartland AEA:  3 copies

  1994: Sierra Club, San Francisco , CA 0-87156-437-8 (255 pgs. Nonfiction)

Activity, Book/Reading 3-5, 6-8, 9-12 Arts, Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies Reduction/Consumption, Global Studies, Natural Resources/Life Cycles, Population
Material World: How Does the US Compare?

See Material World - How Does the US Compare Lesson Plan Here.

Through the process of making double bar and circle graphs, the students develop an understanding of how the United States compares to other countries with respect to years of school, income, and other factors. The World Population Clock may be a useful tool to discuss this book.

Activity 6-8, 9-12 Arts, Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies Reduction/Consumption, Global Studies, Natural Resources/Life Cycles, Population
Musical Resources

See Muscial Resources (PDF) Activity Here.

Similar to Musical Chairs, in this activity chairs represent natural resources. As they are depleted, chairs are removed but people remain and more people are added to represent a growing population. Participants share chairs and balance on laps to demonstrate depletion of resources. This activity has been reprinted with permission from the Iowa Department of Education from their 1991 publication, Clean Sweep.

Activity 3-5 Arts, Language Arts, Science Natural Resources/Life Cycles, Population
Population Connection

See Population Connection Website Here.

For nearly forty years, Population Connection (formerly Zero Population Growth) has been educating young people with its award-winning Population Education program and advocating for progressive action to stabilize world population at a level that can be sustained by Earth's resources.  

On this website you will see curriculum and professional development created to teach about human population trends and their effects on the environment and society.

Activity, Other PreK-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12, Post-secondary Arts, Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies, 21st Century Global Studies, Natural Resources/Life Cycles, Population
Product Life Cycle

See Product Life Cycle Lesson Plan Here.  (You may be required to create an account or log in to access the resource at PBS LearningMedia).

Students examine products to learn their "life stories," acquiring critical thinking skills as they learn where materials come from.  This PBS Learning Media activity also uses two, approx. two-minute videos, Electronic Gadgets and Orange Juice. You may need to create a free account at PBS to use these resources, but they are well-worth your time. Other videos that support this learning include Secret Life of a Mobile Phone "Life-Psycycle-ology" Sustainability Animation and The Secret Life of Things website. This handout, Tell a Product's Life Story, is adapted from the handout created by PBS and focuses on extraction and production.  Another lesson plan that complements this lesson/concept is the Life of a Hamburger Lesson Plan.

Activity 3-5 Science, Social Studies Reduction/Consumption, Global Studies, Natural Resources/Life Cycles
Secret Life of a Mobile Phone "Life-Pscycle-ology" Sustainability Animation

See the Life Pcycle-ology (2010) Video Here.

This six-minute Secret Life of Things video depicts the life cycle of a cell  phone…highlighting mining and transportation issues, as well as the short lifespan of a cell phone in the 21st century.  This is Your Life Cycle, a five-minute video, explains what life cycle assessments are and why they are important. Here's a handout (Life Psycle-ology Worksheet (PDF)) (Life Pscycle-ology Worksheet (DOC)) to use in conjunction with this video. Go to The Secret Life of Things for more great resources. Another resource, with additional information, can be found at The Secret Life of Cell Phones, produced by INFORM, Inc. (5 min.).

Videos 3-5, 6-8, 9-12, Post-secondary Arts, Science, Social Studies, 21st Century Reduction/Consumption, Global Studies, Natural Resources/Life Cycles, Recycle/Reuse/Compost, Waste/Pollution
Secret Life of Paper

See The Secret Life of Paper Video here.

This approximately 5 minute video, is produced by INFORM, Inc., an environmental organization based in New York.

INFORM, Inc says, "Where does paper go when you recycle it?  Why should you change your paper habits?  What can you do to reduce your paper footprint?  How do I recycle paper?"  

Videos 6-8, 9-12 Arts, Science, Social Studies Reduction/Consumption, Global Studies, Natural Resources/Life Cycles, Recycle/Reuse/Compost, Waste/Pollution
Secret Place (by Bunting, Eve)

Check your library or store for this resource.

The young narrator discovers wildness among a city’s concrete. He shares his find with a few grateful adults and, at the same time, introduces readers to wildlife he’s discovered. As his enthusiasm for wildness grows, he wants to tell others but is cautioned to “be careful,” as some may want to take it and change it.

  1996: Clarion Books 0-39564-367-8 (40 pgs Illustrated Picture book)

Book/Reading PreK-2, 3-5, 6-8 Language Arts, Science, Social Studies Natural Resources/Life Cycles
Someday a Tree (by Bunting, Eve )

Check your library or store for this resource.

Alice and her family prize an old oak tree in an open field near her home, but the tree starts to die because hazardous materials were dumped under it. The family and others in the community try to save it to no avail, but Alice thinks of a way that the tree can live on in another way. Great book for illustrating the dangers of chemicals. 

    1993: Clarion Books, NY 0-395-61309-04 (Illustrated picture book )

Book/Reading PreK-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12 Arts, Language Arts, Science, 21st Century Citizenship/Service, Natural Resources/Life Cycles, Waste/Pollution
Story of Bottled Water Video

See The Story of Bottled Water video here.

This 8:04 minute video explains the concept of “manufactured demand” for a product, and outlines the differences between bottled and tap water. Instructor tip: A handout in the Buy, Use, Toss Activity, Analyzing the Message (lesson 10), helps students think critically about biases in messages, and is a worthwhile tool to adapt and use with this video.

Videos 6-8, 9-12, Post-secondary Arts, Science, 21st Century Reduction/Consumption, Natural Resources/Life Cycles, Recycle/Reuse/Compost, Waste/Pollution
Stuff: The Secret Lives of Everyday Things (by Ryan, John C. and Alan Thein Durning)

Check your library or store for this resource.

See Book Description, Quiz and Curriculum Guide Here.

The book describes the life cycle of common products such as t-shirts, cola and French fries. The curriculum offers many activities.

   1997: Northwest Environment Watch, Seattle , WA 1-886093-04-0 (86 pgs., Nonfiction)

Activity, Book/Reading 6-8, 9-12, Post-secondary Arts, Language Arts, Science, Social Studies Reduction/Consumption, Global Studies, Natural Resources/Life Cycles, Waste/Pollution
Taking care of our earth (100% Educational Video)

Check your library or store for this resource.

Students tour a landfill, and learn about the importance of conserving natural resources. They also discover how reducing, reusing and recycling benefit the environment and how air and water pollution can harm it.   17 Minutes DVD

1999:100% Educational Videos, El Dorado Hills, CA 1-58541-292-9

Videos 6-8, 9-12, Post-secondary Science, Social Studies Citizenship/Service, Reduction/Consumption, Living Well, Natural Resources/Life Cycles, Population, Recycle/Reuse/Compost, Waste/Pollution
The Story of Stuff (Video & Project)

See The Story of Stuff Video & Project Here.

This website, The Story of Stuff Project, includes 20-minute on-line video that takes viewers through the extraction through sale, use and disposal of products. As its website homepage says, "The Story of Stuff exposes the connections between... environmental and social issues."

Discussion questions, group activities, and other information is also available at the site.

Story of Stuff Video Handout.

Activity, Videos 6-8, 9-12 Arts, Language Arts, Science, Social Studies Natural Resources/Life Cycles, Population, Other
This is Your Life Cycle Video

Click Here to See the Video, This is Your Life Cycle

Visit this link to learn about the 'Secret Life of Things', and to see fun and engaging resources that communicate sustainability, life-cycle thinking, and eco-design.  Created by Eco-Innovators.  

Videos, Other 6-8, 9-12 Science, Social Studies Reduction/Consumption, Natural Resources/Life Cycles, Recycle/Reuse/Compost, Waste/Pollution

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