Sustainability of Ecosystems

I have come up with a resource package that is only 1 example of what this unit could look like if carried out as an action project. The idea for this unit is water quality. All activities included are the “bigger” ideas and should be supplemented with other instruction. At the bottom of the page you will find links to extra resources. 

Main ideas:

  • Ecology (are we losing diversity);
  • Population dynamics (how are species populations altered by human activity);
  • Biogeochemical cycles (what does it mean to have more/less molecules… ex. more CO2 in air);
  • Human impact on ecosystems (how do our activities affect our community/larger picture);
  • Plant biology (are plants adapting to altered environment/how do plants help us); and
  • Careers (environmental engineer, biologist, conservation officer, weather analyst…).

Part 1: Spark their Interest

Videos to make them think
Planetary Collective: Continuum A (preview for a) video that forces students to think about the ways that we live. 
Story of Stuff  A video that demonstrates our consumer attitude. 
 
Critical Reflection

Encourage students to start thinking about what they NEED and what they WANT and what the difference is. 

Students will write a blog post or thinking books entry about their understanding  of our effect on ecosystems, both locally and globally (preliminary thoughts). 

Individual Consumption Infographic
Students will build an Infographic about our consumption (either by taking a poll of consumption in our classroom/school or by doing research). Here’s an example: Save Water.

Part 2: Go into the Community

Visit Wascana Park (or other local body of water). During this time, students will:
  • Collect water samples to be tested and examined later;
  • Take photos to document life around the lake (plants, animals) – Project Noah App; and
  •  Use Pollution Tolerance Index to devise assumptions about the water quality.
Further examination of life at the lake by using microscopes to learn about the “micro-world”. Students should:
  • Take photos of micro life (if microscopes are capable); and 
  • Create blog post or write in thinking books. Topic: How might microorganisms affect lake life and how might they be affected by pollution?
Learn from an expert. Students will:

Learn from Peter Leavitt or a different expert in the field of Liminology. Either the expert will be Skyped in or visit the classroom for a student-led question and answer period with the expert. 

Testing the lake water. Students will:
  • Use Probeware and other chemical tests to test any of the following:
    Compare their test results to the “norms” found in the Water Quality Parameters.

    • Dissolved oxygen levels;
    • Turbidity;
    • Excessive phosphate and nitrate;
    • Hardness;
    • pH; or
    • Salinity.
  • Discuss how the way we live (human action) affects these levels in our lake. 
Visit the Saskatchewan Disease Control Laboratory. Students will go on a tour to learn about:
  • How drinking water is tested for different contaminants;
  • Some career opportunities linked to what we are studying; and
  • The technology involved in testing. 
Testing to determine how human action affects pollution in lake.

Students will work in groups to test how one of the following contributes to increased pollution in Wascana lake:

  • Fertilizer
  • Insecticides
  • Cleaning products – Drain-O, bleach, etc.
  • Transportation (cars/trucks) – oil, gas, windshield wiper fluid, etc.
  • Detergents  – shampoo, laundry, dish, etc.

Students are responsible for determining how they will research and test their chosen contaminant. Once their experiment is complete, students will:

  • Create a video, podcast, presentation on their topic. They must demonstrate how they set up their experiment, what they learned, and a proposal for how to “fix” it. They can think of this as a proposal for the final ACTION project. 

Part 3: Action

Students will work together to plan and implement an action project, based on their findings for the project above. *It is important that they feel they have choice in this! The following are examples. 

For this portion of the unit, students will work in small “professional” groups to cover the various aspects of the action project.

  • Contact the City of Regina to find out what type of fertilizer they use to maintain the grass. 
  • Contact the City of Regina to find out where the sewer system leads to.
  • Contact the Waste Water Treatment Plant to learn about the type and efficiency of the plant.
  • Find out what we are putting down the drains at our school – try to change for better.

Once students choose their path, they should come up with a plan to bring awareness/raise funds/make a change. 

Resources for Raising awareness:

Kickstarter

Change

Goals from this project are:
  • Raise awareness of students and other community members;
  • Develop critical thinking skills – “useful scepticism”;
  • Gain understanding of “ways to make a change”;
  • Develop sense of environmental stewardship; and 
  • Make education meaningful through action visible to students and community. 
Final Reflection:

Students will create a video/podcast/other final summary of their role in the action project, what they learned (struggles/developments/personal achievements), and their plans for the future. 

Have students write a final blog post or write in their thinking books about their understanding of our affect on ecosystems, both locally and globally (final thoughts).

Additional Resources

Sustainability Resource (RPS)

RPS resources

Go Green Saskatchewan

Global Institute for Water Security 

Saskatchewan Eco Network

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