Life Science

Population Impacts on Environments and Ecosystems

Have been going through this sci pack and have been enthralled. I always knew we didn't treat our environment well but it was pretty eye opening seeing the facts and pictures of how we got food and how our advancements in technology to sustain our ever growing populations can actually have negative impacts on environment. I am thinking if we are always on a sum zero gain....Kind of like Karma? Nothing good can come because we will pay it back somewhere down the line. Also having population principles laid out in front of me at a very simplistic level make me think about the future of our world for the next generations. We teach ancient civilizations and have students create civilizations from scratch based on geography and resources, religion, government and economy. I feel this can be integrated on a high level making it imperative for the students to consider all factors of sustaining their people...especially in the geography section and economy making it sustainable for the long term. Now days we have simulations and games that are programed to simulate these situations...Any hints?

Kyle Nakamoto
Kyle Nakamoto
1560 Activity Points

Just finished the SciPack and understand a bit more on impacts of humans on environment. This subject has so many implications. Call to action, civilizations, science, renewable energy...Thinking of other alternative renewable energy ideas and how societies and populations are influenced economically, socially, and politically and how sad that is that we see the effects but are letting these barriers get in the way of acting.

Kyle Nakamoto
Kyle Nakamoto
1560 Activity Points

Hi Kyle,

It's great to hear how you are thinking so critically of human's impact on the Earth. I currently teach AP Environmental Science and I have the students constantly reflect every activity - whether based in biology, chemistry, physics, or environmental - and how it impacts the Earth and society. At the beginning of the year, students come very "soapbox-like" with how we should only use renewable energy sources and forget fossil fuels immediately or stop all new construction. Eventually, they have to start reasoning with society's framework and how all activists need to work with each other for anything to get done.

Over the year, students transform to understand how research drives politics and economics, and vice versa. Many students will leave the class either as researchers, politicians, or medical doctors - as they now view that if poverty and medical disparity is not addressed, no progress will be made. It is important from a young age that students develop this empathy and understanding of interdependence. It makes their college and career transition much easier.

I hope that you instill the same passion and drive in your students that you present here. Onward!

Whitney Aragaki
Whitney Aragaki
2490 Activity Points

Our school (Waipahu HS) recently started to offer AP environmental systems, it's been going good. The teacher who teaches it said she really enjoys it and it's quite a rigorous course. I don't know the exact resources she uses, but I did find some useful references at http://home.lcusd.net/lchs/mewoldsen/EnvsciLinks.htm - if you want an outline to prepare your students for the AP exam.

In the past we taught certain parts of the environmental science aspects of biology and I was able to use some of the information on the site there, but a bit more simplified and not as comprehensive

Loren Nomura
Loren Nomura
4055 Activity Points

Scientific American had a great article in this month's issue on Global Warming and I just received this information from NASA that directly connects to our environment and global warming. It may be of interest to those of us teaching this content or a great tangential hook for our students.

The latest from NASA's Earth Observatory (23 October 2012)
------------------------------------------------------------------------

Petermann Ice Island 2012: On the Move

This time-lapse video shows the calving of an ice island from Greenland's Petermann Glacier and the drifting of the ice down the fjord and southward through Nares Strait between July 9 and September 13, 2012.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G08xPmxR28U&src=eoa-ann

Patricia Rourke
Patricia Rourke
45895 Activity Points

Here is the info if you wish to go to your school library and check the Scientific American article:
Global Warming: Faster than Expected, Scientific American, November 2012, Volume 307, Number 5, pp. 50-55

There is also a slide show of images showing climate feedbacks and the ecological feedback mechanisms they can cause: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=climate-cha...n-expected



Patricia Rourke
Patricia Rourke
45895 Activity Points

There are so many different ways that Humans have negatively impacted the environment. When I was child, there was a cartoon on television that helped make me more aware of my actions would hurt the planet. (I think the Cartoon was Captain Planet?) The reason that I bring this up is that I have seen a shift in the lifestyles of students. Many students feel that the occasional recycling that they do is enough. I disagree. I think that they need to be more aware of the impacts that their everyday living can cause. I don't think that students are aware that eating at McDonald's can have impacts to the Earth because of the packaging waste, methane gas produced from cattle, and from not buying locally. While thinking about this, I recalled learning about the trash in the Pacific Ocean that was the size of Texas! Has anyone done a lesson on this? Any ideas?

Shanae Hatchell
Shanae Hatchell
5820 Activity Points

Hey Shanae,
Thank you so much for mentioning the trash in the Ocean. Several years ago I was a winter volunteer at Midway National Wildlife Refuge and got to see first hand what happens to the NW Islands beaches because of the trash and debris from fishing vessels and also had the sad experience of seeing many Laysan and Black-footed Albatross chicks expire because so much of the squid gathered from the oceans for their parents contained trash - toothbrushes, pieces of plastic, bic lighters and other mundane stuff- in their food stuff. There are several photos of this trash that remains behind after the remains of these dead chicks are found on the nesting sights. I can post a photo if you are interested.

In the meantime, here is a site that will introduce educators to the NOAA Marine Debris Program.
http://marinedebris.noaa.gov/

There is an upcoming art contest for students and other educational opportunities. Teachers may also apply for the NOAA Teachers at Sea program, which is an experience of a lifetime.

http://teacheratsea.noaa.gov/
Applications for this program are due soon, November 7, but there may be other options and of course, there is always next year; we hope that the program continues and is funded.

Thank you again, Shanae

~patty

Patricia Rourke
Patricia Rourke
45895 Activity Points

Thank you so much for these resources! This is such a rich discussion. I have the good fortune to take my students to South Point on the Big Island. We take a small trek along the coast, and the scenery is very dramatic. First, it's just rocks and water, very peaceful and nice. Shortly into the trek, though, the trash begins to slowly accumulate on the rocky shoreline until it's covered in marine debris. My students always come away from the experience crying. Most of them try to pick up the debris and haul it to the dumpster at the start of the park. It's a dramatic and powerful moment for my students.I think seeing it first hand really changes their perspective on how they treat the environment and what they purchase.

Because of this trip, I've made sure to include an environmental impact component in most of my units so that they can learn the content and analyze how their efforts and actions effect the world. But, also, the challenges that they face with these issues. My students always hold 'green' technologies as the answer in the beginning of the year. By the end, they begin to have a more full understanding that these technologies don't happen in isolation. Yes, they can help the environment, but if they're abused, they're just as harmful as what they're replacing. I think understanding all sides of an issue is central to the idea of a well-rounded and literate participant in our society. I just hope that using this approach is setting them on that path.

Angelo Laskowsky
Angelo Laskowsky
2190 Activity Points

Thanks for all the resources. I am getting ready to teach how the ecosystem changes over time and have had a difficult time teaching this topic. I feel like the students know what to say but they don't know how to apply it to their everyday life. For example, the students know that they should recycle and they say that they recycle, however, there are plastic bottles in the trash can everyday. They bring a plastic bottle, wrapped with a paper towel and tin foil, instead of bringing an insulated water bottle that needs to be taken home, washed, and refilled.

I am trying to find activities/lessons that have an impact on the students so they change their actions. I guess I'm saying that I would like to teach them that their own actions affect the environment and we need to start with ourselves. We need to do what we can do for the environment, even small changes help. Any ideas?

Stephanie Taira
Stephanie Taira
720 Activity Points

I am also interested in all the possibilities that human impact on resources can bring. This is a subject that can be touched on in every subject and can even have kids initiate an action piece.

Here's a quick lesson that I enjoy doing with the kids.

Draw a hopscotch with chalk on the ground. Tell students that they represent birds, other other migrating animals. Have them jump through the hopscotch with no obstacles. Talk about how each square might represent a stopping place for the animals to get resources/rest they need to continue on.

Then throw one rock in one of the squares. Have them go through it again. Keep throwing more rocks in each time and have them go through each time avoiding the boxes with the rocks. Stop every so often and discuss what the rocks or obstacles could be? Humans taking away wet land for home development? Loss of polar ice due to global warming? Dam inhibiting salmon migration?

After the activity, discuss how difficult it was for the animals to go through the hopscotch with all the obstacles. If the animals can't go through the hopscotch or migration route, what does that mean for the animal?

Good activity for initiating interest. Not sure if its appropriate for older kids, might think your nuts to have them play hopscotch and act like birds?

Kellee Kelly
Kellee Kelly
7800 Activity Points

Angelo, thank you so much for sharing your story of how the students are impacted by finding marine debris along the coast of the Big Island. What a wonderful Island!

Have you thought about making a special field trip with folks from the Fish and Wildlife service on the Island? Working together and gathering debris to clean up the impact of humans to the environment could be very powerful as your students become citizen scientists and study the impact of human habitation on their home island with the FWS. I know that FWS has some environmental outreach programs and they probably would welcome the opportunity to interact with and to support your students.
Again, thank you so much for your 'real life' classroom sharing.
~patty

Patricia Rourke
Patricia Rourke
45895 Activity Points

If you do a search in the Learning center using the key words 'human impact on environment', the search engine returns about 40 resources for your review and consideration.
Let me identify a few for you:
Science objects:
1. Resources and Human Impact: Using Technology to Address Resource Use Issues
Grade Level: Elementary School, Middle School
2. Resources and Human Impact: Earth as a System
Grade Level: Elementary School, Middle School
3. Resources and Human Impact: Population Growth, Technology, and the Environment
Grade Level: Elementary School, Middle School
4. Resources and Human Impact: Environmental Degradation
Grade Level: Elementary School, Middle School
5. Resources and Human Impact: Grades 9-12
Grade Level: High School

and many others such as this journal article
Picture THIS: Taking Human Impact Seriously
By: Patricia Patrick and Tammy Patrick
Grade Level: Middle School

Go ahead and do a search to see the resources for yourself. There are a few mone SciObjects from another SciPack, too.

~patty

Patricia Rourke
Patricia Rourke
45895 Activity Points

Another great resource is the SciPack titled Resources and Human Impact. This SciPack covered both renewable and non-renewable energy resources. I really like the way that it covered both the pros and cons of each energy resource. It provides a lot of great information for teachers to share with their students. It is very important that our students know of alternative energy resources because the younger generations will live long enough to see the effects that coal, oil and nuclear energy does for our Earth. Oil is also a non-renewable energy source and our country and that is one of our country’s main energy sources. If we raise our children to find alternatives renewable energy resources, they will be able to pass their knowledge down to the next generation and the next.

Erica Kawamura
Erica Kawamura
1500 Activity Points

Thanks for the good words, Erica. The Science Objects from that SciPack are listed in the previous post.

Here is another journal resource that may be useful to everyone.

Science Sampler: Helping the environment helps the human race—Differentiated instruction across the curriculum
By: Karen Clark
Grade Level: Middle School

Patricia Rourke
Patricia Rourke
45895 Activity Points

A real life microcosm of current relevance is seen within the mysterious demise of the Mayan civilization. And we can teach this ironically near Dec. 21 2012 (Mayan "End of Times"). Just picturing the reality of this society's collapse points to how it may have been attributable to the depletion of nutrients and resources (limit factor fresh water). This idea seems like the perfect lesson platform to introduce man's current exhausting use of presently available resources. What we fail to return to the environment and discard as waste may just limit our future as we eventually head for some bottleneck in evolutionary terms. Now that is something curious enough to teach in December 2012.

Michele Bloomquist
Michele Bloomquist
2395 Activity Points

Michelle,
Thank you for mentioning the decline of the Mayan Civilization, which is still debated. However this site from a vetted history website may contribute to the conversation on this thread.

"Mysterious Decline of the Maya

From the late eighth through the end of the ninth century, something unknown happened to shake the Maya civilization to its foundations. One by one, the Classic cities in the southern lowlands were abandoned, and by A.D. 900, Maya civilization in that region had collapsed. The reason for this mysterious decline is unknown, though scholars have developed several competing theories.

Some believe that by the ninth century the Maya had exhausted the environment around them to the point that it could no longer sustain a very large population. Other Maya scholars argue that constant warfare among competing city-states led the complicated military, family (by marriage) and trade alliances between them to break down, along with the traditional system of dynastic power. As the stature of the holy lords diminished, their complex traditions of rituals and ceremonies dissolved into chaos. Finally, some catastrophic environmental change--like an extremely long, intense period of drought--may have wiped out the Classic Maya civilization. Drought would have hit cities like Tikal--where rainwater was necessary for drinking as well as for crop irrigation--especially hard.

All three of these factors--overpopulation and overuse of the land, endemic warfare and drought--may have played a part in the downfall of the Maya in the southern lowlands. In the highlands of the Yucatan, a few Maya cities--such as Chichén Itzá, Uxmal and Mayapán--continued to flourish in the Post-Classic Period (A.D. 900-1500). By the time the Spanish invaders arrived, however, most Maya were living in agricultural villages, their great cities buried under a layer of rainforest green. "

http://www.history.com/topics/maya

This is also a venue into discussions about anthropology, archaelogy and how we know what has happened to cultures and peoples of our past who may have used up their available resources and were not able to survive as traders only.

Patricia Rourke
Patricia Rourke
45895 Activity Points

I agree with the comments made by everyone! I too was wide eyed when I examined more deeply about issues such as the Great Garbage Patch in the Pacific. I was able to include this in my Ecology Unit last year. It only took 2 periods before students were hit hard on these issues. I showed them a video of the Great Garbage Patch and had them do more in depth research on their own about it (just to read and get informed), then asked them to create a poster as a plea to the rest of the community to STOP the littering and to become more environmentally aware of how we are adversely affecting our community/world as well as to educate them about issues such as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. I was pleased as students were angered by the issue and took it upon themselves to post videos on facebook and inform/educate their parents as well. After last year, I found that these issues need to be addressed and showcased much more than they were in the past - any other ideas would be most appreciated!!

Rochelle Tamiya
Rochelle Tamiya
4085 Activity Points

Michelle,
Thank you for the great idea that you shared about The Great Garbage Patch and how you encouraged students to become agents for change among their community members.

We give thanks for teachers who use current events and tie classroom study into real life situations for their students:}

Thanks, once again, for sharing and for opening a window into your classroom for us.

~patty

Patricia Rourke
Patricia Rourke
45895 Activity Points

During explorations of the human impact, we too discussed the presence of an ocean garbage patch and now there is even further concern from the tsunami and Fukushima because the debris is riding in on ocean tides, and radioactive Cesium is accumulating in blue fin tuna. If you compound this with acidification of the oceans from acid rain, and metal toxins like mercury accumulating in the polar envirnoment (polar bear studies) and throw in other sources like Chenobyl in the raindeer populations of the Arctic, one sees a somewhat scarier but larger picture. I have perceived my responsive students feeling somewhat paralyzed by the magnitude of their inherited dilemna. There is such an almost ominous impact of mankind on the environment and upon ecosystems "gone wild." There is also the prospect of overfishing and depletion of energy resources along with waterway contamination through some processes like the farming and raising of pigs and cattle. Now add to the mixture pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics, and a dash of exticntion events on a more minor scale i.e. rarer incidences of apes, big cats, polar bears, and tuna, and add a dash of invasive species, disruptions like strip mining, and just basic human negligence like the case of Erin Brokovitch and oil spills like the BP incident. The students not only grasp the signficance of all of this, but perhaps feel weighed down to the point they reject thinking about it. My best shot was to construct debates directed by the students and have them run the discussions. Their individual knowledge was a wow factor in the process. But I need to feel more like I am able to give them constructive forums to reassure themselves they can have a positive impact on their own futures by addressing what they may be able to do to reverse some of this damage. I want to show them how to be proactive. Any suggestions where there might be resource material on this "remediation" activity for students?

Michele Bloomquist
Michele Bloomquist
2395 Activity Points

Hi Michelle,

Wow! your in-depth recounting of many of the hazardous impacts put into our environment by humans certainly can overpower a young person who is exploring human impact on the earth and the environment for the first time.

As you state, it might be best to choose one effect and then allow students to form presentation teams, each of which researches and discusses an environmental impact with their peers during class time. Having the students present, debate, do poster boards certainly will inform the students and perhaps not overwhelm them with the need for too many solutions. It might also be instructive for the teams to research the live of one person who is working to ameliorate one of the adverse human effects and what students may have to deal with in their future concerns for the environment.

You are right on when you suggest not offering a stage that might depress student interest in citizen science but narrowing the focus so that they become advocates for change in one small area and then more aware of other impacts as they mature and matriculate into other classes.

Let us look for what we may give thanks, too, especially in this week of reflection and the Thanksgiving holiday.

Thanks for contributing to this thread in a most thoughtful way, Michelle.
~patty

Patricia Rourke
Patricia Rourke
45895 Activity Points

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