Shrinking Our Footprintsby: Kimberly S. Heddings and Wendy M. Frazier

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In this unit, each student calculates his or her own ecological footprint as the basis for becoming more environmentally friendly. Over two weeks, students analyze their own lifestyles and use their understanding of environmental chemistry to synthesize, implement, and disseminate plans to reduce their footprints. Ultimately, by writing newspaper articles that are shared with the community, students apply what they have learned to raise public awareness about sustainability. This article describes the environmental chemistry unit and provides suggestions for implementation based on the authors' experience in the high school chemistry classroom.

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Reviews (4)
  • on Tue Oct 15, 2013 12:50 PM

I really enjoyed reading this article. It provides a great mechanism to empower students to "be the change" they want to see. It also does an excellent job of providing cross-curricular links to writing; I think similar types of integration might be made with human geography as well. The research component is important as well, but I would like to see more than two sources as evidence that the student had done a thorough analysis of research on the topic. I would like to see a component that would have students evaluate the validity of the model on which the footprint is based. Is it reliable and sensitive enough to show the impact of the changes the student is making? How does it compare to other such "footprint models?" This is a nice tie-in to the process and challenges of developing models. When I did a similar activity with a class, we found there were significant differences in the modeling assumptions.

Jennifer Rahn  (Delafield, WI)
Jennifer Rahn (Delafield, WI)

  • on Mon Jan 31, 2011 12:09 AM

Definitely will be useful for my env. science class. Can be modified for m.s.

Dat Le  (Springfield, VA)
Dat Le (Springfield, VA)

  • on Fri Nov 26, 2010 5:06 PM

In this standards-based activity, students learn how they personally impact their environment. The authors lead students to apply what they have learned about environmental chemistry to adapt their behaviors in meaningful ways. In one college class I took, most of the class was appalled to discover that even the most environmentally considerate of us in the class consumed resources that would require on the order of three Earths if all human inhabitants of the Earth did the same. The average for the class was more like six times. By getting students to think about their own consumption, they can begin to understand how their usage patterns have become established, and how we make lifestyle decision based on short-term convenience. Students begin to develop critical thinking approaches in this activity, and integrate knowledge of social, cultural, and political realities. Several extensions are provided.

Jennifer Rahn  (Delafield, WI)
Jennifer Rahn (Delafield, WI)

  • on Tue Nov 02, 2010 8:47 AM

This article describes a chemistry unit that allows students to use their knowledge on a personal and social level. By using an "ecological footprint" model, students are able to see how their habits impact the Earth. By understanding how those habits are tied to the science of the environment, as well as social, cultural, and political issues, students are encouraged to think critically and defend view points. I liked the concept of writing an article about sustainability using the students' experiences, and the bite-size organization of the unit, making it easier for students to organize and comprehend. It does a nice job of integration across the curriculum, and allowing students' creative juices to flow.

Jennifer Rahn  (Delafield, WI)
Jennifer Rahn (Delafield, WI)

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