In this lesson, students will learn why there is a need to explore renewable energy sources by researching how wind and solar energy work and analyzing the pros and cons of each as renewable energy sources. Students then act as residents of different regions in the U.S. trying to decide if and where they should locate a wind farm and/or solar farm in a specific area. During the decision making process, students explore factors that are considered when proposing renewable energy for a region (e.g., avoid disrupting ecologically sensitive areas and important wildlife habitat) and make a recommendation based on their evaluation. The lesson includes the use of wind and solar maps from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to support students’ investigations.
Students learn about the value of soil as a natural resource (regulates water, sustains plant and animal life, filters pollutants, cycles nutrients and supports structures). Then explore the importance of having/maintaining healthy soil. They will explore how different individuals describe healthy soil (to an agriculturalist means highly productive land that sustains or enhances productivity therefore enhancing profits; to consumer it means plentiful, healthy and inexpensive food for present and future generations; to environmentalist it means functioning at its potential in an ecosystem with respect to biodiversity, water quality, nutrient cycling, and biomass production).
Students will learn about the importance of large-scale forest landscapes and the impacts of deforestation and reforestation with a focus on global climate change. By taking a tour through the Sichuan Province in China, students will see the affects deforestation causes and learn how this area is striving to regain its’ forests by launching an extensive reforestation project. Focus will be given to the carbon cycle and the ways in which forests decrease carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, thereby minimizing climate change, and improve air quality. This lesson will also cover the ways in which deforestation and forest restoration affect wildlife.
Students will learn how trees are an essential part of our lives with a focus on the role they play in urban areas, including energy considerations. They will be introduced to the threats posed to trees, including non-native insects, domestic animal waste, and erosion. Students then evaluate the potential impact of local tree conservation efforts and design a plan for their community.
Students explore the trade-offs between ranchers keeping land for cattle and ecotourism versus selling land to a large agribusiness. They consider which economic choices help ranchers make the most money from their land in both the short and long term.
Students look at different ways to protect coastlines. They compare the cost of implementing a coastal protection method. Students examine the trade-off between stronger but more expensive construction materials compared with the less robust but cheaper oyster reefs.
Students use an interactive with Google Earth to identify forests that have been logged selectively with those that have not. For an outdoor activity, students create a comprehensive list of all the tree species in their study area.