7 + hours of lessons

In this module, students will explore how their lives are linked to everything in their communities and ecosystems at varying scales. Through personal and group exploration, students will begin to understand our role in our ecosystem and how the decisions we make directly affect all living things.

Understanding sustainability and our role in our ecosystem is crucial to the overall health of our environment and the way it functions. Through this module, students will begin to understand systems thinking and will be able to see many more of their connections to the community and the environment. Students will learn to appreciate the many things we use in our daily lives. They will become aware of our dependence on things in nature and that what we do to our resources in nature, we are ultimately doing to ourselves.     


Age Levels: 8-14 years old

Accessibility: no limitations

Setting: Outdoor/Indoor

Time Frame for Module: 50-60 minutes for outside activity and 60 minutes for inside activities.

Total lessons in module: 4

Total lesson time within module: 7 (+) hours

Preparation Time: 5-15 minutes per lesson

Tools/Materials Needed:

[    ] A large ball of yarn (outdoor/indoor)

[    ] A large ball of yarn (outdoor/indoor)

[    ] A man-made object (indoor): example: a wooden pencil/ hot chocolate with cup

[    ] Blank pieces of paper

What to Expect:

Students will engage in critical thinking to better understand how life is interconnected.

They will identify connections within our communities and ecosystems.

They will analyze the positive and negative impacts of human interactions with natural habitats and communities.

They will evaluate the ways of minimizing the negative impacts of our actions onto our ecosystems.

Expected Outcome:

Students will have a better understanding of how humans interact with nature and will be able to infer the consequences of overuse or misuse of our within our communities and ecosystems.

Students will begin to understand system thinking.

Lesson 1: Outside Activity: Building Nature Observation Sensibilities

Preparation Time: 5-10 minutes

Lesson Time: 50-60 minutes 

Have students explore their environment. Have them walk around the park or schoolyard as investigators of their community. Instruct them to find an object from nature (for example, a bug, stick, leaf, or rock) and then discuss how their objects are connected to each other and to the things in their daily lives.

Lead a discussion with the students to describe ways in which humans are dependent on natural habitats and communities.


Lesson 2: Outside Activity: Web Interconnections

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Materials: [   ]  ball of yarn

Lesson Time: 50-60 minutes

Synopsis: Play a game to reinforce all of the interconnections within nature and our ecosystems. This exercise can also be done connecting people in a community. Notice that we are all connected and that we help each other out on a daily basis. Toss around a ball of yarn to make a web, highlighting connections. For example, animals breathe the air; the tree filters the air; the tree provides shade for people, etc. As the ball of yarn is tossed from one student to the next, a web is created, connecting the members of the group and the environment.  The strands show the connections and relationships that make up the community and ecosystem.





Lesson 3- Inside Activity: Embodied Energy (2 Sessions)

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Materials: [   ] wooden pencils (A)           [    ] hot chocolate mix + cups for students (B)  

Lesson Time: 50-60 minutes per session, 120 minutes with session A + B

Session A: Embodied Energy of a Wooden Pencil; Session B: Embodied Energy of Hot Cocoa

Synopsis: How are we connected to nature through the items we use? Are we being ecologically sustainable?  This activity allows students to begin to understand how energy is hidden (embodied) within the products they use, the food they eat, and the materials in buildings that the students are in every day. By making the invisible visible, students will start to understand the processes and the energy that is embodied within the products, food, and the buildings that are in their lives. Embodied Energy within a product is the energy that is used during the product’s entire life cycle, from production to disposal. Embracing the concept of embodied energy is a big step into understanding what it means to be ecologically sustainable.

* Short video clips and worksheets accompany these lessons on embodied energy with the wooden pencil and hot cocoa mix.


Lesson 4- Steps to Take Action: Ecological Footprint + Mind Mapping Exercise

Preparation Time: 15-20 minutes

Materials: [   ] blank sheets of paper for the students               

                 [   ] on-line links to ecological footprint calculator

Lesson Time: 90 minutes

Synopsis: Students will explore their impact on the environment by using a computer and going onto the ecological footprint calculator links that are provided in the module.

Learning to live sustainably means learning how to minimize embodied energy. By minimizing embodied energy, you will be taking a big step towards living with a smaller ecological footprint. Identify your personal footprint using the footprint calculator. Have students brainstorm ways to reduce their personal footprint by connecting the lessons of embodied energy and the web interconnections.

After the ecological footprint calculator, students will identify a ‘problem’ that they can solve. Have students create a mind map to help illustrate their ideas and steps towards action.