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Hands-on Activity: Issues Awareness
Contributed by: Integrated Teaching and Learning Program, College of Engineering, University of Colorado Boulder

Summary

In this activity, students will conduct a survey to identify the environmental issues (in their community, their country and the world) for which people are concerned. They will tally and graph the results. Also, students will discuss how surveys are important when engineers make decisions about environmental issues.

Engineering Connection

Engineering analysis or partial design

It is essential for engineers to understand multiple impact levels of environmental issues so that they are able to make sound decisions. As a first step, if engineers see that an issue has the potential to affect more than one community, they develop a solution that is good for all communities. As environmental engineers research environmental issues, they discuss these issues with everyone who may be affected. Then, they determine solutions that benefit (or do no harm to) the community, country and beyond.

Contents

  1. Learning Objectives
  2. Materials
  3. Introduction/Motivation
  4. Procedure
  5. Attachments
  6. Troubleshooting Tips
  7. Assessment
  8. Extensions
  9. Activity Scaling
  10. References

Grade Level: 4 (3-5) Group Size: 1
Time Required: 50 minutes
Activity Dependency :None
Expendable Cost Per Group
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Related Curriculum :

subject areas Science and Technology
curricular units Environment
lessons I've Got Issues!

Educational Standards :    

  •   Colorado: Math
  •   Common Core State Standards for Mathematics: Math
  •   International Technology and Engineering Educators Association: Technology
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Learning Objectives (Return to Contents)

After this activity, students should be able to:
  • Understand how engineers identify and understand environmental issues by talking to different people that are affected.
  • Students predict environmental issues that will be important to their community.
  • Students use a survey to identify the critical environmental issues in their community, their country and the world.

Materials List (Return to Contents)

Each student should have:
  • Four copies of the Issues Survey
  • One copy of the Tally Sheet
  • One copy of the Issues Awareness Graph
  • One copy of the Issues Questions
For the class to share:
  • 10-15 pieces of large construction paper or an overhead transparency (for the class tally)

Introduction/Motivation (Return to Contents)

There are many environmental issues that are important to us. Do you think that an environmental issue that is important to us here may be important to someone who lives far away? Maybe or maybe not. What may concern us locally, such as recycling of cans and newspapers, may not be as important to someone in another country who is most worried about just having clean water to drink.
Sometimes we can look at a list of environmental issues, such as trash, recycling, water and air pollution, oil and gas consumption, acid rain, global warming, and ozone holes and place them into three categories: community, country and world. We examine the list and determine which issues concern our own community (like a neighborhood trash clean up), which issues concern our whole country (like high gas prices or acid rain), and those issues which might concern the entire world (like the effects of global warming). People in our community can be surveyed to find out what issues are the most important to them. Likewise, people in different areas of our country can be surveyed to determine what the issues are for our country. And lastly, people in other countries can be surveyed to determine what environmental issues concern the whole world.
Engineers must understand the many different environmental issues that exist in order to solve problems in the best way for the community, the country and the world. First, engineers must understand if an issue affects more than a single community. If it does have a broad community affect, then engineers may work to solve at least some of the issues present for other communities as well. Engineers will research and fully understand the environmental issue, talk to the many different people it affects — including in other countries — and design possible solutions that will benefit everyone involved.
Today, we are going to look at a list of environmental issues that may or may not seem important. We are going to think about whether the issues on our list affect our community, our country or the world. Then, we are going to ask people in our community whether they think the issues are a problem just for them, the country or the entire world in order to determine what people are concerned about. As engineers, we could use the information we gather to help us decide on solutions that will help everyone involved.

Before the Activity

  • Brainstorm currently "hot" environmental issues or select issues from one of the previous activities of Lesson 2 of the Environment unit. Write the list on a transparency, in a PowerPoint® slideshow, or on the chalk/white board. Suggested topics may include recycling, polluted water, polluted air, acid rain, Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository, global warming, etc.
  • Consider asking other adults (principals, other teachers, nurses, secretaries, custodians, media specialists, parent volunteers, etc.) in the school if they would be willing to participate in a survey and arrange a way for individual or small groups of students to meet with them.
  • Make all necessary copies of the four attachments (one per student, with the exception of the Issues Survey, in which 4 per student are needed).

With the Students

  1. Review the list of environmental issues. Add any new items that come to mind and combine any items that are similar. (Help students to combine/expand their lists until they have about 10-15 issues to ask about.)
  2. Distribute handouts to each student.
  3. Ask the students to record their chosen environmental issues on the top of their Issues Survey and in the "Issue" column on their Tally Sheet.
  4. Explain to students that they will be conducting a survey of at least 10 other people (5 students/peers and 5 adults). Their job as an engineering researcher is to find out which of their issues people think is the biggest environmental problem facing their community, their country and the world. They also need to find out why each person has his/her particular opinion. Remind them to consider information, values and/or beliefs.
  5. Before the students begin their Issues Surveys, ask them to predict what they think will be the biggest environmental issue in each category (community, country, world). They should record this prediction on the Issues Question handout.
  6. Have the students begin their surveys in class by talking to their classmates. You may want to share your opinions as the first adult survey participant in order to model the kinds of information you would like them to gather. (For example, they should have detailed reasons, including values and beliefs, not just responses like "just because I think so" or something similar.)
  7. Ask the students to finish the survey at home (with neighbors, teammates, siblings, parents, etc.) and then tally their results on their Tally Sheets. They should bring all the information with them to the following class period.
  8. Complete a class tally. Label large construction paper with the different issues and tape it to a wall. Ask pairs of students to record their results on the tally sheet. Then have the students record these results on their personal Tally Sheets.
  9. Discuss with the students how an engineer might use these results when working on an environmental issue. (Answer: The engineers will research and fully understand the environmental issue, talk to the many people it affects — including in other countries — and design possible solutions that will benefit everyone involved.)
  10. Using the Issues Awareness Graph, ask the students to make a bar graph of the results of the class tally.
  11. Ask the students to complete the questions on the Issues Questions handout.
  12. As a class, discuss answers to the questions on the Issues Questions handout.

Troubleshooting Tips (Return to Contents)

You may need to model how to tally the results.

Pre-Activity Assessment

Review: Review the list of environmental issues. Add any new items that come to mind and combine any items that are similar. (Help students combine/expand their lists until they have about 10-15 issues.)

Activity Embedded Assessment

Prediction: Before the students begin their surveys, ask them to predict what they think will be the biggest environmental issue in each category (community, country or world). They should record this prediction on the Issues Awareness Question Sheet.
Graphing: Ask the students to make a bar graph of the results of the class tally.

Post-Activity Assessment

Discussion Questions: Discuss answers as a class to the questions on the Issues Awareness Question Sheet.

Activity Extensions (Return to Contents)

Have students interview different environmentalists, community members, local government officials, etc. about what they believe are the biggest environmental issues facing the community, the country and the world. (Note: During election time, much of this information can be found in political fliers, on the internet and in newspapers.) Compare these results to the original class survey.

Activity Scaling (Return to Contents)

For 3rd grade, limit the list to about 5 choices and focus on only one area (the community, the country or the world). Also, consider a class tally/graph that is more hands-on (for example, placing pictures of people on a table/graph).
For 4th grade, do the activity as is.
For 5th grade, small student groups could be responsible for surveying larger sample sizes and/or different populations (students/peers, teachers/parents, local environmental engineers, local government officials, etc.) As a class, compare and contrast the different results from the different populations. Consider focusing on why there may be similarities between some groups and such differences between others. Also, students can change tally data into percents and create pie graphs for each area (community, country, and world).

Chandler, Pauline. Environmental Issues (Hand-On Minds-On Science Series): Intermediate, Westminster, California: Teacher Created Materials, Inc., 1994.

Contributors

Amy Kolenbrander, Jessica Todd, Malinda Schaefer Zarske, Janet Yowell

Copyright

© 2005 by Regents of the University of Colorado.

Supporting Program (Return to Contents)

Integrated Teaching and Learning Program, College of Engineering, University of Colorado Boulder

Acknowledgements (Return to Contents)

The contents of this digital library curriculum were developed under a grant from the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE), U.S. Department of Education and National Science Foundation GK-12 grant no. 0338326. However, these contents do not necessarily represent the policies of the Department of Education or National Science Foundation, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government.
Last Modified: July 28, 2014
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