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.
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- Colorado: Math
- Common Core State Standards for Mathematics: Math
- 3. Draw a scaled picture graph and a scaled bar graph to represent a data set with several categories. Solve one- and two-step "how many more" and "how many less" problems using information presented in scaled bar graphs. For example, draw a bar graph in which each square in the bar graph might represent 5 pets. (Grade 3)  ...show
- 6. Use decimal notation for fractions with denominators 10 or 100. For example, rewrite 0.62 as 62/100; describe a length as 0.62 meters; locate 0.62 on a number line diagram. (Grade 4)  ...show
- International Technology and Engineering Educators Association: Technology
- C. The use of technology affects the environment in good and bad ways. (Grades 3 - 5)  ...show
- Next Generation Science Standards: Science
- Obtain and combine information about ways individual communities use science ideas to protect the Earth's resources and environment. (Grade 5)  ...show
- 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.
- 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
- 10-15 pieces of large construction paper or an overhead transparency (for the class tally)
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
- 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.)
- Distribute handouts to each student.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.)
- Using the Issues Awareness Graph, ask the students to make a bar graph of the results of the class tally.
- Ask the students to complete the questions on the Issues Questions handout.
- As a class, discuss answers to the questions on the Issues Questions handout.
Activity Embedded Assessment
Chandler, Pauline. Environmental Issues (Hand-On Minds-On Science Series): Intermediate, Westminster, California: Teacher Created Materials, Inc., 1994.
Amy Kolenbrander, Jessica Todd, Malinda Schaefer Zarske, Janet Yowell
© 2005 by Regents of the University of Colorado.
Integrated Teaching and Learning Program, College of Engineering, University of Colorado Boulder
Last modified: July 3, 2015