What does it mean to be sustainable?

SC8.4.2.g Describe the water cycle (evaporation, condensation, precipitation) This is covered in Meteorology.

SC8.4.2.h Classify Earth materials as renewable or nonrenewable

SC12.4.2.a Recognize how Earth materials move through geochemical cycles (carbon, nitrogen, oxygen) resulting in chemical and physical changes in matter

SC12.4.2.c Evaluate the impact of human activity and natural causes on Earth’s resources (groundwater, rivers, land, fossil fuels)

SC12.4.3c Compare and conrast benefits of renewable and nonrenewable energy sources

  • Notes:
    • These are notes on a the carbon cycle and nitrogen cycle. We chose carbon cycle because we knew that carbon dioxide is such a hot button topic right now. Nitrogen because it made it as an example on the standards. Nitrogen will carry over well into biology!
  • Note Key:
  • Labs: I usually don't do a traditional lab here. We go for the communication piece of the inquiry standards. Our school has a huge focus on many of the procedural aspects of inquiry, but little with the communication. Our course chose to emphasize the interpretations, reflections, applications, and communication aspects. We have students research a topic of their choice using database references, then have them create a project that includes steps for the audience to implement. If you are familiar with problem/challenge based learning, this assignment follows that basic model.
  • Another lab we are implementing for this unit focuses on the human impact piece. We chose to do waste and landfill space as the problem that students will investigate. We give students the common experience of watching clips from the movie Human Footprint by the National Geographic channel. Then they ask questions: "Do I generate more/less trash?" Is the main one we try to focus the kids on, and "How do we deal with it?" Here is the basic document that we based the inquiry off of:
  • Under development: To add the engineering piece required by NGSS, we are developing an inquiry lab on the windturbine that will generate the most power. A good crossover into a Physics electrical unit here. We are basing it off of the KIDWIND turbines sold by Vernier. Find more information on KIDWIND and their materials HERE.
  • Alternate Activity: We've watched the movie "A Global Warning?" by the History Channel. We use it as a critical thinking activity and do daily/weekly discussions to help students process. I like that movie because it is less political than "An Inconvenient Truth" so students don't get hung up on that, AND it gives a very big picture view. I think that, like many of us, students have trouble understanding the significance of much of what they see/hear about global climate change. This movie opens the door for us to have conversations for students to process, ask questions, and begin to formulate an opinion. You'll notice in the video guide, the first half is a worksheet, but the second half is a discussion guide. We focus on the second half.
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  • Connect: We also have done an "Ask the Scientist" discussion here at times in the past. We used a school wiki page to discuss and ask Dr. Christopher Heimstra questions. He is a researcher in Alaska looking at snowfall amounts and global climate change studies. Here is a link to his webpages. CIRA and Colorado State University.
  • Global climate change lecture:
  • Alternative energy lecture:
  • Lecture citation:
  • Nobel conference webpage where I got my information:

Videos to support lectures:
  • How wolves change rivers: A neat video on trophic cascades that helps students understand indirect impacts on the environment.
  • My iPhone movie of a windturbine compared to highway noise:

  • A Siemens webinar is usually held each June that also works for this unit. One year it was the oil spill. Another year it was about the arctic and effects of global warming. They have archive files for each webinar. If you'd like to use them in your classroom, I'd recommend that you cut the webinar into clips and splice them into one that works for you. Otherwise, it will be too long unless you are on block scheduling. Also, it can be more about the filming and less about the science.