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Students explore their own Ecological Footprint in the context of how many Earths it would take if everyone used the same amount of resources they did. They compare this to the Ecological Footprint of individuals in other parts of the world and to the Ecological footprint of a family member when they were the student's age.

Activity takes about two to four class periods but part of the activity can also be assigned as homework.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Activity supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 1 Performance Expectation, 3 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 3 Cross Cutting Concepts, 4 Science and Engineering Practices
High School: 1 Performance Expectation, 5 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 2 Cross Cutting Concepts, 4 Science and Engineering Practices

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

About Teaching the Guiding Principle
Other materials addressing GPe
About Teaching the Guiding Principle
Other materials addressing GPg

Energy Literacy

Other materials addressing:
7.6 Vulnerable populations.
Other materials addressing:
6.3 Demand for energy is increasing.

Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

4. Personal and Civic Responsibility:D) Accepting personal responsibility
Other materials addressing:
D) Accepting personal responsibility.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.4 Environment and Society:A) Human/environment interactions
Other materials addressing:
A) Human/environment interactions.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.4 Environment and Society:C) Resources
Other materials addressing:
C) Resources.
3. Skills for Understanding and Addressing Environmental Issues:3.1 Skills for Analyzing and Investigating Environmental Issues:C) Identifying and evaluation alternative solutions and courses of action
Other materials addressing:
C) Identifying and evaluation alternative solutions and courses of action.
3. Skills for Understanding and Addressing Environmental Issues:3.2 Decision-Making and Citizenship Skills:B) Evaluating the need for citizen action
Other materials addressing:
B) Evaluating the need for citizen action.

Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • For younger students, the last several steps could be considered extension activities or project-based assessment.
  • Some students, especially those who struggle with reading or math, may need additional scaffolding or instruction.
  • Educators should explain that the calculation assumes that everyone on Earth uses the same amount of resources. It does not mean that an individual uses one or two Earths by themselves.
  • It is suggested that the PowerPoint not be done in class but be assigned to be viewed as homework.
  • The reviewers were concerned that collecting personal data to be shared might make some students uncomfortable. However, the lower income students will probably be shown to be the “good guys.” In any case, educators should be sensitive to this and adjust how they conduct the activity in their classes appropriately.
  • Comment from expert scientist: The discussion on limited arable land could also bring up topics such as fertilizer overuse and other means that people use to grow more on the same amount of land.

About the Science

  • The lesson begins with the educator using an apple to represent Earth while identifying usable farmland on Earth. The apple analogy is probably the right order of magnitude, but some numbers given are not correct; and it should be stressed that the apple-Earth analogy is very crude: Oceans are actually ~70% of the Earth's surface, not 75%. Educator might have to review if 50% of land surface is desert and of the 50% remaining how much is cold, steep, or rocky? The skin of the apple is described as representing the crust. If it does represent the crust, then it represents the soil plus the rock below. The thickness of the top soil, on the scale of the apple, would be invisible to the human eye.
  • The Ecological Footprint calculator is a black box. It is not clear how the calculator comes up with the number of Earths for an individual. Also, it should be made clear that it is not the student that is using, for example, 7 Earths, 7 Earths would be used if everyone lived like that student did.

About the Pedagogy

  • This is a high-interest activity that makes the learning relevant.
  • The students are collecting their own data for this activity.
  • The activity provides students with a global perspective of energy use as well as a comparison with their parents and grandparents when they were the student's age.
  • The online calculator is likely difficult for younger students.
  • The game and PowerPoint supports the lesson.
  • The layout is good.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • The educator must register and log in to website to access the lesson plan and associated links. This is free and should not hinder the access or use of the activity.
  • All necessary materials are available on the website.
  • Activity requires little preparation.

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Activity supports:

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