Environmental Issues Research Paper Assignment Rubric

Theme 3: Investigate an Environmental Issue

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Overview:

Information from Statistics Canada’s 2011 Households and the Environment Survey reveals Canadian’s awareness of and response to a variety of environmental and ecological issues.

In this theme, students will explore one of these issues in-depth. They will conduct independent research to learn about an Environmental issue, compare statistics from the Households and the Environment Survey to assess the impact of their chosen topic. Additionally, students will survey their peers to determine the level of awareness about their chosen topic, and use this information to create a community education plan to raise the level of awareness for a chosen target audience.

Suggested Grade Level:

Topics:

Cross-curricular Connections:

  • English Language Arts
  • Visual Arts

Materials:

Lesson 1: Learn About an Environmental Issue

  • 2011 Households and the Environment Survey: Tables 1-20

Lesson 2: Assess the Impact on the Environment

  • 2011 Households and the Environment Survey: Tables 1-20

Lesson 3: Assess the Level of Awareness

  • 2011 Households and the Environment Survey: Tables 1-20

Lesson 4: Raise the Level of Awareness

  • Handout: Community Education Plan Assignment
  • Rubric: Community Education Plan Assignment
  • 2011 Households and the Environment Survey: Tables 1-20

Assignments:

  • Research an environmental issue.
  • Investigate the impact of an environmental issue.
  • Conduct a survey to determine the level of awareness about an environmental issue.
  • Create a community education plan.

Lesson 1: Learn About an Environmental Issue

Lesson

Estimated Completion Time: 1+ hours

Learning Objectives:

Science:

  • Investigate factors related to human activity that affect terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, and explain how they affect the sustainability of these ecosystems.
  • Select, organize, and record relevant information on research topics from various sources, including electronic, print, and/or human sources.
  • Analyse and interpret qualitative and/or quantitative data to determine whether the evidence supports or refutes the initial prediction or hypothesis, identifying possible sources of error, bias, or uncertainty.
  • Identify and locate print, electronic, and human sources that are relevant to research questions.

Mathematics:

  • Make connections among mathematical concepts and procedures, and relate mathematical ideas to situations or phenomena drawn from other sources.

Assignment:

  • Research an environmental issue.

Activity:

Begin this lesson by having students brainstorm a list of issues and topics that impact the environment and/or public health. This could include:

  • Radon Awareness
  • Household Hazardous Waste
  • Water Usage and Conservation
  • Clean water
  • Energy Conservation
  • Land degradation

Students will then each select an item from the list they generated and conduct independent research to identify:

  • Why this is an important issue
  • How this issue impacts the environmental and/or public health

Guiding Questions:

  • Why do you think this issue is important?
  • What are some of the long-term effects of this issue?
  • Is there a solution? What is required?

Students will then use Statistics Canada’s 2011 Households and the Environment Survey to compare their home-province’s level of adoption of solutions for these issues, to the national average.

For example, if a student has selected water conservation as their environmental issue, refer them to the Table of Contents in the 2011 Households and the Environment Survey. There they will see that water conservation is covered in Tables 1 and 2. The student can then use those tables in their investigation.

Guiding Questions:

  • How does your home-province’s rate of adoption of solutions compare to the national average?
  • Why do you think this is the case?

Lesson 2: Assess the Impact on the Environment

Lesson

Estimated Completion Time: 1+ hours

Learning Objectives:

Science:

  • Investigate factors related to human activity that affect terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, and explain how they affect the sustainability of these ecosystems.
  • Select, organize, and record relevant information on research topics from various sources, including electronic, print, and/or human sources.
  • Analyse and interpret qualitative and/or quantitative data to determine whether the evidence supports or refutes the initial prediction or hypothesis, identifying possible sources of error, bias, or uncertainty.
  • Identify and locate print, electronic, and human sources that are relevant to research questions.
  • Draw conclusions based on inquiry results and research findings, and justify their conclusions.

Mathematics:

  • Make connections among mathematical concepts and procedures, and relate mathematical ideas to situations or phenomena drawn from other sources.

Assignment:

  • Investigate the impacts of an environmental issue.

Activity:

Begin this lesson by having students share some of the information they discovered while researching an environmental issue. Have each student:

  • Explain their topic
  • Explain why it is important
  • Explain possible long-term impact

Next, have students use Statistics Canada’s 2011 Households and the Environment Survey, in conjunction with their independent research to determine ways in which this issue locally impacts their home-province. This could include:

  • Energy conserved/wasted
  • Waste produced/recycled
  • Environmental damage
  • Potential for recycling of materials
  • Health repercussions such as, lives saved or illnesses prevented
  • Financial repercussions

Finally, have students develop a method of visually representing their findings in the form of an infographic, graph, or digital poster using free online presentation tools.

Guiding Questions:

  • What was the most interesting fact you uncovered about your topic?
  • What statistics do you think will be the most impactful when people hear it?
  • Why have you chosen this method of visually representing your findings?

Lesson 3: Assess the Level of Awareness

Lesson

Estimated Completion Time: 1+ hours

Learning Objectives:

Science:

  • Select, organize, and record relevant information on research topics from various sources, including electronic, print, and/or human sources.
  • Analyse and interpret qualitative and/or quantitative data to determine whether the evidence supports or refutes the initial prediction or hypothesis, identifying possible sources of error, bias, or uncertainty.
  • Draw conclusions based on inquiry results and research findings, and justify their conclusions.
  • Communicate ideas, plans, procedures, results, and conclusions orally, in writing, visually, and/or in electronic presentations, using appropriate language and a variety of formats.

Mathematics:

  • Make connections among mathematical concepts and procedures, and relate mathematical ideas to situations or phenomena drawn from other sources.
  • Develop and apply reasoning to make mathematical conjectures, assess conjectures, and justify conclusions, and plan and construct organized mathematical arguments.

Assignment:

  • Conduct a survey to determine the level of awareness about an environmental issue.

Activity:

Begin this lesson by discussing the different methods students have seen before for raising awareness about an issue.This might include:

  • Posters
  • Television commercials
  • Radio commercials
  • Social media posts
  • Emails
  • Petitions

Have students arrange each item on the list they create from most to the least effective.

Next, have students design and administer a survey to their peers and people in their community relating to their selected environmental issue. Their survey should determine:

  • The level of awareness related to their topic
  • The level of adoption of the suggested behaviors that can positively impact their topic
  • Reasons people chose to adopt or not adopt suggested behaviors

Have students graph their findings to make a visual representation of their results.

If possible, have students compare their findings to applicable data in Statistics Canada’s 2011 Households and the Environment Survey.

Guiding Questions:

  • What do you think is the best method of raising awareness?
  • How would you describe the level of awareness about your topic in your community?
  • How does your community’s level of awareness about your topic compare to the averages for Canada and your home province?

Lesson 4: Raise Awareness

Lesson

Estimated Completion Time: 3+ hours

Learning Objectives:

Science:

  • Select, organize, and record relevant information on research topics from various sources, including electronic, print, and/or human sources.
  • Analyse and interpret qualitative and/or quantitative data to determine whether the evidence supports or refutes the initial prediction or hypothesis, identifying possible sources of error, bias, or uncertainty.
  • Draw conclusions based on inquiry results and research findings, and justify their conclusions.
  • Communicate ideas, plans, procedures, results, and conclusions orally, in writing, visually, and/or in electronic presentations, using appropriate language and a variety of formats.

Assignment:

  • Create a community education plan.

Activity:

Begin this lesson by having students identify a key piece of information related to their topic that their research shows people are not aware of.

Distribute Handout: Community Education Plan Assignment and have the students review it. Ask students to develop a strategy and product to educate a target audience within their community about their selected environmental issue.

Some target audiences they might consider are:

  • Young students
  • Teenagers
  • The elderly
  • Business owners
  • Parents
  • Property managers
  • Home owners

Their plan should include:

  • Statistics derived from Statistics Canada’s Household and the Environment Survey
  • Information cited from their independent research
  • Information gathered from the survey they conducted of their peers and their community
  • Plans to make a product to communicate this information to their target audience

The resulting product should be appropriate in form and content for their target audience. The format of their creation could be:

  • A digital poster
  • An Infographic
  • A radio commercial
  • A television commercial

Students will present what they created to the class, and deliver it to the target audience (as appropriate). 

Guiding Questions

  • What key piece of information do you think people should be made aware of?
  • Why did you select this target audience?
  • How will your product help educate your target audience?

Handout: Community Education Plan Assignment

For this assignment, you will develop a plan and product to educate a target audience within your community about your selected environmental issue.

  1. Select an appropriate target audience for your community education plan.
    • Some target audiences you might consider are:
      • Young students
      • Teenagers
      • The elderly
      • Business owners
      • Parents
      • Property managers
      • Home owners
  2. Develop your community education plan.
    • Your plan should include:
      • Data derived from Statistics Canada’s Household and the Environment Survey, or other reputable statistical source, to persuade the target audience
      • Information from your independent research, including details related to the long-term impact of this issue
      • Information gathered from the survey you conducted of your peers and your community
      • Designs for a product to communicate this information to your target audience
      • A strategy for communicating your plan to people (e.g.social media, advertisements, etc.)
  3. Develop your community education product or products.
    • This product or products should be appropriate in form and content for their target audience. 
    • The format of their creation could be:
      • A digital poster
      • An infographic
      • A radio commercial
      • A television commercial
      • A piece of music
  4. Present your community education product to your class and deliver it to your target audience (as appropriate).

Rubric: Community Education Plan Assignment

ComponentLevel 1Level 2Level 3Level 4
PlanIdentifies a target audience.Identifies and defines a target audience.Identifies and defines a target audience with a clear explanation why this audience is appropriate for outreach.Identifies and defines a target audience with a clear explanation why this audience is appropriate for outreach and demonstration of insight into audience characteristics.
Includes some data from Statistics Canada’s Household and the Environment survey in plan.Includes relevant data from Canada’s Household and the Environment survey in plan.Includes persuasive data from Canada’s Household and the Environment survey in plan.Includes persuasive data from Canada’s Household and the Environment survey and one other reputable statistical source in plan.
Demonstrates some evidence of independent research.Includes information from independent research.Includes information from independent research, including details related to the one area of long-term impact.Includes information from independent research, including details related to several areas of long-term impact.
Completes a survey of target audience.Completes a survey of target audience and presents information extracted from survey in plan.Completes a survey of target audience and incorporates information extracted from survey into plan.Completes a survey of target audience, incorporates information extracted from survey into plan, and presents information in an effective infographic.
Includes basic concept for one appropriate educational product in plan.Includes detailed concept for one appropriate educational product in plan.Includes detailed concept for one appropriate educational product and basic concept for two complementary products.Includes detailed concepts for two or more appropriate educational products.
Indicates some thought about strategy for product launch.Outlines general strategy for product launch.Describes clear strategy for product launch.Describes clear, insightful strategy for product launch.
ProductDevelops a community education product that contains content inappropriate for the target audience.Develops a community education product that contains some appropriate content for the target audience.Develops a community education product that contains appropriate content for the target audience.Develops a community education product or products that contain appropriate and appealing content for the target audience.
Develops a community education product in an inappropriate format for their target audience.Develops a community education product format that may be appropriate for some of the target audience.Develops a community education product format that is appropriate for the target audience.Develops a community education product format that is appropriate and engaging for the target audience.
Includes some evidence from Statistics Canada’s Household and the Environment survey, survey of target audience, or independent research.Includes some evidence from Statistics Canada’s Household and the Environment survey, survey of target audience, and independent research.Includes relevant evidence from Statistics Canada’s Household and the Environment survey, survey of target audience, and independent research.Includes relevant and persuasive evidence from Statistics Canada’s Household and the Environment survey, survey of target audience, and independent research.
PresentationPresents the community education product to the class, with little or no context.Presents the community education product to the class, explaining the issue about which they are raising awareness.Presents the community education product to the class, explaining the issue about which they are raising awareness, why they chose the target audience, and why they chose the selected format.Presents the community education product to the class in a way that actively engages the class, explaining the issue about which they are raising awareness, why they chose the target audience, and why they chose the selected format

Earlier in the school year, to cap off our unit on the environment, my 6th graders completed an environmental issues research project and  presentation. This project was a great opportunity for the students to demonstrate both their public speaking and tech skills, as well as provide a forum for student-directed learning. Each student had a chance to teach their peers about their topic and lead a demonstration or activity related to their environmental issue. They did a fantastic job and came up with activities that really enhanced their presentations. The students were engaged and supportive of their peers.

Just a few examples of their demonstrations/activities: 

  • Noise Pollution – using a decibel app, one student asked the class to take part in different activities and monitored the noise level. The student then compared the noise level in the classroom to their equivalents such as jack hammers or traffic.
  • Garbage Patch – using a tray with an ocean/coastal scene decorated with items attached to magnets, one student demonstrated how gyres in the Pacific Ocean move plastics from the coast to the Great Garbage Patch by sliding magnets under the tray.
  • Poaching – each student took part in a role-playing game modeled after “Assassin/Spy”. Each student was given a role card (such as an elephant, tiger, or poacher). As they played the game, students had to find the poacher to save as many animals as they could.

Materials

  • List of 50 environmental issue topics (pdf)
  • Detailed project requirements (pdf)
  • Peer review sheet (pdf)
    • this was for personal note taking, not shared with the presenter

Planning

  • Day 1 – Introduction and pre-research, students pick their top 10 choices
  • Day 2 – Students pick topics and brainstorm 10 guiding questions to help guide their research
  • Day 3 – Discussion in small groups, students share questions and modify
  • Days 4 to 7 – Research phase
  • Days 8 to end – Students present topics

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