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  EE Activities - Superlative Sites

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The WWW offers a fantastic array of resources, which we might sort into two categories. Most of the links on EE-link are in the category of "ordinary information that makes what you are doing a little more efficient." A smaller number of sites offer tools or ideas that might actually change the way you or you students deal with or understand environmental issues. On this page, we'll offer short lists of such sites, organized to present a coherent EE perspective on the environment through the Internet.


Perspective 1: Project-based Learning. If the end goal is for students to extend awareness and appreciation of the environment into action, then EE must create opportunities for kids to practice action skills. They need to evaluate, collaborate, communicate and advocate. Student-directed projects both teach these skills and achieve real environmental improvements. Here are four examples:

 1.   Adobe Creek Restoration Project: Students at Casa Grande High School began with 3 situations:
1) Government agencies had labeled the creek "dead" and a nuisance, and plans had been
drawn up to put it in an underground tube.

2) The Creek's Steelhead Trout numbers were dwindling, bound for extinction.

3) Young people were looking for a way to
feel connected to their environment and
a positive outlook on their future.

 
Project results: In the project's 13 years, students have restored riparian habitat, educated the community, stopped diversions by the City, and raised 500,000 for a fish hatchery, restoring salmon and steelhead runs.


 2.   Earth Force
is a national project supporting locally-focused, student-directed civic improvement projects as part of the CAPS (Community Action and Problem Solving) program. Earth Force targets middle school students in CAPS programs and in Get Out Spok'n, a national effort to make communities more bike-friendly.

 CAPS programs address issues including:

1) Health Hazards: Students in Erie, PA, have been working after school to inform the community about the health hazards of eating Lake Erie fish.

2) Water Quality: Students in Colorado areexamining drinking water quality in a low-income neighborhood.

3) Endangered Species Protection: Students in West
Palm Beach, FL, are working to increase the survival
rate of sea turtles by posting county-made public
awareness signs at local beaches.

4) Wildlife Habitat: Walnut Creek
Middle School students, in Millcreek PA, are creating a
wildlife habitat near their schools, featuring native plants and nesting boxes designed and built by students.

 3.   Crooked River Project: This WWW page describes the life and environment of the Crooked River, a tributary of Ohio's Cuyahoga. Students of Strongville High School produced the page, which also represents their work in monitoring water quality in the Cuyahoga watershed. Hundreds of project-based watershed education projects are coordinated by the Global Rivers Environmental Education Network.  
Student Projects: In 1998, students in a Strongville HS chemistry class did projects on the watershed environment. The picture above is from a project called How Can the Importance of Water Quality be Explained to Children?
 4.   Mapping Our City: Students in several Boston middle schools were given assistance with sophisticated GIS tools. They integrated their own data and printed reports (especially from the Army Corps of Engineers) with GIS techniques to evaluate water quality. The project was significantly motivated by an advocacy group's invitation to present their findings!  

 

Perspective 2: Maps. Have students investigate the status of their local environment from the neighborhood to the planetary level. The following series of sites will suggest questions about the interplay of climate, geography, and human activities on the Earth.  

  • Locate yourself in space at the Interactive Earth site. See the position of the earth in space, right now, as it appears from the moon's surface, or from 200 kilometers above you.
  • Locate yourself geographically. Enter your address, and the ArcData On-line site delivers a map of your school and neighboood. Zoom out to view your city, county, and state. Also check demographic maps that display important clues about interaction with the environment, such as commute time, vehicles per household, poverty rate, migratory status, etc.
  • Look at your area from an ecosystem perpsective on Sierra Club's Critical Ecoregions page. Quick readable illustrated descriptions of the environmental character of 21 US Ecoregions. Includes a summary of environmental issues and links other sites.
  • Locate your watershed at the US EPA Surf Your Watershed site. How are you connected to the ocean through streams, rivers, and groundwater? You can view the aquatic environment down to a radius of 1 mile. From the EnviroMapper page you can find your community and astonishing details: quality indices for drinking water and wetlands, level of forest cover, pesticide and ferilizer runoff, soil permeability, superfund sites, etc.
  • Find the sources of toxic discharges in your area from the the Environmental Scorecard site. Enter your zip code to find waste generating sites and information about the types and quantities of toxins released. The HazDat map presents the same kinds of information in greater detail. The map is a little difficult to navigate, but gives you usefully precise data: samples from ABC Drum's facility in Michigan contained 2.4 ppm of trichloroethane. (Look up fact sheets on toxic materials on this site too).
  • Investigate the environmental positions that your local legislators have taken on environmental issues at the National Environmental Scorecard site. Enter your zip code to find your representatives in congress and the senate. The site will tell you their voting records, and explain the environmental laws they have considered.


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