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I Won’t Live in a Toxic World

Author: Sylvia Kniest



Time: 3 periods
Preparation
Time:
copy articles from the websites listed below
Materials: 4 articles (approximately 7 copies each, depending on the size of your class) for lesson 1. Copy article, “Supreme Court Decision…” for each student in the class for lesson 2.

 


Abstract
Students will look at four separate environmental health issues using a fish-bowl technique described in Lesson 1. They will discuss the role of government in maintaining a pollution-free environment as well as the role of citizens. This lesson is an introduction to the concept that litigation is sometimes necessary when the government is unable or unwilling to employ sound environmental practices that impact human health.

Objectives
Students will be able to:
1. Discuss some of the major environmental health issues currently facing the country.
2. Evaluate the government’s role in maintaining an environment conducive to good human health.
3. Describe the opportunities citizens have to ensure that clean environmental practices are followed in order to support human health.

National Standards For Civics and Government
I- A What is civic life? What is politics? What is government? Why are government and politics necessary? What purposes should government serve?
III- D. What is the place of law in the American constitutional system?
V- B. What are the rights of citizens?


Resource Websites

A) Hazardous waste: http://www.sierraclub.org/toxics/superfund/
B) Nuclear Waste/Radiation: http://msnbc.msn.com/id/3072031/
C) Water: http://www.duluthsuperior.com/mld/duluthsuperior/9185491.htm
D) Air: http://www.sierraclub.org/cleanair/factsheets/factsheet7-01.asp

 

 

Activity
Lesson 1 (Days 1 & 2):

1. Divide the class into four separate groups:

A) Hazardous waste: http://www.sierraclub.org/toxics/superfund/
B) Nuclear Waste/Radiation: http://msnbc.msn.com/id/3072031/
C) Water: http://www.duluthsuperior.com/mld/duluthsuperior/9185491.htm
D) Air: http://www.sierraclub.org/cleanair/factsheets/factsheet7-01.asp

2. Give each student an article related to their topic from the websites above:

A: “Bush Administration Slows the Pace of Toxic Waste Cleanups
B: “Nuclear waste: No way out?”
C: “Milwaukee’s sewage problems highlight national issue”
D: “Clean Air: Power Plants”

3. Have the students read their article independently. As they read ask them to do the following:

On a sheet of paper make two columns by dividing the paper in half, length-wise.
Label the first column: Main Ideas, second column: Comments & Questions Write the title of the article and the name of your issue across the top of your paper.
As you read the article, keep a record of your findings on your read log.

Part 2.

4. Using the fishbowl technique, hold a class discussion on each of the articles.

a. All of the students who read the article on toxic waste (group A) will sit in the center of a circle; they are the “fish”.
b. All of the rest of the students will sit on the outside of the circle; they are observers sitting on the outside of the fishbowl.
c. The “fish” will discuss the article they read by listing the environmental health concerns that are addressed in their article and sharing their opinions and any questions they have. They should also comment on what the government’s role should be in addressing the issue.
d. Students on the outside of the fish bowl (the non-fish) may ask questions or share their comments only if they are called on by one of the “fish”. In order for the “non-fish” to get recognized they must tap on the fish bowl by raising their hand.
e. You will repeat this process for each group.
f. Allow approximately 10 minutes for discussion on each article.
g. End the discussion with the following wrap-up questions: What is the responsibility of the government in maintaining a healthy environment for it’s citizens? (Remind students that government is not just elected officials but also government agencies). Is the current government doing its job? What are the responsibilities of private citizens in maintaining an environment conducive to human health?

Lesson 2 (Day 3):
Copy article from: http://www.mpra.org/laidlaw.htm “Supreme Court Decision Defends Public’s Right to Clean Water”
Discuss:

1. Do you agree with the premise of Friends of the Earth that citizens should play a responsible role in enforcing the anti-pollution laws?
2. Do you agree with the 4th Circuit Court’s decision?
3. What is the issue for the Supreme Court to decide?
4. What is the significance of the Supreme Court’s decision?

Following the class discussion assign the following homework assignment:

Select an environmental concern that you have such as one of the issues that was considered in yesterday’s lesson.
Create a “reading log”, following the same criteria from lesson 1.
Record the title and source of the article
Be prepared to discuss the article when you come to class.

Closure
Tell the students that federal agencies are not always successful in enforcing their regulations to protect citizens from becoming exposed to pollution caused by industry and private corporations. In these cases private citizens and interest groups take action by taking the polluters to court. In this unit they will study how this process works.

Homework
Students are to research one issue that concerns them about environment health by finding a current news article on the subject. The issue should be about a form of environmental hazard that has a health impact on humans and possibly wildlife. After reading the article they should record the main ideas using the reading log technique outlined in Lesson 1. They will bring the article and reading log to class for discussion.

Embedded Assessment
The teacher should evaluate the students’ participation in the fish-bowl discussion from lesson 1,
as well as the reading logs from both the classroom activity and the homework.

PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:


an
NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award

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Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694


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Last update: November 10, 2009
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