Sustainability Mini-Unit a.k.a. “Plan in a Can”

November 6, 2014 No Comments

Water Pollution with Trash Disposal of Waste at the Garbage BeachA recent request on the Iowa FCS teachers Facebook page (Not a member? Join here!) asked for lesson plans for emergency purposes. While I am not nearly organized enough to have an emergency sub binder, I did mention my sustainability mini-unit that I love to do with my Food and Nutrition students if there is time in the term.

Here’s some more information:

Sustainability Plan-in-a-Can

  • Pacific Trash Vortex Video
    • I show this video as an anticipatory set. It was the Pacific Trash Vortex that initially got me interested in sustainability, and a lot of students don’t know it exists. This video goes VERY fast. There are many to choose from but I like this because it is so broad. I pause on the picture of the dead albatross and ask students to identify some of the plastic in the carcass. It is a compelling visual to see that our every day plastics do affect others and that our trash never really goes “away.”
  • Discussion
    • What do you do to support a healthy environment?
    • What do you know you should do, but don’t do to support a healthy environment?
  • Video: Wa$ted, Season 3 Episode 2 “Brady Bunch”
    • I love this Planet Green series. Here’s the premise: A family or business has their trash secretly collected for a month. It is dramatically presented back to them, which is always pretty alarming. The family has their carbon footprint calculated, which is always gigantic. The host counsels the “contestants” to make positive changes for the environment that also save money. After six weeks, the dollar value of the changes made is calculated out over a year and the family/business wins that much money.
    • I like to show the “Brady Bunch” episode because it features a realistic blended family that the students relate to. There is about as much conflict and swearing as you can expect for a family of nine, so preview it just to be safe.
    • Sad truth: Students sometimes lack empathy when they can’t see a direct benefit to them. The dollar signs in this series help a lot.
  • Discussion
    • List some ways the family saved money by making sustainable changes.
    • Which of these changes seem reasonable for you to try?
  • Webquest
    • I used Trackstar back in the pre-Google days. It’s an oldie but goody! Now I use my blog to point students where to go. Trackstar is a tool to make annotated websites. Here’s mine, and here is my accompanying guide.
    • The web quest and worksheet will guide students through information that makes them ponder their lifestyle choices and how they affect others. I especially love the carbon footprint calculator. It is the same one used on the show and makes the information personal to the students.
  • Discussion
    • Again with the discussion! This is a great topic for your students to ponder and a great initiative for you to have in your classroom.

I hope it helps! I love teaching sustainability and hope you’ll give it a try too.


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I’m Kayla Pins – Health and Family and Consumer Sciences teacher to high school students in rural Iowa. Welcome to my online home where I share lesson plans, activities, and inspiration with fellow teachers.


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