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December 1997 - Issue No. #29 (p.11)

Teaching Ideas from Green Teacher Magazine (And Elsewhere)

The World in an Apple

This exercise uses an apple to demonstrate our dependence on the earth's fragile biosphere.
  1. Slice an apple representing the Earth into quarters. Set aside three of the quarters to represent the world's oceans.

  2. Slice the remaining quarter into two pieces. Dispose of one of these as representing the land that is inhospitable for people. The remaining 1/8 represents the land where people live.

  3. Slice the remaining 1/8 into four sections and set aside three of the sections. These represent areas too rocky, too steep, or too cold to produce food.

  4. Carefully peel the remaining 1/32 slice of the earth. This peel represents the surface, the skin of the earth's crust, the topsoil on which humanity depends. It's less than 5 feet deep and can produce only a fixed amount of food. Due to erosion and over-farming, we lose 24 billion tons per year. It takes 100 years for one inch of topsoil to form.

Animal Poems

Have students choose an endangered species or simply an animal they care about. Print the letters of its name vertically on a page. Beside each letter, write a line of a poem about that animal. Example:

DEER Dancing
Effortlessly around green meadow
Endlessly scanning for danger - then,
Running like the wind.

In My Face: Animals and Space

A limiting factor for many animals is their psychological need for space: animals such as wolves or grizzly bears will abandon their habitats if they do not have adequate room. This activity seeks to build empathy for animals and their need for space.

  1. Have your students get into pairs. Ask them to stand facing each other as they discuss the answer to the question: "Why do animals need space?"

  2. After a minute, tell the students to freeze, and ask them to estimate how far apart they are from each other. Next, ask them to move closer so that they're only half as far apart (or so their toes are actually touching) and tell them to resume their conversation. This may be a little disconcerting!

  3. In the discussion that follows, ask students if they, too, have a psychological need for space. Being crowded into a smaller area than we are used to increases our stress level.

(These activities have been taken from the "Planet Earth Pages" section of
Green Teacher Magazine and are reprinted here with permission.)

School Eco-lympics

If you want to play basketball or cards, it's easy to get people involved. They love to compete. It's harder to get people involved in energy-saving. The whole idea sounds like too much work - and boring. Here's a solution: Turn energy-saving into a friendly competition. Organize a school-wide Eco-lympics!

Did you know...

  • Campuses use a lot of energy. San Jose State University in the US, for example, with 21,000 students, has an annual energy bill of $4 million.

  • Eco-lympics save energy. At Colgate University, a competition pitted student residence halls against each other to cut electric bills. The savings: 200,000 kilowatt hours in 6 months.

  • Harvard University held an eco-lympics between student dorms in 1990. Here's what they did:
  • Students got the help of the campus Physical Resource Office and the local power company and checked that all the dorms were metered.

  • The dorms competed against each other to reduce their average per-person energy use.

  • Students organized a media campaign to publicize the event through radio,newspapers, posters and bulletin boards.

  • The dean wrote a letter supporting the competition and awarded prizes to the winners.

Ideas to try at your school...

Try organizing an energy-saving or waste-reducing competition at your own school. This could be:

* class against class       * boys against girls
* grade against grade       * teachers against students

For more info on doing an Eco-lympics, get:

The Student Environmental Action Guide. (1991)
by Student Environmental Action Coalition.
ISBN 1-879-68204-4 $4.95 - original US book.
The Student Environmental Action Guide. (1993)
Tsurumi Shoten, 4-1-14 Hongo, Bunkyo-ku,
Tokyo 113 Tel: 03-3814-0491 Fax: 3814-9250
- EFL reader with Japanese vocabulary notes.

  • The Kyoto Eco-Challenge

  • Tell students about the 1997 United Nations environmental conference in Kyoto where 150 countries made commitments to reduce energy use and emission of greenhouse gases. Explain how, if we want a world with less pollution and waste, we individuals also have to do our part. Announce an exciting eco-challenge class project with a crazy name where each of you - students and teachers - commits to reduce energy consumption and resource use over the next month. Have students write up individual eco-plans for themselves, publicize the project at school and in the local media, post student results on bulletin boards and celebrate afterwards!


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    Kip A. Cates, Tottori University, Koyama, Tottori City, JAPAN 680-8551
    E-mail: Work Tel/Fax: 0857-31-5650