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Building Eco-Friendly Communities

Authored by Dream in Green

180 minutes
Three 60-minute sessions
Primary subjects: 
Career and Technical Education (CTE): Architecture & Construction, Environmental Education, Science
Grade: 
9, 10, 11, 12
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About

In this STEM design project, students will research and identify what makes a community more eco-friendly by exploring the natural landscape of their own community, its biodiversity, animal habitats and green spaces. Students will then design and create a scale drawing of an existing neighborhood, changing or improving its natural and man-made features by taking into account the plants and animals that live there and their needs by applying their knowledge of various habitats to preserve its biodiversity while making room for human inhabitants.

Key objectives for students
Research why biodiversity is important, and identify the negative effects of a lack of biodiversity in a habitat.
Describe the impact on ecosystems due to natural and/or man made changes to the environment.
Predict what might happen to the populations in that ecosystem because of these changes
Plan and design ideal Eco-Neighborhood or Eco-City with elements that counteract natural/man-made changes that alter an ecosystem so as not to upset the natural balance.
Secondary subjects
Geography, Mathematics, Social Studies
Topics
Biodiversity, Habitats, Ecosystems, Scale Drawing
Skills
Collaboration, Communication skills, Creative problem solving
Values
Resilience
Methods
Multi-Disciplinary, Project-Based Learning, Real-World Application
Background information for teachers

Groups of students will need to research the ecosystem of your state and a region within it. Provide at least one strong website for each state students will be using, otherwise their search might yield inaccurate information. If more than one group wants the same region, make sure to have them choose different ecosystems.

Some suggested pages:

Previous skills needed
  • Students should have a general understanding of ecosystems and food webs.
  • Students should be able to define and describe the different types of symbiotic relationships in an ecosystem: mutualism, commensalism and parasitism.
  • Students should be able to identify some of the living and non-living portions of an ecosystem.
In Advance

Teachers should review the ecosystems that make up the students’ environment and should review the ecosystems present in the U.S. ex. Forest, grasslands, dessert, tundra, freshwater, marine

Materials needed
  • Computer, Internet connection, projector for teacher
  • Optional - Student devices (cell phone, tablet, computer, etc.)
  • Graph paper for scale drawing
Key vocabulary
biodiversity, Ecosystem Diversity, Species Diversity, Genetic Diversity, Topographic Features
Class 1
Time Exercise Description
15 minutes Introduction Elicit prior knowledge from students about biodiversity and why it is important, highlighting 3 major reasons – Watch video on TED-ED (Why is Biodiversity so Important) and then add to list of reasons. Discuss terms related such as; ecosystem diversity, s
45 minutes Research Divide class into group, having students choose a geographical neighborhood in their state. Students research and identify plants, animals, and limiting factors to growth of each species and collect information on “Existing Ecosystems” worksheet.
Class 2
Time Exercise Description
20 minutes Introduction Introduce concept of eco-friendly communities. Show students examples of communities that are considered as such looking at the various qualities and features they highlight. Discuss why many cities encourage its citizens to reduce reliance on cars, provi
40 minutes Scale Drawing Activity In groups, students research and identify buildings, roads, and topographical features that they will include in their scale drawing. Then, following “How to Build a Scale Drawing” worksheet and viewing video tutorial, students design their sketch and cre
Class 3
Time Exercise Description
45 minutes Essay In groups, students write an essay explaining the design concepts of changing or improving the city/neighborhood’s natural and man-made features taking into account the organisms that live there and applying their knowledge of various habitats and the nee
15 minutes Presentation & Wrap-Up Each group presents their sketch and answers questions from peers on design qualities and ideas.
Implementation

Class 1: What is Biodiversity?
Introduction:

  • Elicit prior knowledge from students about what biodiversity is and why it is important, by asking students to individually come up with a definition and reasons. Have students share their definitions and reasons with the class and work as a class to identify three top reasons and the best definition to biodiversity.
  • Watch the TED-ED video, Why is Biodiversity so Important, and then have students add to their list of reasons of why biodiversity is important. Discuss and define terms related such as: ecosystem diversity, species diversity, and genetic diversity.
  • Guiding Questions for students:
    • What is an ecosystem?
    • Why is biodiversity important in an ecosystem?
    • What factors limit or inhibit a species growth?
    • What are the animals, plants and topographic features that might be present in your chosen ecosystem?
    • What possible natural/man-made changes could alter your ecosystem?
  • Tell students for the next few days, they will be creating and designing their ideal ecofriendly city, taking into account the biodiversity and the resident’s well-being. They will need to choose an ecosystem in their state and research the flora and fauna of the environment, to ensure the natural systems needs are met. They will then sketch and design their ecofriendly city and write an essay explaining their design. At the end of the project, they will present their city to the class and need to answer questions and explain their design to their peers. They should use the Designing an Ecofriendly City rubric to guide the creation and designing of their city.

Research

  • Divide class into groups, having students choose a geographical neighborhood in their state, such as a coastal plain or grassland. For example, in Florida students will look at marine, freshwater, mangrove, pine rockland, hardwood hammocks ecosystems. Students in each group will research and identify plants, animals, and limiting factors to growth of each species and collect information on the “Existing Ecosystems” worksheet in groups.
  • Provide students with a list of pre-determined websites that will help each group determine their chosen location’s ecosystem and provide time for students to complete worksheet in groups. Provide each student a copy of the Designing an Ecofriendly City rubric, which they will keep until the end of the project

Class 2: Comparing Eco-Friendly Cities & Neighborhoods
Introduction:

  • Introduce concept of eco-friendly communities. Show students examples of communities that are considered as such looking at the various qualities and features they highlight. Discuss why many cities encourage its citizens to reduce reliance on cars, provide walking and biking paths, provide more trees and canopy for buildings/sidewalks and have a large variety of plants for animals to eat and use for shelter, as well as include stocked ponds or other bodies of water. Provide opportunity for students to identify examples of what various cities and communities are currently putting in place to create either more walkable communities, eco-districts, or “green” neighborhoods.
  • Guiding Questions for Students:
    • What building features/techniques have been created to minimize the use of resources and make the structures “green”/”eco-friendly”?
    • What should the role of community groups and local government in mitigating the impact of over-development in state chosen?
    • What are some ways to counteract these changes so as not to upset the balance of your ecosystem?

Scale Drawing Activity:

Class 3: Living in Eco-Friendly Communities & Supporting Biodiversity
Essay:

  • In groups, students write essays explaining the design concepts of changing or improving the city/neighborhood’s natural and man-made features have taken into account the organisms that live there and applying their knowledge of various habitats and the needs of the organisms living in it to preserve its biodiversity while making room for human inhabitants.

Final Presentations & Wrap-Up:

  • Each group presents their sketch and answers questions from peers on design qualities and ideas.
Reflection Questions
  • What is an ecosystem?
  • What are the animals, plants and topographic features that might be present in your chosen ecosystem?
  • What possible natural/man-made changes could alter your ecosystem?
  • What are some ways to counteract these changes so as not to upset the balance of your ecosystem?
  • What building features/techniques have been created to minimize the use of resources and make the structures “green”/”eco-friendly”?
  • What should the role of community groups and local government in mitigating the impact of over-development in the state?
Assessment Opportunities

Eco-friendly city rubric for scale drawing and essay.

Standards assessment

Florida State Standards for Social studies 9-12 grade

  • SS.912.G.1.4 - Analyze geographic information from a variety of sources including primary sources, atlases, computer, and digital sources, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and a broad variety of maps.

Sunshine State Science Standards for 9-12 grade

  • SC.912.N.1.1 - Define a problem based on a specific body of knowledge; Conduct research &/or experiment, communicate results.

Visual Arts Florida State Standards for 9-12 grade

  • VA.912.F.3.7 - Create a body of collaborative work to show artistic cohesiveness, team-building, respectful compromise, and time-management skills.

Mathematics Florida Standards for 9-12 grade

  • MAFS.912.G-MG.1.3 - Apply geometric methods to solve design problems (e.g., designing an object or structure to satisfy physical constraints or minimize cost; working with typographic grid systems based on ratios).
Technology

Computers for Students, Internet Connection, Smart Phone/Tablet