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My Public Spaces

Theme: 
Public Spaces
Grade: 
7, 8
Essential questions
What is biodiversity, and why is it important?
What types of organisms live in our local natural habitats?
What can we do to protect and encourage biodiversity in our neighborhood?
What value do public spaces offer me personally?
What characteristics make a public space great or terrible?
How can we make our public spaces more useful?
How does a green map highlight the resources of an area?
How could we use a green map to encourage greater appreciation of and care for our campus?

This module includes the following lessons:

Lesson 1: Eco-101/Eco-Activity: Biodiversity in the Field (Estimated time needed: Three 55-minute sessions)
This three-part lesson begins with a video that encourages students to focus not on the fact that human activities are leading to massive extinctions of organisms (which is depressing!), but rather on how we can better motivate ourselves as individuals and as a society to improve the situation. If we spend more time in nature—wherever we live—we as a species can learn to do a better job of protecting other species. Students come to understand why it's important to protect biodiversity on Earth and learn some essential vocabulary related to biodiversity. Then they visit a nearby natural area and conduct a field study of three types of organisms: vertebrates, invertebrates, and plants/fungi. Student teams then put together a field report to document what they observed, and they estimate the biodiversity index of the area they studied. Armed with this data and the richness of their outdoor experience, students develop a plan to maintain or even increase biodiversity in their neighborhood.

Lesson 2: Eco-Activity: Reflecting on Public Spaces (Estimated time needed: 50 minutes)
In this lesson, students reflect on public spaces that have impacted them in some way. They consider how public spaces give humans much-needed places for social activities, for enjoying nature, and for physical exercise. They recall a variety of public spaces they have experienced and conduct a plus/delta analysis to analyze the positive and negative aspects of familiar public spaces. After these personal reflections, they join classmates in reviewing and discussing which aspects of public spaces work well and which do not work well. They note trends among their personal reflections and begin outlining ideas for improving public spaces. The ideas on the Extend tab then provide opportunities for students to take action to improve a public space in their area.

Lesson 3: Eco-Action: Green Mapping (Estimated time needed: Two 50-minute class periods)
In this lesson, students learn how a green map can make visitors aware of the natural, cultural, and sustainability resources an area offers and help people gain a deeper understanding of a public space. They then apply what they've learned by working in small groups to create green maps of the school campus. The result is a series of green maps of campus that emphasize the assets and liabilities of the campus from the students' perspective. Students share their maps via a classroom Green Map Gallery Walk, in which they reflect on what they can learn from and appreciate about their classmates' maps. The lesson concludes with a conversation about how green maps can be used to increase the school community’s respect and appreciation for campus resources. Students also explore how the maps could be used as a tool to persuade school administrators to make improvements on campus.

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