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The Importance of Public Spaces

Theme: 
Public Spaces
Grade: 
3, 4
Essential questions
What types of public spaces exist in my area?
Are public spaces important?
How can public spaces help us sustain healthy communities?
What are the living and nonliving things within many outdoor public spaces?
How do human activities impact ecosystems?
What is light pollution, and why is it a problem?
What can I do to help reduce light pollution?

This module includes the following lessons:

Lesson 1: Eco-101 Many Types of Public Spaces: (Estimated time needed: Two 50-minute sessions)
In this lesson, students get a visual tour of examples of public spaces in two categories: indoor and outdoor. Then they design and create an accordion book to tell a story about at least two indoor and outdoor public spaces. Students then share their stories to build a broader awareness about and enjoyment of great community resources. The Extend activities serve to get students thinking on a deeper level about the value and purpose of public spaces in human systems.

Lesson 2: Eco-Activity: I Am a Public Space Guardian!: (Estimated time needed: Two 50-minute session)
In this lesson, students learn that many public spaces are ecosystems with living and nonliving things, and that each part of the ecosystem—whether alive or not—plays an important role in the ecosystem. In the first session, students create a life-sized web to identify interactions among the living and nonliving things within a public space. They experiment to see what happens when one element is removed from the web, and they discuss how human and natural changes to the environment can cause disasters. In the second session, students choose a public space in their community and assume the role of "public space guardian" of that place. In this capacity, they take a close look at the space, detailing the living and nonliving things within it. Then they identify rules that will help in caring for the living and nonliving things within "their" public space.

Lesson 3: Eco-Activity: Light Pollution: (Estimated time needed: Two 50-minute sessions)
In this lesson, students shed light on the subject of light pollution. They begin by observing the difference between natural light and artificial light. Then they watch a video about our "losing the dark." Next, students discuss some of the negative impacts that excessive light has on humans and wildlife. Students then participate in a fun, active simulation, role-playing what it's like to be a sea turtle hatchling trying to make its way to the sea. In the second session, students take a close look at streetlight designs. They experiment with different designs using a flashlight and paper plate, and then they consolidate what they've learned with a couple of worksheets and a tour around the school building. At the end of the session, students are encouraged to take materials home to share with their parents and to complete an at-home investigation of the lights in their neighborhood. Students and their parents will never look at streetlights the same way again!

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