I recently received a request for an ‘environment lesson plan.’ A teacher asked me for help with planning a lesson on food shortages and environmental issues in her classroom. Here are my notes.
Get students talking
First, kick off your environment lesson plan by getting students talking about food shortages. Try these ideas:
To connect to food shortages you could:
- Ask the class to get in groups and write down all the food and snacks eaten during a typical day.
- Post three examples on the board- for example, say that wheat crops are now toxic and the land sterile.
- Have pupils identify all food items containing wheat and erase those.
- Now say that dairy products are unavailable since there is drought, the grass has died, and there aren’t enough cereals available to feed the livestock.
- Cross off all products on the lists containing milk, cream, and cheese.
- Cross off all meat since there is no more livestock.
See what’s left!
Provide some structure to prompt discussion
Brainstorm current environmental issues with the class and ask a student to write up each key point raised on the board. Then, group these into about six main problems which could have sub-issues. For example:
Climate Change (sub-headings) massive fires, unusual temperatures, irregular weather patterns, rising seas, drought, extinctions, change in crops grown, population pressures.
Pollution (sub-headings) air, water, land, space.
Population – (sub-heading) refugees, health, famine, quality of life.
Please don’t get bogged down in this, though, because it’s all a bit negative! The point is to encourage discussion in English. So, be sure to include solutions. In addition, I recommend the interesting and positive documentary “Kiss the Soil” (I saw it on Netflix), and also the beautiful documentary film, “The Serengeti Rules,” which was made over sixty years. These resources will give you some exciting, positive input!
Don’t get depressed!
I think it’s more fun to look at solutions to environmental problems than the problems themselves, which can be gloomy and irrelevant to an ESL class. There’s new technology coming that may save us. Indeed, if powerful lobbies like Big Ag and Big Pharma cannot control things, there may be hope. Birth rates are dropping in many places, and the public has a greater consciousness of the pesticides in our food.
Some classroom games for the environment
Here are some specific activities for an environment lesson plan.
You could play Battleships using vocabulary concerning the environment – disasters and solutions (so it’s not all depressing). Get students to make their grids by writing words in from a selection on the board. Then vote on the issues from the lists you put on the board earlier. For example, how many people vote for water pollution as number 1? How many choose drought, air pollution, nuclear accidents, etc. Then, write up the results for the top six issues.
Next, play the game Persuasion, where people support their cause and try to win others over to it. Finally, re-vote and see if numbers have changed after the exercise.
Don't assume your students will be interested
Use structured activities to promote discussion rather than assuming your students will be interested
You may think you have a hot topic and be disappointed that students are quiet and detached. The thing to watch out for is that the class isn’t really interested in discussing the issue, much to your amazement, and your activity falls flat. Hence it is beneficial to use structured games like Battleships or fake debates like Persuasion, where people take on a role that does not necessarily express their personal view. When people play a role, they feel less vulnerable.