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An inquiry into sharing the planet: embodied energy awesomeness

You may think that when I’m not posting here regularly, it is because I’ve run out of cool new technology to share…or maybe I’m just being lazy…or tired of blogging.  While I’ve had moments of the latter two, it really boils down to the 24 hours I have in a day.  Sometimes I choose sleep! This week, I’ve been pulling together our last inquiry block of the year at Anastasis.  I can’t believe that we are down to counting weeks before we say goodbye for the summer. Our last inquiry block is an inquiry into sharing the planet.  For our 6th through 8th graders the focus is: “People can choose to take specific actions to help conserve Earth’s resources.”  Each time I put together an inquiry guide for teachers, I am sure to offer plenty of more detailed questions that they can use to help guide the inquiry.  Below are some of the questions I included. What can people do to help conserve Earth’s resources? What are other countries doing to help/hurt conservation? How does United States demand impact Earth’s resources? What country has the most impact on Earth’s resources/the least? Why do you think this is? Is conservation a political issue? What is ecological overshoot? What is embodied energy? I love helping teachers craft the opportunities for students to be curious, to dig into learning.  During this planning, I found the following resources that are too good not to share! What it is: Embodied Energy free ebook download.  Created by a design firm, this ebook does a nice job explaining embodied energy. How to use the Embodied Energy ebook in the classroom:  This ebook is a well designed book that will introduce students to the energy that we don’t see in the objects around us.  This pdf can be projected for a whole class, downloaded on individual student devices or, if you must, printed out.  Use this ebook along with the Sustainability by Design TED talk playlist to spark student interest into embodied energy and how it can impact the decisions we make every day. These introductory activities led me to the Energy Trumps project.  This is a design project by the Agency of Design that looked at using design to help people better understand, and take-in-to-account, the way that we build, design and consume.  I absolutely love the idea of students working together as a class to study a variety of materials.  Each student could create one (or several) of their own embodied energy trading  cards to help others understand the environmental impacts of materials.  Students can research key environmental properties of materials including embodied energy, embodied carbon, embodied water, recycled content, extraction intensity and years of reserves.  These can be used to compare materials at a glance.  (If you purchase the cards created by Agency of Design, you get the added bonus of an augmented reality feature that brings the material properties to life to explore in 3D.  Students can test out the different amounts of material they can get for one megajoule of energy.) Take this a step further and ask students how they can use that information to help design a more sustainable future.  How can they hack every day objects?  How can they change the way that society builds, consumes, etc.? How can the idea of embodied energy be communicated to a larger audience so that more of the picture is taken into account by the average consumer? Any time I create a new inquiry block, I work to remember that we are in the business of apprenticing change makers.  These students matter and WILL change the world.  I love reminding students that age does not have to act as a restriction for world change. Felix Finkbeiner is a student in Germany (similar in age to these Anastasis students) who is changing the world in HUGE ways.  Felix’s Plant for the Planet initiative has started a movement of planting trees…millions of them!  Read the an article about Felix here. Felix has also addressed the United Nations with a speech to open the International Year of Forests which can be viewed here.  Students can use this embodied energy calculator to explore their own curiosities. The Happy Planet Index is a fantastic way to discover the extent to which 151 countries across the globe live happy and sustainable lives based on their efficiency, how many long and happy lives each produces per unit of environmental input.  Data can be viewed in map or table format.   I love the potential that a new inquiry block holds.  We offer guidance and some starting places to spark interest, but where students find passion is always exciting to watch unfold.  We truly are in the midst of genius in our students! The other reason to love inquiry? The brilliant way that it allows room for transdisciplinary exploration, and touches each level of Bloom’s Taxonomy.  I mean really, how can you beat learning that looks like life?

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January #ProjectPLN call for submissions

Posted by admin | Posted in Project PLN | Posted on 28-12-2010

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Project PLN is a monthly magazine that @thenerdyteacher and I put out for free.  We collect posts from educators around the world focused on a singular topic and mesh them all into one spectacular magazine.  The goal is to help us all get to know our PLN (Personal Learning Network) better and spread the great things that are happening in education.  We would love your help for the January issue.  Take a look at the topic below and how you can submit your post for the January issue.

January’s Project PLN topic:
Every new year brings a new commitment to who we are. We set goals to accomplish to make ourselves better people. In education, it is no different. We want to know what your goals are for making education better for you, your students and everyone around you. Education reform is going to continue to be a hot topic, so let’s show the world what teachers are going to do help. Feel free to contact though email projectpln10@gmail.com or Twitter @projectPLN. We would love to have your thoughts ready to share by January 8th. Thanks again for your continued support of Project PLN. We hope you enjoy the holiday season!

The post doesn’t have to be a new one, if you wrote another post on exactly this topic, feel free to submit it to us!  When you email us, please be sure to include your name as you would like it to appear, your Twitter handle (if you have one…you should!), and a URL to your blog, website, wiki, linked in profile, etc (if you have one).  Thank you for your contributions!

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