Section 4

Investigating the changing environment


Learning Outcomes

By the end of this section, you will have:
  • used different strategies to raise awareness of pollution and climate change;
  • used an investigative approach to help pupils understand the effects of pollution;
  • used group work and simple fieldwork to develop young pupils’ understanding of local resources.

Developing an appreciation in your pupils of their local environment and the need to preserve and protect it is important if they are to understand their responsibility to care for their environment as a whole. This section aims to help you to structure lessons and activities that will link care of the local environment to worldwide problems of pollution and weather change. To support your pupils, you should read about environmental issues as this will provide ideas for lessons and keep you up to date on key ideas. By investigating issues such as pollution in real-life situations and by conducting experiments, your pupils will enjoy learning, as they are actively involved in activities that have meaning for them.

Page 1

What do your pupils know about local resources? This part looks at raising your pupils’ awareness of natural resources – particularly plant resources – that are found in their local area. A good way to do this is to bring in local experts to talk, as in Case Study 1. Experts bring a specialised knowledge from which both you and your pupils can learn. Using experts also makes learning exciting because it is different. In Activity 1, you heighten your pupils’ awareness of their local environment through field trips in which they are actively involved in gathering data. (If you are working in an urban area, or it is not safe to let your pupils walk out near the school, you could change the activity to look at food in the market. Ask pupils to each name five foods from plants and to try to find out where the food was grown.)

Case Study 1: Exploring important local resources

Mrs Hlungwane teaches in Hoxane Primary School in Limpopo Province in South Africa and wants her pupils to develop their understanding of their own environment and its natural resources. She has read about local expertise and knowledge about medicinal plants, and thinks looking at local plants, including those used for healing, might be a good way to extend the idea of resources from Section 2. She decides to contact the seven local plant experts who live near the school and invites them to come and be interviewed by her pupils on a set date. They agree to bring some of the important plants growing in the area to show the pupils. Mrs Hlungwane divides the class into seven groups, each to interview one of the visitors. She discusses with her pupils the importance of showing respect. Together they draw up a list of questions to ask. She suggests that they find out the following three things about each plant:
  • what it is called;
  • where it grows around the village;
  • its food or medicinal properties.
Afterwards, having thanked their visitors and said farewell to them, each group reports back and Mrs Hlungwane writes this information on the chalkboard in three columns:
  • Plants that I find near the school
  • Is this plant cultivated?
  • Do we use this plant? If yes, how do we use it?
(See Resource 1: Plant handout). Next, they discuss how to protect these plants, as they are an important resource for the community. They decide that learning to identify the plants so that they do not pick them is important. Also, that they should not trample them or damage the locality where they grow. Finally, Mrs Hlungwane asks the pupils, in groups, to make posters of the main plants, showing the uses of each plant and where it grows.

Activity 1: Finding out about local plant resources

  • The table will help pupils focus on exactly what you want them to do.
  • Ask each pupil to draw a table to record their observations. Draw the table on the board for them to copy.
  • Send them out in pairs into the area surrounding the school for say 30 minutes and ask them to fill in at least five lines of the table. Walk around with your pupils and support them as they work.
  • If pupils don’t know the names of plants, encourage them to describe and/or draw them for later identification.
  • When they return to class, draw a big version of the table on the board.
  • Go around the class and fill in all the pupils’ findings on the big table.
  • Ask the pupils what they have discovered from today’s lesson about the natural environment and the kinds of resources it provides to the community.

Page 2

Because our natural environment can provide us with our livelihoods, you need to encourage your pupils to think about how to preserve the environment so that it continues to provide what we need. To start your pupils thinking about the damage that is being done to the environment, you can actually show them the harmful effects of pollution. This is what the teacher in Case Study 2 does with her class. Activity 2 shows another way – conducting an experiment to show the effects of polluted water or lack of water on the growth of plants. Once your pupils can see the damage done by pollution, they will be in a better position to develop positive attitudes towards protecting and caring for the environment.

Case Study 2: Using a field trip to explore pollution

Mamadou Tanle, the Class 6 teacher in the Wa Catholic School, wants to develop her pupils’ awareness of the harmful effects of water pollution. (See Resource 2: Water issues for background information.) She realises that she can do this by taking them on a field trip to the local river, which is littered with rubbish. At the river, she asks them to make a list of everything they can find that is polluting the water. Once the pupils have done this, they sit on the riverbank and Mamadou asks them a series of questions to encourage them to think beyond what they see. For example, she asks them: ‘How many people rely on this river as a water supply?’ ‘What would happen to all those people if the water from the river is contaminated? ‘What do they use this water for?’ Back in class, she asks each group to develop a strategy to help clean up the river and its surroundings. As she moves around, listening and helping, she is excited by the plans that they are coming up with. Ideas include involving the community and the school to combat pollution, not only at the river, but in other areas of the village as well. Mamadou feels she has achieved her aim of developing an awareness of the harmful effects of water pollution, and is pleased that she has encouraged an attitude of community-mindedness in her pupils as well. Note: When planning field trips a teacher needs to be conscious of the culture/religion of the immediate environment. Field trips should not be undertaken to sacred places within the community if there is a taboo. In areas where pupils have to attend the secular schools and Koranic schools, the teacher must ensure that the pupils come back in good time to enable them to attend the Koranic schools.

Activity 2: An experiment on pollution

  • To refresh or develop your own knowledge about water issues, read Resource 2. Try this activity yourself beforehand so you can help your pupils better.
  • Ask your pupils to set up the experiment, which will run over five days, described in Resource 3: Maize seed experiment.
  • Then ask each pupil to write down their predictions of what will happen to each seed over the five days.
  • Ask them to check the progress of the three maize seeds every day.
  • Pupils should make a formal record of their daily observations. You should also participate by making and recording observations of your own.
  • On the fifth day, hold a detailed discussion with pupils about whether or not their predictions have been fulfilled. What has happened to each maize seed?
  • Discuss the implications of the experiment in terms of pollution. Can you and your pupils think of other experiments to do around pollution?

Page 3

Most pupils are interested in what is happening around them and using local resources such as newspapers or radio can help to enhance your lessons. The purpose of the Key Activity is to encourage pupils to think about how global weather changes can affect their local context, and to introduce them to the idea of global warming as a possible explanation of changes in the weather. In Case Study 3, the teacher used local news items as a starting point for teaching about the water cycle. Once pupils are able to see the links between events, you are beginning to develop their critical thinking skills. Such insights will help them to make sense of the ever-changing world that they live in.

Case Study 3: Using local newspapers to introduce the water cycle

There had been lots of discussion about water in the local newspapers over the past week. Water restrictions had been introduced. The Kanji dam was running dry. There was crop failure in the north of the country. Idrissu Mahama saw the opportunity to discuss issues about water supply with his class. He wrote this question on the board: ‘Where does all the rain go when the ground dries?’ and he then asked each group of pupils to talk about this for ten minutes. During this time, he went around the groups and encouraged everyone in each group to contribute their ideas. Then Idrissu gathered his class round him and asked them to take turns to share their ideas. Together the class build up the understanding of the water cycle (see Resource 4: The water cycle). Idrissu finished by drawing a diagram of the water cycle on the board and asking pupils to copy the diagram and label it.

Key Activity: Global warming

Read Resource 5: Global warming articles before the lesson. Divide the class into small groups and then read the articles to the class or give each group a copy to read together. Explain to your pupils about climate related rises in sea level (see Resource 6: Evidence of global warming in Ghana). Ask each group to produce a poster or a short play to answer the following:
  • What causes global warming?
  • What effects will global warming have on the environment?
  • What could we do to slow down global warming?
How will you ask pupils to evaluate their work? You may want to share your pupils’ work on global warming with the school in an assembly.

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