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Environmental Ethics Lesson Plan


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This dynamic presentation serves to boost the educator’s motivation and ability to engage students of all ages in behavior that is respectful to non-humans (i.e. plants, animals, insects etc.)

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Environmental Ethics Lesson Plan

  1. 1. Environmental ethics for you and me A seminar for Wolf Ridge ELC 11/08/2010 Unlimited Respect
  2. 2. Environmental Ethics Seminar • Time: 2 hours • Location: A large comfortable room that allows movement of participants • Materials: – “Social Movements pyramid” – Blank sheets of paper (tree rings + “I Believe”) – Deck of cards, or some way to divide of into groups for scenarios • Outline: – Intro + history – Spectrum activity – Tree rings + “I believe” – Scenarios and action brainstorm
  3. 3. Concepts • Acting in accordance with one’s beliefs is a good thing that requires knowing what those beliefs are and recognizing situations to use them. • Teachers have important and powerful potential to impact student values and do so all the time with what and how they choose to teach . • Education must not alienate or harm the dignity of any humans or non-humans but rather expand, dignity, connectedness and rights. Objectives 1. Start ongoing conversation 2. Develop personal belief statement 3. Decide how to act on those beliefs here, now
  4. 4. Special Vocabulary • Rights: has intrinsic value which humans ought to respect (Nash) • Ethics: beliefs, values, philosophies of ‘right and wrong’, ‘good and evil’ • Advocacy vs. Education: both require messaging, though education-oriented projects may focus on multiple viewpoints that advocacy projects may choose to forgo.
  5. 5. (intro) (5-10minutes) • Story of this seminar (Girl in Fisheries Mgmt) • … advocacy and education … touchy? Controversial? … “how do we approach these and other value-related issues, as teachers? We will focus on human-to-non-human relationships” • In our classes we already respect all students regardless of: … skin color … gender … ability … religion … heritage … class The big idea: How do we treat non-humans? … species?
  6. 6. How did we get here? (30 minutes) • Build the sequence of acquiring rights … a historical timeline. You may find some items occur at the same time, or take the same priority in our ethical progression. Other events may not have occurred yet, but may in the future in a certain order too. “historical tradition of extending rights to oppressed minorities” (Nash) • Examine trends. What are the similarities and differences –are there any universal elements? What are the roles of education and advocacy in these social movements? Which of these are apart of “environmental ethics”? • Note: this oversimplifies the subject, but allows us to see what’s behind us, and imagine what’s ahead. “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” – Martin Luther King Jr.
  7. 7. (“so what?”) Looking inward pt. 1 • Spectrum activity: have students move onto a line from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree” and everywhere in between in response to the following statements. Pick and choose statements, it is usually good to allow time for processing or discussion following every few. 1. Some animals have more feelings than others, and we should care for those with the most feelings first 2. I have mourned the loss of a plant 3. It is okay to pick just one flower in class 4. It is okay to pick just 10 flowers in class 5. It is okay to pick just 50 flowers in class 6. I have secretly set insects free from the house so they will not be killed 7. Would pick a bouquet of wild flowers, even if they would die because of it 8. Would harm human property in defense of a forest ecosystem (i.e. bulldozers) 9. Would harm other humans in defense of a forest ecosystem (i.e. fighting bulldozer drivers) 10. I would harm myself in defense of a forest ecosystem (i.e. chaining myself to a tree) 11. The death of a household pet has been more traumatizing than the death of humans 12. Other animals should be afraid of humans 13. I have no problem with eating meat 14. Will eat meat, even if I don’t know how the animal was treated during its life 15. I would kill a deer for a source of meat 16. I would kill a deer just to help control population 17. I would kill a deer for a trophy 18. It is better to test cosmetics and medicine on non-humans before humans than the other way around 19. The world would be better without mosquitoes 20. The world would be better without dogs and cats 21. The world would be better without humans
  8. 8. Looking Inward pt. 2 (30 minutes) • Tree rings: What major events shaped our ethics and values? Contributed/harmed our relationship with the environment? – … draw your tree rings (consider symbolism of “burn marks, draught years, and years of major growth”) – Ask for volunteers to share • “I believe”: – Reverse side of paper, take 10 minutes and write what you believe your environmental ethic is – Ask for volunteers to share
  9. 9. (“now what?” application) (30 minutes) • Scenarios for small group discussion + presentation to large group. Your objective = spread motivation to care for environment (WR missions statement). – “You’re Doomed” A chaperone is cynical, doesn’t think we can or need to do anything to prevent global climate change “who cares about carbon footprint?” she points to global population and how it is “the real problem”, but turning off your lights won’t do anything. To add to it, she suggests it is the problem that young people will need to deal with – “not us old folks”. How do you respond and connect people’s hearts to modern earth? Consider actions you could take before and after this scene. List as many as possible. – “It’s just a plant” Students on an Animal Sign hunt bend a sapling over until it snaps. They see you have noticed them and they try and hide their ‘handiwork’. When you approach them they confess but justify it by saying “It’s just a plant”. How do you respond and connect people’s hearts to modern earth? Consider actions you could take before and after this scene. List as many as possible. – “Not the real world” a chaperone is interacting with students and other chaperones and exclaims that they cannot wait to go home, use electronics and be in the “real world” catch up on the latest sports action. “I’m not a nature person”, you hear him say. How do you respond and connect people’s hearts to modern earth? Consider actions you could take before and after this scene. List as many as possible. – “Fawn story” It’s springtime, you are leading a group of students to find signs of white-tailed dear. Several students have run ahead. They yell back to you that they have found a baby deer – “It’s not moving!”. By the time you arrive, it’s obvious that several students have pet it. You know that when deer are born, they are born without scent to keep them safe from predators. Once touched, they take on a human scent and are in increased danger of predation. How do you respond and connect people’s hearts to modern earth? Consider actions you could take before and after this scene. List as many as possible. – “Porcupine hunting” A young girl in your Animal Signs class shares that she has shot and killed a porcupine before - her family has told her they are nothing but a nuisance. How do you respond and connect people’s hearts to modern earth? Consider actions you could take before and after this scene. List as many as possible.
  10. 10. Conclusion: Action Brainstorm • Record the recommended actions as a list of general ways to “spread environmental ethics” – … In a classroom … – … Out of a classroom …
  11. 11. Appendix A: Extra Touches • Music • Snacks + Coffee • Centerpieces of natural items • Quotes around table
  12. 12. Appendix B: Quotes (scattered on table) • “If this is not my planet, whose is it? If this is not my family, whose is it? If not my responsibility, whose? … I act not out of obligation or idealism, but because I live in a straw house and I smell smoke” – Terrance O’Connor (from Ecopsychology) • “You are the world and the world is on fire” – Krishnamurti • “To develop a citizenry that has the knowledge, skills and motivation to act together for a quality environment” – Wolf Ridge Mission Statement • “… we hope that a hundred years from people will look back on the way animals are treated now with the same horror as we do when we look back on the slave trade” – Anonymous participant in a raid by the Animal Liberation Front, 1984 • “The world, we are told, was made especially for man – a presumption not supported by all the facts … why should man value himself as more than a small part of the one great unit of creation?” – John Muir, 1867 • “All education is environmental education” – David Orr, 1998, Earth In Mind • “How wonderful that no one need wait a single moment to improve the world.” — Anne Frank • “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” – Martin Luther King Jr. • “The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land.” – Aldo Leopold, 1949, The Land Ethic • “The best thing you can do to help the environment is to be kind to the next person you meet” - John Francis, Planetwalker • “Stay together, learn the flowers, go light” – Gary Snyder, For The Children • “Ecological problems originate in how people think and so are first and foremost problems of education” – David Orr, 2010, State of the World 2010