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What Is the Most Serious
Problem Facing Earth?

In this special Earth Day WebQuest, student teams vie for funding from the fictional Help Our World (HOW) Foundation. Each team builds a case for a critical environmental concern. Which threat is the most critical? Which team should be awarded the foundation's $1 million grant? Included: student work sheets, lots of Earth Day resources, more.

EARTH DAY WEBQUEST: OVERVIEW

What is the most serious environmental problem facing Earth today? In this special Earth Day WebQuest from Education World, students work in teams to construct presentations that focus attention on some of Earth's most serious environmental threats. In the scenario for this activity, each student team is vying for $1 million in funding from the fictional Help Our World (HOW) Foundation. As members of the HOW Foundation, all students will vote for the team that makes the best case for its environmental issue.


Celebrate
Earth Day

Find more great Earth Day activities, projects, and resources in Education World's Earth Day Lesson Archive.
 

Environmental threats students will consider include:

  • vanishing species.
  • overflowing landfills.
  • air pollution.
  • rain forest destruction.
  • water pollution.
  • energy depletion.
  • other problems as desired.
If your students will have Internet access during this project, click here for a page full of resources they can use as they explore each topic above.

MATERIALS NEEDED

BEFORE STARTING THE WEBQUEST

Before beginning the WebQuest, draw up a plan for organizing students into cooperative teams. All team members will serve as researchers, gathering information related to the topic and sharing the information with their team. At the start of the project, assign one of the following responsibilities to each team member.

You might want to take the various roles into account when forming teams, and include on each team a student who excels in art, a couple of good writers, and a student who has the personality to be a dynamic presenter.
  • Note taker. As students share the results of their research, the note taker records the most compelling information about the problem. When the research is complete, the note taker leads a group discussion to determine which points should be included in the team's final statement.
  • Essayist. The essayist uses the note taker's notes to compose a two to three paragraph statement presenting the most compelling information about the threat to Earth that team is investigating. The essayist also leads a group discussion.
  • Editor. The editor edits the essayist's work. That person also leads a group discussion that results in a final draft of the statement the team presents to the class.
  • Graphic artist. The artist creates a chart, graph, map, or some other illustration to visually support the team's presentation.
  • Presenter. The presenter presents the team's most convincing arguments and its accompanying graphic to the board of the HOW Foundation (their classmates).

SETTING UP THE WEBQUEST WITH STUDENTS

Pose to students the situation explained in the TASK section of their What is the Most Serious Problem Facing Earth? WebQuest work sheets.

 

The HOW Foundation has announced that it will award a $1 million grant to help solve the most serious environmental problem Earth faces. Your job is to prove that your team should get the money because the problem you're working on is the most serious threat to Earth. Use the Internet resources provided, as well as library resources, to make the case for your team's plan. Your team will have 2 to 3 minutes to present your case to the board of the HOW Foundation (your classmates). Based on that presentation, board members will decide which problem they will invest $1 million to solve.

Write on a board or chart the following list of environmental issues or problems that Earth faces:

  • Air pollution
  • Energy depletion
  • Overflowing landfills
  • Rain forest destruction
  • Vanishing species
  • Water pollution
  • (Other problems as teacher/students see fit)

Ask students to share what they know about each problem. Write the information they provide under the appropriate heading. At the end of the discussion, ask students to vote on which problem most seriously threatens Earth. Record the results of that ballot. Store the final tally for future reference.

LET THE RESEARCH BEGIN!

Students use online and library resources to gather background information about the issue at hand. For this purpose, they will use the Earth WebQuest Notes page (page 4 of the What is the Most Serious Problem Facing Earth? WebQuest work sheets) to organize information as they gather it. (Option: Students can use lined writing paper or their journals to record research results.)

Click here for Internet resources for each of the above topics.
You will need to plan in advance how many class sessions should be devoted to research. That will depend on the length of your class period and other considerations. If students meet for 40-minute class periods, you might devote three or four class periods to research. If you meet for 2-hour block periods, one or two class sessions might suffice.

After the research is complete, students meet in teams to complete their individual assignments. Work with students to set a timeline for each team member to complete his or her responsibilities. The following is a suggested timeline:

Note: Each day on the timeline below includes an "overnight" assignment. Although the turnaround is quick, the assignments are not difficult or time consuming.

Day 1: Team members share research notes. The note taker works with team members to collect/write the most compelling facts, figures, and other information. That information is presented to the essayist.

Overnight, the essayist composes a first draft of a 3- to 4-paragraph summary of the team's most convincing arguments for its assigned environmental threat.

Day 2: The essayist presents the draft essay, which contains the thrust of the team's upcoming presentation to the board of the HOW Foundation. The essayist then leads a team discussion about:

  • possible additions or edits that might better convince the board of the HOW Foundation to fund the team's project.
  • how team members propose to use the $1 million grant. The team proposes a plan for spending the $1 million so citizens around the country and the world will see the importance of tackling a particular environmental threat. Will the team propose to spend the $1 million budget on newspaper ads, a TV commercial, or in some other way(s)?
  • what element of the presentation best lends itself to a graphic -- for example, an image, cartoon, graph, map, or other artwork -- that will drive home the importance of the team's issue. The team's "graphic artist" begins to work on that graphic.

Overnight, the editor produces a final draft of the presentation and the graphic artist creates a draft of the art to be used in the presentation.

Day 3: The team's editor shares the final essay, including the team's plan for spending the $1 million HOW grant. The editor leads a team discussion about edits/changes that should be made to the team's presentation. The graphic artist presents his or her draft/layout of the art to be used to drive home the team's point to the board of the HOW Foundation; the artist also solicits feedback from team members and shares how he or she plans to incorporate appropriate suggestions into the final art.

Overnight, the editor completes the final presentation script. The graphic artist creates the final art.

Day 4: The editor presents the final essay/presentation script to the team. The graphic artist presents the final art. Then the presenter practices the presentation in front of team members. Team members make suggestions to help polish the presentation.

Day 5: Each team's presenter attempts to convince the HOW Foundation to fund the team's request for $1 million. The presenter has 2 to 3 minutes to present the team's

  • most convincing arguments for focusing attention on the team's Earth threat.
  • plan for spending the $1 million.
  • a supporting illustration.

After the presentations, class members vote -- in a secret ballot -- on which team made the most compelling argument. That team receives the $1 million in funding from HOW.

You might choose to videotape students' presentations for later critique or to show on Parent's Night.

FOLLOW-UP DISCUSSION & ASSESSMENT

After the vote, discuss with students why they voted the way they did. What made the winning team's argument most compelling? Did they vote the way they did because of personal feelings, or were they swayed by the most convincing arguments? Compare the final vote to the vote taken at the beginning of the WebQuest activity. How did the vote change? Why did it change? What facts helped change voters' minds?

Rate students on their group participation. See the Cooperative Grouping Rubric as an example.

ADAPT THE PROJECT FOR HOME SCHOOL OR YOUNGER STUDENTS

Home school. Home school teachers might focus the research on one problem that students vote to explore, or individual students might work on individual problems.

Younger students. With younger students, teachers might want to omit the research component of the WebQuest. Instead, teachers can locate and read aloud a children's book relating to each of the environmental problems, or share some basic facts from the Web sites listed on the WebQuest Internet Resources page.

EARTH DAY RESOURCES

Click here for a page full of resources you might share with students for each of the above topics.

NATIONAL STANDARDS

FINE ARTS: Theatre
GRADES K - 4
NA-T.K-4.1 Script Writing
NA-T.K-4.5 Researching By Finding Information to Support Classroom Dramatizations
GRADES 5 - 8
NA-T.5-8.1 Script Writing
NA-T.5-8.5 Researching By Finding Information to Support Classroom Dramatizations
GRADES 9 - 12
NA-T.9-12.1 Script Writing
NA-T.9-12.5 Researching By Finding Information to Support Classroom Dramatizations

FINE ARTS: Visual Arts
GRADES K - 4
NA-VA.K-4.1Understanding and Applying Media, Techniques, and Processes
NA-VA.K-4.3 Choosing and Evaluating A Range of Subject Matter, Symbols, and Ideas
NA-VA.K-4.6 Making Connections Between Visual Arts and Other Disciplines
GRADES 5 - 8
NA-VA.5-8.1 Understanding and Applying Media, Techniques, and Processes
NA-VA.5-8.3 Choosing and Evaluating A Range of Subject Matter, Symbols, and Ideas
NA-VA.5-8.6 Making Connections Between Visual Arts and Other Disciplines
GRADES 9 - 12
NA-VA.9-12.1 Understanding and Applying Media, Techniques, and Processes
NA-VA.9-12.3 Choosing and Evaluating A Range of Subject Matter, Symbols, and Ideas
NA-VA.9-12.6 Making Connections Between Visual Arts and Other Disciplines

LANGUAGE ARTS: English
GRADES K - 12
NL-ENG.K-12.1Reading for Perspective
NL-ENG.K-12.3Evaluation Strategies
NL-ENG.K-12.4Communication Skills
NL-ENG.K-12.5Communication Strategies
NL-ENG.K-12.8Developing Research Skills
NL-ENG.K-12.11Participating in Society
NL-ENG.K-12.12Applying Language Skills

MATHEMATICS: Connections
GRADES Pre-K - 12
NM-CONN.PK-12.3 Recognize and Apply Mathematics in Contexts Outside of Mathematics

MATHEMATICS: Representation
GRADES Pre-K - 12
NM-REP.PK-12.1Create and Use Representations to Organize, Record, and Communicate Mathematical Ideas
NM-REP.PK-12.2Select, Apply, and Translate Among Mathematical Representations to Solve Problems

SCIENCE
GRADES K - 4
NS.K-4.1 Science as Inquiry
NS.K-4.3 Life Science
NS.K-4.4 Earth and Space Science
NS.K-4.6 Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
GRADES 5 - 8
NS.5-8.1 Science as Inquiry
NS.5-8.3 Life Science
NS.5-8.4 Earth and Space Science
NS.5-8.6 Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
GRADES 9 - 12
NS.9-12.1 Science as Inquiry
NS.9-12.3 Life Science
NS.9-12.4 Earth and Space Science
NS.9-12.6 Science in Personal and Social Perspectives

SOCIAL SCIENCES: Civics
GRADES K - 4
NSS-C.K-4.5 Roles of the Citizen

GRADES 5 - 8
NSS-C.5-8.5 Roles of the Citizen
GRADES 9 - 12
NSS-C.9-12.5 Roles of the Citizen

 

Updated 5/08/2012