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Part III: A Personal Plan for Climate Change


Science, Social Studies  


11, 12  

Title – Environment Unit Part III:
A Personal Plan for Climate Change
By – Jay Kilby
Primary Subject – Social Studies
Secondary Subjects – Science
Grade Level – 11-12


      This is a four-part

environmental unit


    Students will develop a personal and family plan for reducing their carbon footprint.

Time Requirements:

    Approximately 1 Instructional Hour

Skills Addressed:

    Gathering information through online research


  • Students will create posters explaining how personal consumer choices can reduce one’s carbon footprint.
  • Students will complete a carbon reduction plan for reducing their family carbon footprint.


Key Terms:

    Carbon footprint

Instructional Activities:

  1. Online research on consumer options that reduce carbon emissions; working in groups to create posters that display information gathered through the research.
  2. Modeling on how to use the EPA carbon emissions calculator.

Big Picture Questions: What personal choices can students make to reduce their carbon footprint? Main Points:

Although the magnitude of the climate change problem will likely require government intervention and major innovations, changes in our consumer choices and personal habits can also have a significant impact on climate change.
Activity #1: Research Groups 35 minutes
  • Divide students into five research groups. Assign each group one of the following categories:
    Recycling and Reusing, Home, Transportation, Clothing and Personal Care, Food .
  • Each group will research online how personal consumer choices made within their topic area can reduce carbon emissions.
  • Each student in the group will type and print a summary page that addresses the following questions:
    1. What type of change in consumer behavior is being addressed?
    2. How much would it cost to make this change?
    3. How much would making the change affect one’s carbon footprint?
  • For example, a student under the home category could write a summary replacing incandescent bulbs with cfl’s. A student under the clothing category might research buying a hemp shirt (which requires no fertilizers or pesticides and little water to produce) instead of a cotton shirt. Although not every student may be able to find enough information to answer all three of the above questions, they should search for actions that provide the most information. In some cases, they may have to make estimates (e.g., after surveying a number of sites, it looks like a hemp shirt costs about 25% more than an ordinary cotton shirt). Each member of a group should coordinate her work with other members so that they are not researching the same behavior.
  • Once the information is gathered, typed, and printed, students should attach their summary sheets to a common poster with their category written at the top of the poster.
  • Display the posters where other students can read the information on them.
Activity #2: Carbon Footprint Reduction Plan Handout 15 minutes
  • Hand out the Carbon Footprint Reduction Plan handout. This is a homework assignment to be completed within whatever the teacher considers to be a suitable time-frame. Since the assignment requires that students gather information from their parents/guardians, they may need a few days to gather the necessary information.
  • Read over the instructions for the assignment with students. Note that they will need to gather such information as the type of mileage their family automobiles get and their average miles driven per week or year. They will also need their family utility bills.
  • Students may use the information displayed on the posters completed during today’s research activity as steps to take in order to reduce one’s carbon footprint. Also, the EPA calculator makes suggestions about steps that can be taken to reduce one’s carbon footprint.
  • Students may have difficulty finding all the information (e.g., cost and amount of carbon reduction) for each step, depending on the action in question. Individual teachers may handle the grading consequences differently, but consider placing primary emphasis on allowing the students to create an authentic plan that they could actually carry out rather than getting all the information for each step, which may lead to their simply looking for steps that they can complete most easily.
  • Of course, students and their families do not have to actually carry out their plan. That is up to them to decide.
  • Go to and model for students how to use the EPA’s carbon emissions calculator.
  • Check for understanding.


    During the group research, have IEP, ELL, and struggling students work with partners who can help with language or other issues.

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