Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

The Best Sites To Introduce Environmental Issues Into The Classroom

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I was pretty careful about how I titled this latest “The Best…” list. These sites are good to “introduce” environmental issues in the classroom, but generally don’t provide information on systemic, political, and corporate issues related to environmental damage.

I wasn’t able to find one excellent site that would provide those types resources and be accessible to English Language Learners. However, sites like Breaking News English and the Voice Of America Special English or other links on my The Best News/Current Events Websites For English Language Learners — 2007 that have numerous accessible news stories about current events related to the environment. These stories can be used to raise questions about the roles of First World consumption, the profit motive, and the influence of campaign contributions on political decisions.

I haven’t ranked sites here in order of preference — I think they’re all engaging and accessible to English Language Learners. I have, though, grouped them into four primary categories:

* Ones that provide “calculators” that help users determine their personal “carbon footprints.”

* Ones that provide information on what people can personally do to reduce the damage they cause to the environment, but don’t necessarily ask a series of questions so users can determine their “carbon footprint.”

* Online games that primarily relate to people’s personal actions on how they can affect the environment.

* “Big picture” sites that offer some broader perspective on the environmental crises the world faces, though they don’t necessarily provide an in-depth analysis of “why?”.

Ordinarily, I give a little more of a description for each site than I have in this list. I’m a little pressed for time this summer, though, so, outside of grouping these sites by categories, I’ll leave it to you to discover more details about them on your own.

Here are my choices for The Best Sites To Introduce Environmental Issues Into the Classroom:

CARBON FOOTPRINT CALCULATORS:

Zero Footprint Kids Calculator and Ecologic Games are the most simple and accessible to Beginning and Early Intermediate English Language Learners. Consumer Consequences and Ecological Footprint Calculator are excellent and best for Intermediate and Advanced ELL’s.

My Footprint is the newest addition to this list.  It’s another ecological footprint calculator, but it appears more ambitious (yet accessible to Intermediate English Language Learners) than some of the others I have on that list.  I’m particularly impressed that it seems to incorporate data from just about every country in the world.

PERSONALLY REDUCE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT:

Planet Green Game; ESL Environmental Education; Eeko World; and The Green Guide all give accessible information about how to personally change your actions to have a positive effect on the environment.

Scholastic has a good environmental game called Virtual Forest Challenge that I’m adding to this list. It’s very accessible to English Language Learners.  In the game, you are a virtual character going through a typical day. You regularly are faced with having to make choices between decisions that are ecologically helpful and ones that are not — you have to make the call.

ENVIRONMENTAL GAMES:

Tox Mystery; Environmental Intelligence Unit; ElectroCity; the Carbon Lifestyle Game; and My Abodo are all good, engaging games on the environmental consequences of one’s actions.

The Power of Green is an online game from Con Edison that shows users how they can reduce energy costs in their house or apartment.  It’s engaging, the language is accessible, and it has very helpful information.

THE ENVIRONMENTAL BIG PICTURE:

Climate Change from the BBC News Around; Planet In Peril from the Cable News Network; the Global Warming Map from National Geographic; Environmental Mysteries from North Carolina PBS; the Brainpop: Our Fragile Environment online movies; Can You Keep The Earth In Balance? from National Geographic; Six Degrees Can Change The World, also from National Geographic; and Breathing Earth begin to provide some broader framework for the environmental mess we find ourselves in.

(I’m also adding the Human Footprint Interactive here)

Next 10 is a nonprofit group in our state that has developed some excellent online learning tools that relate to California, particularly related to the environment. One of them is a Carbon Footprint Calculator and a Home Energy Saver that includes California data. They also have an extraordinary tool that lets you discover the carbon footprint of your community based on your zipcode.

Scorecard gives you specific information about environmental dangers in your community after your type in your zipcode.

USA Today has created an online interactive where you can type in the name of your school and then learn the level of industrial pollution in the area.  It’s called Toxic Air and American Schools.

I’m adding two new sites to The Best Sites To Introduce Environmental Issues Into The Classroom.

One is Global Warming Facts and Our Future from the National Academy of Sciences. It’s a very engaging and extensive site, and includes audio support for the text. The vocabulary may be pretty challenging for Intermediate English Language Learners, but it’s worth the attempt.

The other is the Low Impact Living Environmental Calculator. There are several of these type of calculators already on the “The Best…” list. This site’s unique feature is the ability to compare how you rank relative to a typical home in your region.

A Florida elementary school has a simple, but good, introduction to environmental issues, and provides audio support for the text.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a free 133 page downloadable curriculum that connects English language-learning with environmental issues.  It’s called Teach English, Teach About The Environment, and looks pretty good to me.

I’m adding an interactive map from Conservation International to this list.

United Nations Environment Program has created quite a few infographics on environmental issues around the world. They are designed well, and contain an enormous amount of information. Much of it would be accessible to Intermediate ELL’s.

Noise Pollution: The Scarcity of Silence is an accessible infographic on….noise pollution.

Evolution of renewable energy is a very useful interactive tracing renewable energy use from 8000 BC to the present.

Planet Earth is a talking story from The British Council.

As always, feedback is welcome.

If you found this post useful, you might want to look at previous “The Best…” lists and also consider subscribing to this blog for free.

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

6 Comments

  1. Thanks for these wonderful links! I can’t wait to check them out.

  2. I am the state Coordinator for the NC Envirothon Program. The Envirothon is a hands-on natural sciences learning program, There are five topics: soils/land use, aquatic ecology, wildlife, forestry and current environmental issues. The National Program also has an oral presentation for the students to do. If you check out our web site, you will get an opportunity to see our curriculum for HS and MS for our state program. NC Is hosting the national Envirothon in 2009 in western NC. I am currently trying to raise the funding to put on this national program. Do you have any suggestions or leads?? The national web site is envirothon.org.

    Steve Bennett

  3. Found this via Twitter, Larry. Thanks! Will help inspire me to grow our new TEFL Earth section on TEFL.net. If any teachers have any ideas for this section, please let us know: http://edition.tefl.net/category/earth/

    EnglishClub has a small collection of lessons about the Environment for English learners. More coming soon: http://www.englishclub.com/environment/index.htm

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  5. This list mainly focuses on carbon footprint and global warming issues, and misses some other major issues. I’m not sure I’d agree with the title.

    Steve Bennett (above) mentions the Envirothon. This is an excellent program and is available in every state.

    Agriculture practices, rainforest destruction, soil and water pollution, farming practices, wetlands destruction… I could name more… are all major environmental issues that must be included in any introduction to issues.

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