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:
Ecologic Games is the most simple and accessible to Beginning and Early Intermediate English Language Learners and Ecological Footprint Calculator is 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:
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.
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;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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Planet Earth is a talking story from The British Council.
Our Forests looks like a pretty interesting interactive on deforestation issues.
My Planet is an interactive game from the Girl Scouts about the environment.
As always, feedback is welcome.