The development of this unit falls into two parts. Part One: Developing Personal Linkage to the Immediate Environment and Part Two: Extending Linkage from the Immediate Environment to Earth’s Natural Resources. The significance of individual action is to be stressed at all levels whenever possible.
Part One: Developing Personal Linkage to the Immediate Environment
Since we experience our environment primarily through our senses, this unit begins by taking an inventory of the things one can see, hear, smell, taste, or touch in the classroom. The purpose is to develop greater sensory awareness and to begin to make conscious the link between ourselves and the environment.
I think it is important to notice several things here. First, our conscious linkage with the environment is primarily through our senses. Secondly, human senses have an incredible range of capabilities. The eyes see all kinds of colors, shapes, and movements. Our ears hear soft whispers, beautiful music, and deafening noise. The sense of touch can appreciate fine silk and rough bark, degrees of coolness and warmth, distinct shapes and freeflowing forms. The senses of taste and smell each has a range of subtle to gross capabilities and so on. Third, in our schools we traditionally have emphasized verbal communication. Verbal communication requires very limited use of senses. The eyes are asked to read the printed word or study the diagram if it be in a textbook, on the blackboard, or on the overhead projector. The ears are asked to “listen” generally meaning to tune into what the lesson is about. The point is that there is a full range of sensory abilities we can call into use, develop, and fine tune. It is part of more fully experiencing life. I think the time has come for this to be consciously incorporated into our school activities.
There is one other aspect to be mentioned here. It is the idea of having people “actively participate in life.” This is a matter of degree. It is also a matter of freedom. When one is more or less confined, self-imposed or otherwise, to limit one’s activity to receiving certain words and images be they in school or at home in front of a television set, that person is “actively participating in life” at a fairly low level. He is able to give little of himself. When he climbs a tree or has to solve a problem that is relevant to him and with which he must struggle, then he is “actively participating in life” at a higher level. He is able, and required, to give more of himself, and he will get that much more from it in understanding and appreciation. This seems clearly related to young people who walk around “eating ‘junk food’ and dropping the wrappers wherever they happen to be, with seemingly no awareness of the consequences of their actions.” The average American student, upon graduation from high school, will have spent 11,000 hours in school and 15,000 in front of a television set.
This, too, is being realized in many of our schools. So this first part asks students to use sensory awareness in reaching out toward the environment and to work abstractly with what they find there. The second part extends this.
The inventory begins by making a list of the items students come up with, then the list is developed into a table from which data is extracted for use in various ways with basic math skills. The first lesson plan below gives further detail on this. It will probable take one or two class periods depending on how students respond and to what degree the math ideas are developed.
Extending Linkage From the Immediate Environment to Earth’s Natural Resources
This section takes one item from the environment, electricity, and traces it back out of the classroom to how it was developed from use of natural resources. Work here would include dealing with quantities consumed, resource limitations, pollution, measurement, and cost. The second and third lesson plans are part of this section.