|Environmental Education in the Schools (Peace Corps, 1993)|
|Activities, activities and more activities|
Here's an activity that will encourage your kids to think about the advantages and disadvantages of some of today's technologies. Begin by asking the kids to explain what the word "technology" means. Discuss their ideas, and then explain that technology is the application of science to solve problems Have the kids come up with some examples of modern technologies. (cars, power plants, genetic engineering, computers, and so on) Point out that although technological advances have helped make life easier in many ways, they've also introduced new problems. For example, cars provide people with personal freedom, and they've made it possible to travel long distances in relatively short periods of time. But cars create problems too. Ask the kids if they can describe some problems associated with cars. (cause air pollution; result in human death and injury; require the building of roads, which destroys habitats; and so on)
Then explain that people are just discovering how some of the technologies we've created can harm the environment. For example, many scientists believe that acid rain, caused by pollutants released from coal-burning power plants and motor vehicles, is affecting the health of forests and lakes in some areas.
Tell the kids that some people are working to improve existing technologies and to develop new technologies that can help solve some of our environmental problems. Explain that the kids will be getting a chance to invent their own pollution-solving technologies. Give each person a copy of the "Technology Challenges" on pages 413 and 414. Explain that the information describes some problems associated with different forms of technology that we use today. Then divide the group into six teams and assign each team one of the challenges.
Have the kids in each team read about their technology and then brainstorm some ideas to address their challenge. The ideas they come up with can include improvements on the current technology, or they can be entirely new types of technology. Emphasize that there are no right or wrong answers to the challenges and encourage the kids to think as creatively as possible. Also have the kids illustrate their solutions and write down a few sentences that explain how they work.
When everyone has finished, have each team present its solutions to the rest of the group. Encourage the kids in the audience to ask questions and offer comments after each presentation. If the kids come up with a new kind of technology, discuss how it might introduce new pollution problems. Also have the kids consider other solutions to their challenge. For example, instead of making new types of cars that don't pollute as much, it might be better to design a city where people don't have to travel so far every day.
Next pass out a copy of page 412 to each person, and have them read about some real solutions to existing pollution problems. Have them think about the advantages and disadvantages of each one. Then discuss these questions with the group:
* Do you think we can rely on new technologies to solve all our pollution problems? Why or why not? (Answers will vary. Point out that new technologies often introduce new pollution problems and, in some cases, act as "Band-aids" to temporarily deal with problems without addressing the real solutions.)
* Are there ways to solve pollution problems without developing new technologies? (Yes. People can change their behaviors. For example, people can cut down on the amount they drive by using public transportation or by riding their bikes more often.)
* Do you think we really need all the technologies we have? Why or why not? (answers will vary)
* What kinds of professions might be involved in finding solutions to pollution?
SUPER BULBS: Energy-efficient, compact fluorescent bulbs use one quarter of the energy of standard incandescent bulbs, and they last up to 10 times longer. By decreasing the demand for electricity, these bulbs can help reduce air pollution. But compact fluorescent bulbs are more expensive than incandescent bulbs, and they come only in lower wattages.
GOOP GOBBLERS: Scientists have discovered strains of bacteria that feed on oil and other toxic pollutants. Bacteria have been used to clean up chemical spills and agricultural runoff. But sometimes the bacteria work too slowly-or not at all. And some scientists are concerned that introducing bacteria into areas where they aren't naturally found may disrupt local ecosystems.
PHILODENDRON FILTERS: Scientists have discovered that common household plants such as Philodendrons, spider plants, and gerbera daisies can absorb some indoor air pollutants.
BUG-VAC: In California, some strawberry growers are experimenting with a safer alternative to pesticides. By attaching a giant vacuum, called a "Bug-Vac," to their tractors, they can suck bugs off their crops without damaging the fruit-and without using pesticides that can poison other animals and contaminate water supplies. But the Bug-Vac also removes some insects that don't harm crops.
WAVE CATCHERS: A floating device called the SEA Clam captures wave energy in the sea. Waves press against SEA Clam's air bags, squeezing air through a valve and into a chamber where it spins a turbine that generates electricity. The SEA Clam equipment is expensive and can be used only in areas that have suitable waves.
WACKY WINDMILLS: Modern windmills have been specially designed to efficiently catch the wind and use it to produce electricity. Wind-generated electricity doesn't create air pollution, but it's sometimes more expensive and less reliable than electricity produced by burning fossil fuels. (New turbine designs and blade shapes may make them more efficient in the future.) Some people complain that windmills ruin scenic areas.
SUN-MOBILES: Instead of burning gasoline and polluting the air, solar-powered cars capture and use the energy from sunlight. Solar cells mounted on the cars turn this energy into electricity. On cloudy days, drivers keep their cars going by using extra energy from sunnier days that's stored in the car's battery. Currently, solar cars are expensive to manufacture and don't go as fast as gasoline-powered cars.
SMOKE SCRUBBERS: In some coal-burning power plants,
machines called wet scrubbers spray lime and water into smoke entering the
smokestacks, rinsing out sulfur dioxide (a pollutant that causes acid rain)
before it leaves the smokestack. This keeps most of the sulfur dioxide from
getting into the air, but can leave a toxic sludge that must be disposed of.