There are two conflicting ideas about the Earth’s resources- the pessimists and the optimists. The pessimist is usually the ecologist and other scientists who believed that the Earth cannot forever provide the same resources that it supplies now (Mensah & Luciano, 2004). On the contrary, the optimists, such as the economists who considered Earth will be able to supply and support the necessary needs of the Earth’s population due to development of new technologies, governmental policies, market substitution, and recycling (Mensah & Luciano, 2004). These two perspectives have the same merits in their arguments and the complexity of their arguments can be viewed in the local, national, and international arenas.
Wherever we may side, the notion that raw materials, like fossil fuels, minerals and groundwater are scarce elements, is an idea that students need to know, how to use effectively without compromising the future of the next generations. On the other hand, the abundance of water, wind, and sun, for example, can be exploited. Since these elements are renewable, students might be motivated to dedicate themselves to finding solutions to improve technologies that can harvest the maximum potential of using renewable resources.
Having these thoughts in mind in designing the teaching plan attached to this paper, I have envisioned educating my students to be responsible global citizens without compromising future generations' natural resources. Hence, the purpose of this paper is to share my didactical insights on the “what, how, and why” of natural resources and living conditions as a topic in geography that can develop responsible global citizens. Further meaning and understanding of the three major elements(what, how, why) of this paper will be interpreted in each section. Additionally, a conclusion containing my didactical and pedagogical reflections on the teaching plan design and the process will be mentioned toward the end of this paper.
This section aims to answer the question: what is the “must” knowledge in this topic, what are the ideas and concepts that students need to know about the Earth’s natural resources and how this affects humans’ living conditions, and what are the implications of this theme to the students future and what are the practical effort that students can do. These are a few of the relevant questions that this section will try to respond to. Man’s contact with the natural environment and nature’s influence on the quality of life, culture, and actions of humans, are complex, essential, and causal relationships that students need to acknowledge and be aware of (Barnett & Chandler, 2011). Whether they will be pessimists or optimists in the future, the students must have basic concepts, ideas, and understanding of the Earth's natural resources. It is undeniable that non-renewable resources such as iron ore, bauxite, and fossil fuels are not made yesterday. So far, we have not yet discovered any substitute for some important basic commodities such as tin, copper, lead, and other metallic materials, and once they are used up, it's gone. These are facts that as a geography teacher, I want my students to be aware of and be responsible around them so that future generations also have access to them. Therefore, students understanding of Earth’s resources and living conditions can be best effective if the teaching strategy is to facilitate the learners in making connections that lie on the framework of geography, the location, condition, and connection (Gersmehl, 2014).
The concept of time and space is very relevant in understanding the availability of natural resources. The effects of these natural resources and raw materials on the living conditions of the people in any geographical location are suitable for students to learn so that they can behave accordingly to the situation. Some physical conditions on Earth can only be described or explained with the spatial patterns that are collected over time. Such phenomena may include tropical glaciers, climate change, and soil quality. The context of this theme positions the students to develop critical thinking ability to find ways, to innovate, develop and generate solutions to sustain posterity without endangering limited resources. This way, the topic will facilitate students to make the connections between time and space, the condition of the locations, and the connectability of the location to other important matters.
Furthermore, some relevant basic information to point out is the provision of renewable resources to mankind. The appearance and demand of renewable resources as opposed to non-renewable resources are totally different that’s why students need to consider and reflect on how to amass them. For example, where can we find bauxite, what is bauxite for, what kind of resource it is, what are the living conditions of the people mining bauxite, who are the people dealing with the raw material (bauxite), and what is the end product of bauxite or end product with bauxite. These are questions that students can inquire about the Earth’s resources. Other questions that students can examine through these lessons are: where can we find the most renewable energy, how to process it, how can we exploit these materials, and what is the living condition of the people working on renewing the resources? These are sample questions that students can formulate and as a geography teacher, knowledge of these subject matters is relevant to guide students to learn at the same time the comprehension of the materials helps in making sure that learning is meaningful.
This section is dedicated to answering the question of how I am going to teach the topic. What are the teaching strategies and learning theories that I employ in my teaching plan? The main focus of this segment is divided into two sub-section. The teaching strategies and learning theories that I consider in designing the teaching plan are elaborated on first. The teaching plan considers the development of two competencies in geography, modeling, and perspectivation, hence, students' learning styles are considered (Gardner, 2009). The teaching plan requires students to work individually and in groups to create two physical learning products. The learning outputs are models, diagrams, or illustrations of how non-renewable and renewable resources are utilized. These learning products will answer the main question; how to acquire raw materials and what are the end results. The use of problem-based (PBL) and project-organized work (Wiberg & Krogh, 2013) lessons presents an equal opportunity to all members of the group/class where students have the same chance of learning as individuals and as a group from their experiences, making meaningful connections and reflections (Bates, 2016).
As a point of departure, the students are given the opportunity to choose among non-renewable resources to trace and follow their life cycle. For instance, how iron ore is formed way back hundreds and thousands of years to the process of extraction until they are processed as iron steel for the construction of buildings, automobiles, ships, furniture, and many more. This manner of learning focuses much attention on students' engagement and structured students' purposeful learning (Kilpatrick, 1918). Therefore, learning is constructed and knowledge gained is far more concrete, “learning by doing” in a geographical inquiry approach is more meaningful (Roberts, 2010). The strong and active involvement of students in PBL demonstrates, to a large extent, the work of modeling, inquiry, and perspectivation competencies among students. The skills and knowledge gained through this teaching approach suggest quality effect, solid, and practical learning process that students develop throughout the lessons. Developing the competencies mentioned above positions the learners at the center of the teaching-learning process (Bruner, 1966). Furthermore, giving the students essential information to work on at a time (scaffold) develops their problem-solving ability which is essential to cultivate competencies, an aspect of learning through discovery (Bruner, 1966). The teacher’s role in these lessons is to facilitate and encourage the learning process.
This section provides some major arguments for why we need our students to be aware and knowledgeable of the natural resources and living conditions on our home planet. The natural environment is one of the factors that support man’s “quality” living conditions development, and man's influence on the natural environment deteriorates nature’s natural supply and beauty. Despite nature’s degradation, it still provides man the pleasure of enjoying the quality of life that we are experiencing now. However, scientifically, nature cannot sustain the quality of life that we have today because humans are reproducing too fast while nature takes hundreds and thousands of years to resupply the same quality of raw materials that it provides the previous and this generation. Hence, the concept of ‘sustainability’ has become the current answer to absolving the world of its environmental crises. Sustainability development as the UN says is “understood as a form of intergenerational ethics in which the environmental and economic actions taken by present persons do not diminish the opportunities of future persons to enjoy similar levels of wealth, utility, or welfare.” (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2019). The United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development (UNWCED) coined sustainable development as the “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (WCED, 1987).
Hence, it is our mandate as educators to instill knowledge in our students so that they can cultivate proper attitudes as global citizens. Assist, discover and cultivate the unfolding of new ways to provide and protect the basic interest of the generations to come. Why do we need to do that? Because the number of raw materials that humans consumed for the last forty years has tripled according to the International Resource Panel (IRP) report in 2010. IRP is a part of the UN Environment Programme. The concept of “sustainability” is investing in increasing pressure on our environment. Where is the best place to disseminate the information if not the school? Nations are turning to their geographical resources and asking questions, such as, how long before our natural resources run out, can our land, water, and air sustain our needs and the future generation’s needs? These are simple yet meaningful questions that require a deep understanding of the Earth’s resources and living conditions.
Governments are actively developing, innovating, and finding solutions to exploit renewable resources that are abundantly accessible in their locations. Therefore, providing the knowledge and skills for the next generation lies in the hands of the teachers and the institutions. As teachers, we need to support and equip our students with the necessary tools and capabilities to cope, combat and find solutions to the depletion of natural resources as well as develop a responsible attitude towards the use of natural resources. At the same time, we demand our students to be innovative, sustainable in development, and creative, however, to do those things our students need foundational knowledge to start with.
Designing the teaching plan made me realize and question myself about doing my part in sustaining Earth’s natural resources. This (geography) module actually taught me to be more aware of the environment and made me deeply comprehend the natural resources that we sometimes take for granted. The questions that I planned to ask my students challenged me in a practical manner which leads me to do my simple and little part in sustaining natural resources, such as avoiding using plastic. It pushes me to reflect on my ways or do my part in the things that I am teaching. Am I a responsible global citizen myself?
On the pedagogical part, it leads me to revisit my teaching methods so that I can make the learning process of the students more meaningful at the same time enjoyable. Hence, giving utilizing problem-based learning and project-organized work to make the learners build the connections, understand and make sense of the concepts to reality, technology to nature, and nature to new technology. In all, the use of PBL through inquiry, modeling, and perspectivation supports the practical and tangible learning processes of the learners.
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