An edited version of an individual lesson plan developed by
William Miller, East Northport Middle School, East Northport, Long Island,
Courses for Which the Lesson is Intended:
Earth science classes.
Types of Teaching/Learning Activities Employed in this Lesson:
A thought experiment in which students imagine themselves facing a practical
decision in building a summer home. Students are instructed to make a decision,
articulating the most important factors leading to that decision.
Category that Best Describes this Lesson:
Ethics/Values Issues Raised by this Lesson:
Environmental responsibility; long vs. short term consequences; ethics
Students are asked to find definitions of the following terms (providing
examples for each in order to make definitions more understandable):
Students are asked to read the following and answer the accompanying questions. This can be a written assignment, a class discussion, or both.
You are having a small summer house built on a lake in upstate New York.
You have chosen this spot because of its isolation and the beauty of the
lake. The lake is active with plant and animal life and covers an area
of about 1.5 square miles. On its north side many small streams enter the
lake carrying runoff from the area, while on the south side many small
streams carry away some of the lake's water. Because of poor drainage in
the area, it is necessary to have a septic tank installed. In order to
have the septic tank do its job for a longer period of time, it is suggested
to you, by the builder, to let all waste water (showers, sinks, garbage
disposal, etc.), with the exception of the toilet empty into the lake.
Since only you and two or three other people will be using the house and
the lake is fairly large, you decide to give it some thought.
2. Environmental concerns
3. What is best for you
4. Advice of the builder
5. Easiest way to solve the problem
7. Consideration of likely future use of other property around lake
8. Other (be specific)
This lesson invites students to apply basic concepts they have learned in Earth Science ('pollution,' 'eutrophication,' etc.) to contexts in which individuals make practical decisions. The questions following the scenario invite students to reflect on the values underlying the decision they recommend. Factor 7 (consideration of likely future use of other property around lake) deserves special attention. The scenario describes the present situation. However, it is important to ask whether it can be assumed that things will remain the same. (After all, how is it that you were able to acquire the land? Won't others want to do the same?)
Another question to invite students to consider is why they might consider
the environmental effects of allowing their wastewater running into the
lake to be negligible, while agreeing to install a septic tank for effluent
from the toilet. Further, might there be other ways to' extend the septic
tank's useful period of time? This is a good opportunity to discuss various
alternative ways in which people might more efficiently take care of their
refuse in environmentally friendly ways (e.g., composting).
Previous LessonNext LessonTable of Contents