Concept Paper on Natural Resources

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Concept Paper
10/2/2012

As humans, we depend on the Earth's natural resources to live. Almost everything we eat, drink, and use comes from our Earth's nutrient or energy cycle. But what most adults, and high school students, don't realize is that overuse of these natural resources can lead to disruption in these cycles. That is why an important and complex concept like Human Impact on Ecosystems is a central one to cover in an Ecology unit.

There are some major assumptions about global warming, the greenhouse effect, and water pollution that go along with this particular topic that must be addressed. Many students and adults assume that global warming and the greenhouse effect are one in the same. By making this assumption, they believe that the greenhouse effect is harmful for the Earth's biosphere. Also, many individuals assume that big industries are solely responsible for the Earth's water pollution problem. Since these are important and complex topics, there are naturally many debates and perspectives that come out of these major assumptions. Around the topic of water pollution, there is often the debate that water pollution is inevitable and individuals should not waste their time or money trying to fix it. While this may be one perspective on the topic, one that many of my students may have, I want to make sure I present them with the other side of the debate. They need to understand that there are many regions around the world that rely solely on their local water source for food and drink. If that source becomes contaminated due to pollution, everyone in that region suffers. Students also need to be aware that there are even debates on how to solve water pollution problems. The big debate around global warming has to do with its causes and effects, the existence of global warming, and what individuals should do about it. In the scientific community, the debate is over how much human impact is influencing global warming (Holt, 462). While these debates introduce many different perspectives on the topic, I really want to focus on how impacts their life and how it impacts our ecosystems.

The concept of human impact on ecosystems provides many opportunities for scientific inquiry and processes to engage knowledge of natural resources and human-environment interactions. Since the whole topic is about the cause and effect of human actions on our ecosystems, an entire lesson can be dedicated to roles citizens have in the restoration of an ecosystem. This process will help the students learn what a vital role they play in the natural world and how citizens, businesses, and governments can work together to restore their environment. A scientific inquiry process can also be applied to the three topics mentioned above: global warming, greenhouse effect, and water pollution. This process will help expand their minds before we discuss the different debates and perspectives on the topic.

To assess my students' prior knowledge on the subject, I want to understand how this material applies to their everyday life. I want to ask them how manufacturing, agriculture, mining, and transportation has improved their life. After making that personal connection, I want to ask my students how these improvements create problems in the Earth's ecosystem and what steps can they take to help address these problems. Their response to these two questions will provide the information I need to assess their prior knowledge on the subject of human impact on ecosystems. This data will also let me know what possible misconceptions my students may have on the subject. Often, the major assumptions about the subject can also be thought of as common misconceptions with the students.

As noted earlier, many individuals believe that the greenhouse effect and global warming are the same thing. Students need to understand that the greenhouse effect is essential for keeping the atmosphere warm enough for us and other living things to survive....
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