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Lesson Plan   



 
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    Objectives
    Assessment
     
   
    Resources
    Materials
    Vocabulary
    Procedures
    Day Plans
    Enrichment Options
     
   
    Teacher Reflection
     



Stage 1
Identify Desired Results


Catchy Title: And Justice for All?
Theme/Topic of Lesson: environmental health, racism, equality
Time Commitment: 1 hour class period + research time
Subject Area(s):
    Health - Environmental health
    Social Studies - Current Events/Issues
Grade Level(s): 9,10,11,12
Standards Alignment:
Class Challenge Question:

What are the environmental health issues often associated with low income and minority communities and why are they more prevalent in these groups?


Overview:

Environmental racism has a variety of definitions.  According to author and environmental activitist, Simmons Buntin,

"Environmental racism is the social injustice represented by the disproportionately large number of health and environmental risks cast upon peoples of color in the communities in which they live. These minorities are the most common victims of toxic landfills, waste incinerators, industrial dumping, uranium mining, and other environmentally-detrimental activities. As a practice-- whether purposeful or unintended-- it is often reinforced by government, legal, economic, political, and military institutions, because it occurs simultaneously with other racial inequities-- high poverty rate, deteriorating housing and infrastructure, economic disinvestment, inadequate schools, acute unemployment, and poor or inaccessible medical services." -- November 1995, "Environmental Liberty and Social Justice for All."

Environmental justice seeks to remedy environmental racism.   According to the EPA and CDC, environmental justice refers to the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.

This lesson uses an inquiry-based and project-based learning approach with limited lecture and instruction. After a brief introduction to environmental justice and racism, students work collaboratively in groups to research enviornmental health issues affecting low income and minority people.  Student groups will represent their findings in a multimedia project of their choice.



Stage 2
Determine Acceptable Evidence


Learning Objectives:

The Students will:
    • explain the history of the environmental justice movement
    • learn how discrimination promotes environmental illness in low income and minority communities
    • describe how and why some environmental health issues are more prevalent in low income and/or minority communities
    • understand and explain why minority and low income groups have less economic and political impact on policy

    Assessment

    Using the Environmental Justice Project rubric (ej_rubric.doc), students groups will be assessed on a multi-media project of their choice

     




Stage 3
Plan Learning Experiences


Resources

Internet SitesFighting Environmental Racisim: A Selected Annotated Bibliography Distribute to all students for class discussion
  http://www.mapcruzin.com/EI/ejigc.html

Materials
Per class
  • And Justice for All Standards

      (View)
  • And Justice for All answer key

      (View)
as determined by instructor
  • And Justice for all Multimedia Project

      (View)
  • And Justice for All project rubric

      (View)
Per Student
  • And Justice for All woksheet

      (View)

Vocabulary
  • environmental justice - fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies (source: EPA and CDC)
  • fair treatment - no group of people, including a racial, ethnic, or a socioeconomic group, should bear a disproportionate share of the negative environmental consequences resulting from industrial, municipal, and commercial operations or the execution of federal, state, local, and tribal programs and policies (Source: CDC)
  • CDC - Center for Disease Control
  • ATSDR - Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry: committed to documenting and correcting disparities in exposure to hazardous materials and ensuring environmental justice for minority and low-income communities. CDC/ATSDR's mission is to prevent harm to human health and diminished quality of life from exposure to hazardous substances found at waste sites, in unplanned releases, and in other sources of pollution present in the environment. CDC/ATSDR identifies communities where people might be exposed to hazardous substances in the environment, determines the site's hazards, and recommends actions that need to be taken to safeguard the health of community members. CDC/ATSDR works with communities, environmental groups, tribal governments and local, state, and other federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to protect the public health.
  • environmental racism - Social injustice represented by the disproportionately large number of health and environmental risks cast upon peoples of color in the communities in which they live. These minorities are the most common victims of toxic landfills, waste incinerators, industrial dumping, uranium mining, and other environmentally-detrimental activities. As a practice-- whether purposeful or unintended-- it is often reinforced by government, legal, economic, political, and military institutions, because it occurs simultaneously with other racial inequities-- high poverty rate, deteriorating housing and infrastructure, economic disinvestment, inadequate schools, acute unemployment, and poor or inaccessible medical services." (Source: Simmons Buntin, November 1995, "Environmental Liberty and Social Justice for All.")

Procedures

This lesson uses an inquiry-based and project-based learning approach.  After a brief introduction to enviornmental justice and environmental racism, students will complete a multimedia project on environmental racism and justice, and associated enviornmental health issues. Students work in collaborative groups to conduct research representing their knowledge in some kind of multimedia format (iMovie, web or PowerPoint)

Prior to beginning the lesson in class, assign all students to rent and watch the movie, Erin Brockovich.  The film serves as an introduction to environmental justice and a good way to begin the discussion about environmental justice.

Note: If students are unable to watch the movie, alternatively have them read "The Story Behind Erin Brockovich" found at http://www.lawbuzz.com/famous_trials/erin_brockovich/erin_brockovich_ch1.htm

After discussing the movie/ story and learning about environmental racism and environmental justice through class discussion, students will work in groups to research health issues associated with low income and minority communities and represent their findings in a multimedia project of their choice. 

Optional:   Order and Install the EPA’s RSEI, Risk Screening Environmental Indicators
http://www.epa.gov/opptintr/rsei/get_rsei.html This program provides statistical data in a variety of formats in order to analyze enviornmental health issues demographically.

Prerequisites

  • students should have a solid understanding of environmental health concepts in general. If this pre-existing knowledge does not exist, spend some time on a general environmental health lesson See http://www.hsc.unm.edu/pharmacy/IEHMS/docs/HEART.pdf (pages 43-50)
  • Students should know how to conduct Internet research, as well as how to evaluate the reliability of a website.  Note: there are dozens of existing online lessons and activities, including several in thinkport.  In the search criteria on thinkport, type in the word "evaluating" and several options will appear.

Note to teacher:  If you are not able to support a multimedia project in your classroom, this lesson can be easily adapted to a more traditional assessment activity, such as a reseach paper, persuasive essay or magazine/newspaper report.
 


Day 1: Environmental Racism and Justice
Daily Challenge Question: How do minorities and/or low income communities bear a disproportionate burden of environmental health illnesses?
1 hour
Set-up Directions:

Tell students to rent and watch the movie Erin Brockovich in order to prepare for the lesson.  Distribute Part I of the student worksheet (ej_worksheet.doc) and have them complete it as best as possible prior to class.

Make enough copies of the following for all students:

Pre-assign heterogeneous groups of 2-3 students to work on collaborative project.



Teacher Presentation & Motivation:

Begin the lesson by talking about the film, discussing students' thoughts and reactions.  Together, discuss and complete Part I of the worksheet.

Note that the definitions provided here are quite complex. They  may need to be simplified, at least initially, for most students. Try to use the students' own definitions to arrive at more easily understandable definitions of environmental justice, fair treatment, and environmental racism. Racism can be a loaded term, it may be useful to acknowledge this from the outset.



Activity 1 - Defining Enviornmental Justice

Students fill in worksheets as you  guide a class discussion:

  • Ask: What is environmental justice.  Discuss.
  • Provide students with the official definition of environmental justice:
    fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies (source: EPA and CDC)

    Ask what students think is meant by fair treatment. Discuss:
    no group of people, including a racial, ethnic, or a socioeconomic group, should bear a disproportionate share of the negative environmental consequences resulting from industrial, municipal, and commercial operations or the execution of federal, state, local, and tribal programs and policies (Source: CDC)

    Ask what studentst think is meant by meaningful involvement. Discuss:
  • potentially affected community residents have an appropriate opportunity to participate in decisions about a proposed activity that will affect their environment and/or health
  • the public's contribution can influence the regulatory agency's decision;
  • the concerns of all participants involved will be considered in the decision making process
  • the decision makers seek out and facilitate the involvement of those potentially affected

Discuss: 

Roots of Environmental Justice

The national environmental justice movement developed out of a small, low-income, predominately African-American community in Warren County, North Carolina. In the summer of 1978, employees of Ward Transformer Company illegally dumped waste oil laced with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) along the roadsides of fourteen counties. A landfill to be located in Warren County was proposed as the burial site for the 32,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil generated bythe illegal dumping. However, residents of Warren County believed that the proposed landfill location was politically motivated and an ecologically unsound choice. At the time, Warren County had an unemployment of thirteen percent and a minority population of 63 percent and was politically and economically disenfranchised.

Residents claimed that the situation represented environmental racism and mobilized. In 1982, civil rights and environmental interests joined together for the first time in a national protest against the proposed landfill. More than 500 peaceful protestors were arrested.

------

The beginning of the environmental justice movement laid the foundation for the next 25 years.   Through advocacy and awareness efforts, studies began to find that low income and minority communites have higher rates of certain environmental health (EH) illnesses such as, ashtma, birth defects, cancer and lead poisoning.  

----

Explain that there are groups now devoted to environmental justice...EPA and CDC (see vocab section for explanations)



Activity 2 - Environmental Racism

Tell students:

Less income often means poorer health and a shorter life. People with lower socioeconomic status suffer more infant mortality, cancer, asthma and birth defects. disease. But why is this? In many cases it is not simply  a lack of medical care, but rather a greater social issue, often referred to as environmental racism.

Distribute the article, Fighting Environmental Racisim: A Selected Annotated Bibliography

Give students about ten minutes to read the article to themselves.  Discuss the article as a class; have students continue to fill in Part III of their worksheet.

Come up with a class definition of enviornmental racism.  Some definitions from multiple sources:

  1. Environmental racism is the social injustice represented by the disproportionately large number of health and environmental risks cast upon peoples of color in the communities in which they live. These minorities are the most common victims of toxic landfills, waste incinerators, industrial dumping, uranium mining, and other environmentally-detrimental activities. As a practice-- whether purposeful or unintended-- it is often reinforced by government, legal, economic, political, and military institutions, because it occurs simultaneously with other racial inequities-- high poverty rate, deteriorating housing and infrastructure, economic disinvestment, inadequate schools, acute unemployment, and poor or inaccessible medical services." --Simmons Buntin, November 1995, "Environmental Liberty and Social Justice for All."
  2. Environmental Racism is the exclusion of people of color in the decision-making process and the disproportionate impact of environmental hazards, including pollution, resource depletion, and waste disposal, on the health and wealth of people of color. Rising from the grassroots, the environmental justice movement has responded by demanding that low-income and politically powerless communities not be subject to this unequal distribution of risks and burdens. Source: http://gladstone.uoregon.edu/~caer/
  3. Environmental racism can be defined as the intentional siting of hazardous waste sites, landfills, incinerators, and polluting industries in communities inhabited mainly by African-American, Hispanics, Native Americans, Asians, migrant farm workers, and the working poor. Minorities are particularly vulnerable because they are perceived as weak and passive citizens who will not fight back against the poisoning of their neighborhoods in fear that it may jeopardize jobs and economic survival.  Source: http://www.mapcruzin.com/EI/ejigc.html


Activity 3 - Student Project

Distribute the Student Project worksheet and discuss.

Tell students they will have about a week to work on their project.  Give students about two days to gather research, and another 2-3 days to synthesize their information into a multimedia project.

 



Wrap Up:

After sharing all the multimedia projects, discuss with students that although the environmental justice movement has helped minorities and low income communities, they still bear a disproportionate burdent of environmental health issues.  Discuss with students what they think they can do to help. 



Enrichment Options
Community Connection

Invite a local toxicologist to discuss enviornmental health and toxicology.



Cross-Curricular Extensions

Language Arts / Media and Social Studies

Have students become reporters, reporting on Hurricane Katrina.  See: http://www.pbs.org/now/classroom/katrina.html

Social Studies, Civics

Examining Potential Social Inequalities in the Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina
http://www.nytimes.com/learning/teachers/lessons/20050919monday.html?searchpv=learning_lessons

 

 




Stage 4
Teacher Reflection


As a reflective practitioner, note how this lesson could be adjusted after its initial implementation. How successful were the students in demonstrating their knowledge about the subject matter? What did the assessment demonstrate about the students' learning? What skills do the students need to revisit? What instructional strategies worked and what made them successful? What will you change the next time you use this lesson? Why?