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Let's Talk About the Environment

A Strategy for Promoting Intergenerational Discussion About the Environment

Overview:  The following are topics with a series of questions about the environment designed for a pair of family members or friends who are from different generations.  This activity can be conducted at home, environmental centers, schools, or any events where we can find young people and older adults to pair up.  Nine environmental topics are presented below, each with a question and a relevant fact.  Participants should select topics of mutual interest, take turns answering the questions, and together, discuss their answers and reactions to the relevant facts provided for each question.  Participants choose as many topics as they want or as time permits.  The facilitators should provide participants instructions beforehand, and encourage them to share their opinions with each other.

Preparation:  Create nine “Let’s Talk About the Environment” cards, each with a question on one side and a relevant fact on the other.  The participants can pick the card(s) based on their interested topics.
  --Provide participants with the following instructions:

  1. Pair up with a family member or friend who is from another generation.
  2. Pick one card on the table with an environmental topic that interests both partners.
  3. Read the question on the other side of the card.
  4. Take turns sharing your knowledge, views, and experience about the topic.
  5. Turn over the question sheet and review the relevant facts provided for each topic.


Objectives:  Participants will learn what people of other generations think and know about the natural environment.

Participants:  Children/youth (grades 4-12) and older adults.

Skills:  Discussing, observing, comparing and contrasting, and organizing information.

Material:  Blank cards, scratch paper, and pencil (optional).

Other Considerations:  Unless the interaction level is low, the facilitator should step back and enable the participants to engage one another.

Endangered Species

Questions

  • What’s your favorite animal?  Find out your partner’s favorite animal.  Do you think the extinction of his/her animal would affect the survival of your favorite animal?  Why or why not?

(Relevant Facts) Did you know ...

  • The disappearance of one plant species may affect an entire food chain.  Here’s how:  Insects live or feed on plants; birds and frogs then eat the insects; larger animals like snakes, hawks, and foxes prey on the birds and frogs; and so on.

Climate

Questions

  • How would you like the idea of making the earth much warmer than it is now so that we don’t have cold winters in the future?

(Relevant Facts) Did you know ...

  • Even small climate changes affect the level of the oceans, the survivability of the crops we plant, and the pH level of the water we drink.  Eighteen thousand years ago, the temperature was only 7ºF colder than it is today, but glaciers covered much of North America.

Environmental Health - In the Home

Questions

  • What room in your home do you think contains the most toxic products?  Living room?  Bathroom?  Bedroom?  Or kitchen?

(Relevant Facts) Did you know ...

  • The kitchen is probably the most toxic room in the house because this is where most people store their cleaning supplies.  Many items found all over the house can be toxic:  hair spray, ant spray, glass cleaner, furniture polish, sink and bathtub cleaner, laundry detergent, etc.

Technology & Environmental Health

Questions

  • Imagine that a team of scientists has developed a chemical compound that can remove pollution from water.  However, nobody knows how this new chemical will affect the frogs that inhabit the area.  
  • Do you suggest using the chemical now?  Why or why not?

(Relevant Facts) Did you know ...

  • Many times in our history, we regretfully decided to use a new product or technology without knowing the full impact.  E.g.:  (1) In the 1920’s, dermatologists (skin doctors) used x-rays to treat acne.  It later turned out that the x-rays sometimes caused skin cancer; and (2) DDT harmed bald eagles.
  • If we are to learn from the past, we need to use caution before embracing new technologies.

Reuse and Recycle

Questions

  • If a whole town decided to recycle soda cans, would this affect the environment?

(Relevant Facts) Did you know ...

  • We can help reduce waste by reusing and recycling materials.  Americans throw away 35 billion aluminum cans each year.  This is enough aluminum to build an entire air fleet four times over.  Energy saved from one recycled aluminum can will operate a TV set for three hours.

Energy Conservation - In the Home

Questions

  • What’s wrong with this picture?

(Relevant Facts) Did you know ...

  • We can save energy by turning off the water in the sink while brushing our teeth, turning off the TV, and lights.

Energy Conservation

Questions

  • If you wake up in a morning and there is no more electricity, what would life be like?

(Relevant Facts) Did you know ...

  • Do you know that while the U.S. makes up only 5% of the world's population, we are responsible for almost 25% of the world's total energy consumption?  We need to consider ways to use less energy and conserve resources.

Animals

Questions

  • If you get lost in a forest, and can pick one animal to help you, what animal would you like it to be?  Why?

(Relevant Facts) Did you know ...

  • All living things have characteristics that allow them to survive.  They may have feathers, fur, scales, hands, paws, wings, or claws.  These adaptations help them to find food, escape from predators, and raise their young.

Habitat

Questions

  • Do you like the idea of converting a wetlands area near your school into a playground?  Why or why not?

(Relevant Facts) Did you know ...

  • People used to consider wetlands (like bogs and marshes) to be unproductive land.  However, in recent years, people have learned that wetlands not only provide habitats for wildlife, but also help purify water and control floods.

Contact information:  Shih-Tsen (Nike) Liu, sxl234@psu.edu, (814) 863-7877) or Matt Kaplan, msk15@psu.edu, (814) 863-7871