- Grade level: Upper Elementary, Middle School
- Subject Area: Science, Social Studies.
The Investigating Environmental Legislation Unit includes a variety of activities where students learn about environmental laws and the voting records of their local and state legislators. The unit promotes awareness of the impact of national and state policy making on local environmental issues and encourages students to become active participants in the larger social policy-making process. The Internet allows students to gather timely information on environmental issues and offers new opportunities for students to communicate with their representatives in a more efficient manner.
- Identify local and state representatives.
- Investigate representatives' record on environmental legislation.
- Discuss the local impact of their representatives' records on important environmental issues such as endangered species and toxic waste.
- Write reports on the voting record of their local and state representatives.
- Write to their legislators by e-mail or regular mail and make suggestions for future voting on environmental issues.
Materials and Resources
In developing our lessons and activities, we made some assumptions about the hardware and software that would be available in the classroom for teachers who visit the LETSNet Website. We assume that teachers using our Internet-based lessons or activities have a computer (PC or Macintosh) with the necessary hardware components (mouse, keyboard, and monitor) as well as software (operating system, TCP/IP software, networking or dial-up software, e-mail and a World Wide Web client program, preferably Netscape, but perhaps Mosaic or Lynx). In the section below, we specify any "special" hardware or software requirements for a lesson or activity (in addition to those described above) and the level of Internet access required to do the activity.
- Special hardware requirements: none.
- Special software requirements: none.
- Internet access: Medium-speed (28,000 BPS via modem) or High-speed (greater than 1 MBPS via network).
Unit Lesson Plans
- Lesson One: Identifying local and state legislators. This lesson involves using a variety of resources to identify local and state legislators. The activity can be introduced with a general group discussion on how laws are made at the state and national level, as well as how legislators are elected, the kind of laws recently passed, and the relationship between laws and environmental issues.
- Lesson Two: Legislator environmental voting records. In this lesson, students use the Internet to investigate their local and state legislators' voting record on environmental issues of interest. Students can be organized into groups to investigate stance specific Senators and Representatives have on a variety of important environmental issues.
- Lesson Three: Write a report on environmental records of local and state legislators'. Following their research, students write and peer edit reports on their local and state legislators. Students are encouraged to develop their own criteria for evaluating the performance of legislators and focus on specific environmental issues such as endangered species, toxic waste, or timber/logging on federal lands.
- Lesson Four: Current environmental legislation. Students use the Internet to identify and review pending environmental legislation that might impact their local community. The rich variety of Internet resources available allows students to search for legislation of interest on environmental issues.
- Lesson Five: Letters to local and state legislators. Students write to their local and state legislators, either via e-mail or U.S. mail, critiquing their voting record on environmental issues and sharing their own views on these important issues.
Relation to Standards
The Investigating Environmental Legislation unit contains activities that encourage and support student learning about science, especially environmental issues, and the social impact of environmental laws on communities. In developing these lessons, we have considered relevant language arts and writing and social studies standards .
One Computer versus Many
The plans for this unit are tailored to fit teaching situations where students have access to several computers with an Internet connection. To accommodate classrooms that do not have access to a computer lab with full Internet connections, students can work in research groups to explore Internet sites and conduct their research.
If you have only one computer with Internet access, you may choose to do one of the following:
- If you have the technology, you may hook-up the computer to a TV monitor or LCD projector. This will allow the whole class to see sites in the preliminary stages when students are exploring sites created by other children.
- You may choose to have students rotate through computer with Internet access in groups.
- You may also download files from the Internet and save them to a disk. Then transfer Netscape [http://home.netscape.com] onto your other computers. Now you can transfer the files you down-loaded and saved to a disk to the other non-internet computers to view with Netscape. This will not allow students to explore the pages with hyper-links, but they will be able to access and view the information by opening each file with Netscape.