Carbon Footprint Exercise
This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Exemplary Teaching Collection
Resources in this top level collection a) must have scored Exemplary or Very Good in all five review categories, and must also rate as “Exemplary” in at least three of the five categories. The five categories included in the peer review process are
- Scientific Accuracy
- Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
- Pedagogic Effectiveness
- Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
- Completeness of the ActivitySheet web page
For more information about the peer review process itself, please see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.
This page first made public: Feb 20, 2009
The assignment was implemented in fall 2008 at Iowa State University and students calculated their footprint during the week of Thanksgiving break. They submitted their calculations through an online survey system that allowed the instructor to download the data into a spreadsheet and create graphs comparing the footprints of the whole class. These results were shared with the class and we evaluated the impact of even small changes in a class with an enrollment of more than 500 students. As part of the assignment, students are also asked to write an essay where they reflect on their calculations and the impact they are having on the environment. Many students reported that they were not aware of the impact of 'secondary emissions' related to diet and found the assignment instructive.
Skills and concepts that students must have mastered
How the activity is situated in the course
Content/concepts goals for this activity
Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity
Other skills goals for this activity
Description of the activity/assignment
Step 2. Students complete an online survey where they are asked to enter the values that they have obtained for the various components of the calculator, perform some simple calculations and compare their annual footprint to the U.S. average. We used SurveyGizmo for the survey because it allows to download the data in a spreadsheet format and has some limited plotting features. The free version allows a maximum of 250 submissions, the Basic version ($19 per month, can be canceled at any time) has unlimited submissions.
Step 3. Students write an essay through BlackBoard/WebCT (Assignment). A few guiding questions are provided for this essay where students reflect on the results of their impact on the global carbon budget, what they found surprising, and if they plan to make any changes to their lifestyle to limit their impact. No length limit is set for the essay.
The guidelines and components of this assignment are available on a wiki page. The three steps can be implemented in BlackBoard/WebCT as a Lesson Plan with links to the online calculator (step 1), to the survey (step 2), and to the Assignment/essay (step 3).
Determining whether students have met the goals
Download teaching materials and tips
- All materials can be found at http://carbonfootprintexercise.pbwiki.com/
The various components of the assignment are available at http://carbonfootprintexercise.pbwiki.com/ This wiki environment allows contributors to post comments and suggestions.
The online carbon footprint calculator can be found at http://www.carbonfootprint.com/calculator.aspx.
The assignment was put together by ISU undergraduate student Adam Sanford under the guidance of Cinzia Cervato (idea and content) and graduate student Karly Wortmann (technical implementation).