Instructor Materials: Overview of the Environmental Justice and Freshwater Resources Module
Summative Assessment: Student success in this module can be assessed through an exercise that involves labeling a diagram of the hydrologic cycle such that manipulations of portions of that cycle might result in unequal access to freshwater resources and describing the related human impacts and potential approaches to mitigation. Learn more about assessing student learning in this module.
These materials have been reviewed for their alignment with the Next Generation Science Standards. At the top of each page, you can click on the NGSS logo to see the specific connections. Visit InTeGrate and the NGSS to learn more about the process of alignment and how to use InTeGrate materials to implement the NGSS.
NGSS in this Module
This module enables students to identify the freshwater components of the hydrologic cycle and connect them to the basic need of all human beings for equal access to clean fresh water. This is accomplished by framing the water science within theories of environmental justice defined by the US Environmental Protection Agency as "the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income. In aligning this goal with NGSS, it was observed that while many units satisfactorily address scientific and engineering practices and disciplinary core ideas, some units fall short in address cross-cutting concepts.
Despite the fact that most people would agree that water is a shared resource, few think about who gets what share of fresh water. This module enables students to identify the freshwater components of the hydrologic cycle and connect them to the basic need of all human beings for equal access to clean fresh water. This is accomplished by framing the water science within theories of environmental justice defined by the US Environmental Protection Agency as "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."
Unit 1 provides a brief orientation for students and instructors to the history, background, and defining environmental justice cases in the United States. The introduction prepares students to consider specific cases of water science and environmental justice later in the module by having them explore the meanings of "environment" and "justice." Unit 1 is comprised of three activities:
- Activity 1.1 — Exploration: People and Environment
- Activity 1.2 — Think-Pair-Share: The Concept of Environmental Justice
- Activity 1.3 — Defining Environmental Justice
Unit 2 provides a broad and encompassing background on water resources and hydrogeology. Concepts introduced in this unit will be revisited in subsequent units. Unit 2 includes a homework assignment followed by three activities:
- Unit 2 Pre-class Homework — Collecting a Water Footprint
- Activity 2.1 — Water Footprint Discussion
- Activity 2.2 — Hydrologic Cycle Exploration
- Activity 2.3 — Sustainability Role-Play
Unit 3 involves an analysis of clean surface water availability in Hawaii. The unit considers the cases of taro farmers on the Hawaiian Islands and their claim that their way of life has been disrupted as a result of water diversions on the island for tourism and industrial-scale agriculture. Topics encountered include watersheds and drainage divides among others. Unit 3 includes a homework assignment followed by three activities:
- Unit 3 Pre-class Homework — Reflection: Your Community's Water
- Activity 3.1 — Visualizing Drainage Basins
- Activity 3.2 — "The Four Streams" region, Hawaii
- Activity 3.3 — Getting the Concepts
Unit 4 gives students the opportunity to learn the hydrologic science relevant to the lives of women and girls in the Global South whose health and opportunities for education and satisfying life activities is negatively impacted by limited access to good quality fresh water. Specific countries considered are Trinidad and Tobago, Kenya, and India. Unit 4 includes a homework assignment followed by four activities:
- Unit 4 Pre-class Homework — Freshwater Availability and Quality of Life
- Activity 4.1 — Exploration: Your Water Sources
- Activity 4.2 — PowerPoint Presentation on the Hydrologic Cycle and the Global South
- Activity 4.3 — Jigsaw: Comparing Countries
- Activity 4.4 — Questions and Answers
In Unit 5, students study the landmark case of environmental contamination brought forward by Lois Gibbs and the Love Canal Homeowners Association and evaluate how hazardous substances affect humans and the environment. Unit 5 is comprised of four activities:
- Unit 5 Pre-class Homework — Exploration: Lois Gibbs speaks
- Activity 5.1 — Love Canal Think-Pair-Share
- Activity 5.2 — Timing Land-Use Changes
- Activity 5.3 — Timing the Flow of Contaminants
- Activity 5.4 — Getting the Concepts
Unit 6 addresses the issue of groundwater demands in the arid Southwest region of the United States. Unit 6 includes a homework assignment followed by two activities:
- Unit 6 Pre-class Homework — Using USGS Data to Predict Groundwater Depletion
- Activity 6.1 — Think-Pair-Share: Getting the Concepts
- Activity 6.2 — Discussion: Groundwater Depletion
- Activity 6.3 -- Discussion: Water Conservation
- Activity 6.4 -- Reflection
Making the Module Work
This module was written so that each unit would accommodate one 75-minute class period. The instructor can also modify these for use within a 50-minute class period by assigning some activities as pre-unit preparatory work. The instructor could also adapt these to use in a longer "discussion section" by spending more time on activities. The module assumes that the classroom will be an active learning environment with little time for lecture. Therefore, students should use the available materials to prepare prior to class for the in-class activities. Some units involve use of computers in the classroom, and instructors should determine the availability of such technology in their classrooms to ensure smooth functioning during class sessions. In classrooms where computers are available only to the instructors, the units that use them can be adapted so that instructors demonstrate how software such as Google Earth can be used by students outside of the classroom. Instructors should either plan to have students complete some activities outside of class (as homework) or choose the activities that address their desired learning outcomes and time available in their own courses. Almost all of the module content could be adapted for an online learning environment as well.
To adapt all or part of the Environmental Justice and Freshwater Resources module for your classroom, you will also want to read through:
- Instructor Stories, which detail how the Environmental Justice and Freshwater Resources module was adapted for use at three different institutions, as well as our guide to
- Adapting InTeGrate Modules and Courses for Your Classroom, which outlines how to effectively use InTeGrate modules and courses.