"This Focus on Risk program was so beneficial to me— I really saw how these activities could be adapted to different learning styles and curriculum."
—North Carolina Educator
“Risk is something that my students will have to deal with every day of their lives. These activities gave my students a method of thinking critically about this issue. My students now have a new way of assessing risk in their lives and making decisions based on careful consideration of their choices.”
— New York Educator
Exploring Environmental Issues: Focus on Risk module helps students explore the different aspects of environmental and human health risks that affect their everyday lives. Through eight hands-on activities, students analyze, explore, discover, and learn about risk assessment, risk communication, risk perception, and risk management. There are also three special topics that encourage students to apply their knowledge real-life risk issues. Critical thinking, problem solving, and decision making are emphasized throughout the module.
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- Activity 1: What Is Risk?
In this activity, students will work together to explore and discuss risk and its related concepts, as they develop and refine their definition and concept of risk and of risk assessment.
- Activity 2: Things Aren't Always What They Seem
Students will identify their perception of the relative degree of risk associated with technologies, environmental hazards, and everyday activities. They will also compare and contrast their perceptions with those of others, including experts and lay people.
- Activity 3: Chances Are…Understanding Probability and Risk
In this activity, students will conduct a series of experiments, such as tossing coins, to develop an understanding of probability. They will then apply their knowledge of probability to a scenario about the potential risk of using cellular phones.
- Activity 4: Risk Assessment: Tools of the Trade
In this activity, students will learn about some of the tools used to generate a risk estimate, interpret information generated from using different tools, and understand how the information can be used to set priorities and make decisions.
- Activity 5: Communicating Risk
This activity allows students to explore how timely and responsible communication among experts, the media, and lay people can lead to improved decisions about risk management.
- Activity 6: Weighing the Options: A Look at Tradeoffs
In this activity, students will explore the risk management process for personal choices. They will also debate the use of cost/benefit analysis for making public policy decisions using the protection of endangered species as an example.
- Activity 7: Decision Making: Ecological Risk, Wildfires, and Natural Disasters
In this activity, students will develop and apply decision making skills to various environmental risk scenarios including wildland fires, natural hazards, and threats to coral reefs and mangrove swamps.
- Activity 8: Taking Action: Reducing Risk in Your School or Community
Students will apply the knowledge and skills they have acquired as they identify a risk in their school or community. Students will develop a plan to assess the risk, decide the best way to reduce the risk, educate others, and, if feasible, implement their plan.
- Electromagnetic Fields
This activity is designed to help students understand how electric and magnetic fields are produced, their potential effects on human health, and the controversy surrounding those potential effects.
- Chlorine: Looking at Tradeoffs
Many of the risks we take are “balanced” by the benefits they offer. This activity helps students learn about chlorine and gives them an opportunity to consider the tradeoffs associated with a variety of its uses.
- Plastics, Risk/Benefit Analysis, and Environmental Legislation
Students explore their personal use of plastic products and conduct a risk/benefit analysis for a plastic product they commonly use. They also explore the disposal of plastic and research legislation that has been enacted to reduce various risks to human health and the environment.
The resources below are relevant for the entire module. For additional activity-specific resources, such as Student Pages, please visit our searchable resources database.
- Clones, Cats, and Chemicals: Thinking Scientifically About Controversial Issues (Book)
- Tox Town
- Pre-Disaster Preparedness Game
- National Council for Science and the Environment
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