Human Impact and Pollution Project Based Learning Lesson

Grade Levels
6th - 9th
Resource Type
Formats Included
  • PDF


This is an authentic project-based learning lesson that covers land pollution, water pollution, and air pollution. Presented at NSTA Engage 2020 conference.

Earth and Environment Unit Plan using block schedule:

Earth’s System Introduction – 1 class period

Introduction to PjBL lesson

Research and problem development– 4 class periods

Small group Town Hall – 0.5 class period

Research and project development – 3 class periods

Presentations – 1 class period

Total Pages
Answer Key
Teaching Duration
3 Weeks
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to see state-specific standards (only available in the US).
Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence for how the uneven distributions of Earth’s mineral, energy, and groundwater resources are the result of past and current geoscience processes. Emphasis is on how these resources are limited and typically non-renewable, and how their distributions are significantly changing as a result of removal by humans. Examples of uneven distributions of resources as a result of past processes include but are not limited to petroleum (locations of the burial of organic marine sediments and subsequent geologic traps), metal ores (locations of past volcanic and hydrothermal activity associated with subduction zones), and soil (locations of active weathering and/or deposition of rock).
Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century. Examples of factors include human activities (such as fossil fuel combustion, cement production, and agricultural activity) and natural processes (such as changes in incoming solar radiation or volcanic activity). Examples of evidence can include tables, graphs, and maps of global and regional temperatures, atmospheric levels of gases such as carbon dioxide and methane, and the rates of human activities. Emphasis is on the major role that human activities play in causing the rise in global temperatures.
Develop a model to describe the cycling of Earth’s materials and the flow of energy that drives this process. Emphasis is on the processes of melting, crystallization, weathering, deformation, and sedimentation, which act together to form minerals and rocks through the cycling of Earth’s materials. Assessment does not include the identification and naming of minerals.
Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth’s systems. Examples of evidence include grade-appropriate databases on human populations and the rates of consumption of food and natural resources (such as freshwater, mineral, and energy). Examples of impacts can include changes to the appearance, composition, and structure of Earth’s systems as well as the rates at which they change. The consequences of increases in human populations and consumption of natural resources are described by science, but science does not make the decisions for the actions society takes.
Develop a model to describe the cycling of water through Earth’s systems driven by energy from the sun and the force of gravity. Emphasis is on the ways water changes its state as it moves through the multiple pathways of the hydrologic cycle. Examples of models can be conceptual or physical. A quantitative understanding of the latent heats of vaporization and fusion is not assessed.


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