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Michael Pritchard Professor; Co-Director of The Ethics Center Western Michigan University More Posts
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Created August 14, 2009
Ethics in the Science Classroom: An Instructional Guide for Secondary School Science Teachers

Added12/01/1999

Updated12/08/2016

Author(s) Theodore Goldfarb Michael Pritchard

Author(s):  Michael S. Pritchard, Department of Philosophy, Western Michigan University & Theodore Goldfarb, Department of Chemistry, State University of New York at Stony Brook

NOTE: This contribution appeared as a featured resource in the online and printed issues of ENC Focus: A Magazine for Classroom Innovators Vol. 8 no.3, published by the Eisenhower National Clearinghouse for Mathematics and Science Education-ENC.

Author(s):  Michael S. Pritchard, Department of Philosophy, Western Michigan University & Theodore Goldfarb, Department of Chemistry, State University of New York at Stony Brook

NOTE: This contribution appeared as a featured resource in the online and printed issues of ENC Focus: A Magazine for Classroom Innovators Vol. 8 no.3, published by the Eisenhower National Clearinghouse for Mathematics and Science Education-ENC.

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Contributor(s) Michael Pritchard
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Authoring Institution (obsolete) Eisenhower National Clearinghouse for Mathematics and Science Education-ENC
Volume 8
Issue 3
Year 1999
Publisher provided Keywords Instructional Methods Pedagogical Materials SCIENCE
Publisher National Academy of Engineering, Online Ethics Center
Language English

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Table of Contents

Lesson 10, Summer Home

William Miller, East Northport Middle School, East Northport, Long Island, NY.

Overview of Lesson

Courses for Which the Lesson is Intended
Earth science and chemistry classes.
Types of Teaching/Learning Activities Employed in this Lesson
A thought experiment in which students imagine themselves facing a practical decision in building a summer home. Students are instructed to make a decision, articulating the most important factors leading to that decision.
Category that Best Describes this Lesson
Social issues.
Ethics/Values Issues Raised by this Lesson
Environmental responsibility; long vs. short term consequences; ethics and punishment.

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Lesson Plan

Students are asked to find definitions of the following terms (providing examples for each in order to make definitions more understandable)

  • pollution
  • eutrophication
  • organicdecomposition
  • biodegradable organism

Students are asked to read the following and answer the accompanying questions. This can be a written assignment, a class discussion, or both. You are having a small summer house built on a lake in upstate New York. You have chosen this spot because of its isolation and the beauty of the lake. The lake is active with plant and animal life and covers an area of about 1.5 square miles. On its north side many small streams enter the lake carrying runoff from the area, while on the south side many small streams carry away some of the lake's water. Because of poor drainage in the area, it is necessary to have a septic tank installed. In order to have the septic tank do its job for a longer period of time, it is suggested to you, by the builder, to let all waste water (showers, sinks, garbage disposal, etc.), with the exception of the toilet empty into the lake. Since only you and two or three other people will be using the house and the lake is fairly large, you decide to give it some thought.

Questions

  • Since environmental change is slow and gradual, should you be concerned with whether you might be contributing to the pollution of the lake? Why or why not?
  • Suppose it is not illegal to follow the builder's advice. What is your decision?
  • Which of the following influenced your decision? (Rate each of them 1 to 5, with 1 having the most influence and 5 the least.)
  1. The fact that it is legally permissible
  2. Environmental concerns
  3. What is best for you
  4. Advice of the builder
  5. Easiest way to solve the problem
  6. Cost
  7. Consideration of likely future use of other property around lake
  8. Other (be specific).
  9. Suppose it is illegal to follow the builder's advice, but because of the location of your house, the chance of getting caught is minimal. What effect might this have on your decision (and your ranking of 2.-7. above)?

Discussion

This lesson invites students to apply basic concepts they have learned in Earth Science ('pollution,' 'eutrophication,' etc.) to contexts in which individuals make practical decisions. The questions following the scenario invite students to reflect on the values underlying the decision they recommend. Factor 7 (consideration of likely future use of other property around lake) deserves special attention. The scenario describes the present situation. However, it is important to ask whether it can be assumed that things will remain the same. (After all, how is it that you were able to acquire the land? Won't others want to do the same?)

Another question to invite students to consider is why they might consider the environmental effects of allowing their wastewater running into the lake to be negligible, while agreeing to install a septic tank for effluent from the toilet. Further, might there be other ways to' extend the septic tank's useful period of time? This is a good opportunity to discuss various alternative ways in which people might more efficiently take care of their refuse in environmentally friendly ways (e.g., composting).

Return to Part 2 - Model Classroom Lessons

Return to Ethics in the Science Classroom: An Instructional Guide for Secondary School Science Teachers

Cite this page: "Lesson 10, Summer Home" Online Ethics Center for Engineering 7/14/2006 OEC Accessed: Friday, April 28, 2017 <www.onlineethics.org/Resources/precollege/scienceclass/lessonplans/part2intro/lesson10.aspx>