Subjects & Disciplines
- Earth Science
- Analyze real-world examples of circular economies in order to contrast a circular economy with a linear economy.
- Explain how a circular economy is different from a linear economy.
- Describe environmental and health impacts associated with mining and disposal.
- Identify how the law of conservation of matter relates to the resource economy.
- Brainstorm the origin and fate of raw materials found in everyday objects.
- Understand the project challenge they will take on for the Closing the Loop: Toward a Circular Economy unit.
- Interpret information from an infographic about the global economy in order to understand the need for circular economic systems.
- Use the concept of a zero-waste hierarchy to create a list of behaviors that can reduce their own resource consumption and waste production.
- Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of a circular economy case study, in terms of circularity and impacts on the environment and human health.
- Project-based learning
- Cooperative learning
- Guided listening
- Visual instruction
21st Century Student Outcomes
- Information, Media, and Technology Skills
- Learning and Innovation Skills
- 21st Century Themes
Critical Thinking Skills
Science and Engineering Practices
- Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering)
- Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering)
- Developing and using models
- Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information
Connections to National Standards, Principles, and Practices
What You’ll Need
The resources are also available at the top of the page.
- Internet Access: Required
- Internet access: Required
- Tech Setup: 1 computer per pair, Projector, Speakers
- Large-group instruction
- Large-group learning
- Small-group learning
- Small-group work
Consider providing printed copies of the infographics and images used in this activity for students who have special vision-related needs.
Review the case studies ahead of time to preview the reading levels and strategically assign students. Strategies include: mixed-ability peer reading groups, focused reading based on the prompts and questions in the Circular Economy Analyzer, and providing scaffolding and supports for interpreting new vocabulary and concepts.
Step 1: Some students may find it helpful to see a model of a completed “And Before That?” Flowchart. Consider filling out your own copy before teaching this lesson to share with students who have trouble visualizing the origin and fate of the materials in their favorite belonging.
Step 3: The narrator in this video has a British accent which may be challenging for students to understand. Consider turning on closed captions.
Recommended Prior Lessons
something that can be used up (consumed), such as food or fuel.
process of using goods and services.
the way something is spread out over an area.
system of production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services.
electronic devices or their parts that have been thrown away.
process by which natural resources are extracted and removed from the earth.
site where garbage is layered with dirt and other absorbing material to prevent contamination of the surrounding land or water.
system where raw materials are collected and transformed into products, which are eventually discarded as waste.
inorganic material that has a characteristic chemical composition and specific crystal structure.
process of extracting ore from the Earth.
a material that humans take from the natural environment to survive, to satisfy their needs, or to trade with others.
deposit in the Earth of minerals containing valuable metal.
matter that needs to be processed into a product to use or sell.
to clean or process in order to make suitable for reuse.
in the zero-waste hierarchy, modifying how products are produced, sold, and how waste is managed.
to recycle one or more items to create an object that is worth more than the original product.
material that has been used and thrown away.
process and philosophy that advocates for redesigning products and patterns of consumption with the goal of producing no waste.
For Further Exploration
Articles & Profiles
- Science Connected Magazine: "How the History of Littering Should Impact the Solution"
- Scientific American: "More Recycling Won’t Solve the Plastic Problem"
- Pratt Center for Sustainable Design Studies: Material Life Cycles
- DwellSmart: TerraCycle
- Upcycle That: Upcycle That
- Science Channel: How It’s Made
- Impact Journalism Day: "‘Kitcel’, Mexico: biodegradable varnish from Styrofoam waste"
- Global Aquaculture Advocate: "Mexican startup offers DIY aquafeed solution by upcycling wastewater"