ALEX Lesson Plan


Are We Our Own Worst Enemy? #1 (Land Usage)

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  This lesson provided by:  
Author:Angela Drown
System: Enterprise City
School: Hillcrest Elementary School
The event this resource created for:ASTA
  General Lesson Information  
Lesson Plan ID: 34644


Are We Our Own Worst Enemy? #1 (Land Usage)


This lesson deals with human growth and our consumption of land resources. This lesson can be used in conjunction with other Are We Our Own Worst Enemy? lessons, although this should be first since it has the video of population growth.

This lesson results from a collaboration between the Alabama State Department of Education and ASTA.

 Associated Standards and Objectives 
Content Standard(s):
SC2015 (2015)
Grade: 6
Earth and Space Science
15 ) Analyze evidence (e.g., databases on human populations, rates of consumption of food and other natural resources) to explain how changes in human population, per capita consumption of natural resources, and other human activities (e.g., land use, resource development, water and air pollution, urbanization) affect Earth's systems.

NAEP Framework
NAEP Statement::
E8.15a: Human activities, such as reducing the amount of forest cover, increasing the amount and variety of chemicals released into the atmosphere, and intensive farming, have changed Earth's land, oceans, and atmosphere.

NAEP Statement::
E8.15b: Studies of plant and animal populations have shown that such activities can reduce the number and variety of wild plants and animals and sometimes result in the extinction of species.

Unpacked Content
Scientific And Engineering Practices:
Analyzing and Interpreting Data
Crosscutting Concepts: Cause and Effect
Disciplinary Core Idea: Earth and Human Activity
Evidence Of Student Attainment:
  • Analyze evidence regarding how changes in human population, per capita consumption of natural resources, and other human activities affect Earth's systems.
  • Explain how changes in human population, per capita consumption of natural resources, and other human activities affect Earth's systems.
Teacher Vocabulary:
  • Population
  • Per capita
  • Consumption
  • Natural resource
  • Environment
  • Earth's systems
  • Consequences
Students know:
  • Increases in the size of the human population or in the per capita consumption of a given population cause increases in the consumption of natural resources.
  • Natural resources are any naturally occurring substances or features of the environment that, while not created by human effort, can be exploited by humans to satisfy their needs or wants.
  • Per capita consumption is the average use per person within a population.
  • Natural resource consumption causes changes in Earth systems.
  • Engineered solutions alter the effects of human populations on Earth systems by changing the rate of natural resource consumption or reducing the effects of changes in Earth systems.
  • All human activity draws on natural resources and has both short and long-term consequences, positive as well as negative, for the health of people and the natural environment.
  • 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.
Students are able to:
  • Organize given evidence regarding changes in human population, changes in per capita consumption of natural resources, human activities, and Earth's systems to allow for analysis and interpretation.
  • Analyze the data to identify possible causal relationships between changes in human population, changes in per capita consumption of natural resources, human activities, and Earth's systems.
  • Interpret patterns observed from the data to provide causal accounts for events and make predictions for events by constructing explanations.
Students understand that:
  • Human population growth affects natural resource consumption and natural resource consumption has an effect on Earth systems; therefore, changes in human populations have a causal role in changing Earth systems.
  • Typically as human populations and per-capita consumption of natural resources increase, so do the negative impacts on Earth unless the activities and technologies involved are engineered otherwise.
AMSTI Resources:
AMSTI Module:
Exploring Planetary Systems
Understanding Weather and Climate

Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
SCI.AAS.6.15- Compare the relationship between human population and food consumption, water use, and land use.

Local/National Standards:


Primary Learning Objective(s):

Students will:

  • evaluate charts to see how population growth has affected our land resources.
  • propose ways to conserve our land resources.

Additional Learning Objective(s):

 Preparation Information 

Total Duration:

61 to 90 Minutes

Materials and Resources:

Chart or Butcher paper, markers, and notebook paper

Technology Resources Needed:




Ask the class “Why do we need to know about taking care of our Earth?” Let them respond. Tell them over the next couple of lessons you will look at ways humans affect our earth. 

Have them view the World Population Over Time video and then discuss what this may mean to our world. Talk about the fact that with more people in the world there is a need for more "things" for those people. 

Group the students. They will first start with one sheet of notebook paper per group and list some things that people need and/or use. Once they have their lists written they will get a large piece of chart paper or butcher paper and marker per group to make a graphic organizer. In the center of their paper, they will write “More People” and they will write the "things" that are needed for more people in the graphic organizer. 

The consequences could be good or bad and some consequences may lead to others. Tell them they need to think and write that with more people may come more cars, which will lead to more gasoline, which will lead to more need for oil. On the positive side, more cars could lead to more jobs. Have them work as far out as they can or give them 10-15 minutes, whichever comes first. They need to realize that with population growth comes more need for goods. 

Their graphic organizer may look something like the one labeled “more people” under attachments. After the groups finish, have them present to the class and give reasons why they put the objects on their web.

Let them know that, in this first lesson, they will be looking at ways we affect our earth with our use of land. Tell them you did not tell them this before because they may explore other uses or abuses in the following lessons. (If you will be using lessons 2 & 3, you may want to keep their graphic organizers up on a wall in the room to be used later.)


Have them look at the graphic organizers and select the ways we use land and ask if they think the uses they give are good or bad uses. Ask if they think some of the bad uses could be eliminated. Ask questions like, "Do we need all the shopping centers?" and "Do we need all the grassland for cattle to graze?" (It takes 1.5 – 2 acres per cow. To help them understand how much an acre of land is, tell them it is 10 yards short of a football field from goal to goal.) What about crops/farming: We need to eat, right? Discuss with them the use of forests: we use the land and trees to build houses. Is there anything wrong with this?

Print off the sheet (one per group) Trends in Major Uses of Land and look over this with them. Talk with the students about the differences between urban and rural (urban meaning city or town and rural meaning countryside). Also, let them know that farmsteads are farm lands and the buildings on the land for example barns and houses. Point out that they need to read the footnotes to understand about some of the land use. As a group, have them answer these questions on notebook paper. (You may want to write them on the board for them to see.)

  1. How has land usage changed over the years?
  2. How have humans contributed to that change?
  3. We know from watching the video that population is continuing to grow. Using the charts to look at land use, is there a correlation between population growth and land usage?
  4. Based on the video and the figures in Table 3, showing the cropland acreage declining, what will that mean for our future?
  5. What areas shown on the charts are rising, and what areas are declining? Give evidence by telling which table the information comes from and if it is rising or declining. Also, state if the rise or fall is a good sign or not. (Do not include the total from Table 2 since the information is not accurate. Also in table 2 just use the main line for Cropland, not the subcategories, and the same for Forest-use land.)
  6. Based on Table 3, how many years did it take to reduce the cropland by 51.2 million acres since 1982?
  7. Based on Table 3, what trend do you see when looking at the columns Cropland, Pasture Land, and Developed Land?
  8. Is there a way we can reverse the trend? (Have them write down ways adults can make changes but also what they might be able to do to make changes.)


When they have finished answering the questions have them share with the class their answers. As each group presents, if another group has given the same response, they can just say we had the same answer as (group #___). There should not be a discussion or arguing during the presentations; those not presenting should sit quietly and listen. (Tell them they will have time to discuss ideas given after all presentations are completed.) As each group lists their ways to reverse the trend of using the land for urban purposes (houses, other buildings, and parking lots) and less land being used for grazing or crops. The teacher should make one list (on the board) of all the changes that could be made. This list will be the class’ list of proposals to help conserve land resources. 

After each group has presented have the class discuss the suggested changes to be made by their classmates. Are their suggestions feasible? They must give their reasoning for arguing against another group’s answer. (Give them time to argue back and forth; many times this brings learning. Just make sure it is controlled arguing.) Are there legitimate reasons that one response could be deleted? The class must agree to the deletion before you delete it from the master list. Are there any other ways, someone may have come up with as you discuss, that you could add to the list? Again the class must be in agreement to add this new reason. Once the list of ways to conserve land is complete and everyone is in agreement, transfer the answers to a chart paper. This list could be left up in the classroom for them to see on a daily basis.

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Assessment Strategies

Ongoing assessments will include the following:

  • When students are working in groups, are they listing ways population growth has an effect on our land?
  • When students are presenting their ideas to the class, are they on task and does it deal with our use of land?
  • As they argue ways to conserve land use, are their points legitimate?

You can take up the answers to the questions. Do their answers show they were able to evaluate the charts? Did they answer the questions completely? Did they come up with ways to conserve land or perhaps change the use of land so we would have what is needed?




Since most of this is group work, the lower students should be paired with higher students, who will encourage them to participate.

View the Special Education resources for instructional guidance in providing modifications and adaptations for students with significant cognitive disabilities who qualify for the Alabama Alternate Assessment.