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CNN Student News Learning Activity: Planet in Peril

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(CNN) -- The following activity is intended to be used as a viewing guide and a springboard for discussing CNN's "Planet in Peril" series with your students.

"So many environmental issues facing the Earth are interconnected -- from deforestation to population growth to global warming to species loss. To fully grasp the extent of these issues, we must examine all of them." -- David Doss, senior executive producer of Anderson Cooper 360°

Before watching "Planet in Peril," pose these questions for class discussion:

• To what extent do you think people's lives are shaped by the environment? Give examples.

• In what ways do people affect the environment?

• In your opinion, what are the greatest threats to the environment today?

After the discussion

Divide your students into five groups and assign each group one of these key environmental issues that are threatening the stability of the planet:

• Overpopulation

• Climate change

• Habitat destruction

• The extinction of wildlife species

• The destruction of natural resources

Direct students to the Web sites listed and other multimedia resources to learn about their assigned topics. Ask each group to identify the scope of its environmental problem in different parts of the world, its causes and its social and environmental repercussions. Have groups develop and deliver presentations of their findings.

After the presentations, instruct each group to brainstorm all the ways that its environmental issue is connected to the others. Next, have representatives from each group stand in a large circle with signs denoting their environmental issues. Give one representative a large ball of string. Have him or her hold on to one end of the string and toss the ball to another representative while explaining a connection between their issues. Have all the representatives repeat the same steps, tossing the ball of string to each other until they have identified all the connections and built a web between their issues.

After the web is complete, challenge students to consider how individuals might make a difference in terms of affecting positive environmental change. Ask students: What actions do you think people might take to address environmental issues? How might an individual's actions create a web of positive change for the environment? Give examples.


Point out to students that all people consume natural resources such as land and water to live. Environmental problems can occur when we use more natural resources than our planet is able to renew.

The term "environmental footprint" describes the impact people have on ecosystems when we overuse natural resources. Direct students to either the Global Footprint Network ( or the Ecological Footprint ( to take an online quiz to estimate their own environmental footprints. After students obtain and share their survey results with the class, challenge them to think of ways they might reduce the footprints they leave on the planet.

Curriculum Connections

Science: Grades 9-12

CONTENT STANDARD D: Earth and Space Science

As a result of activities in grades 9-12, all students should develop an understanding of:

* Energy in the Earth system

* Origin and evolution of the Earth system

CONTENT STANDARD F: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives

As a result of activities in grades 9-12, all students should develop an understanding of:

* Population growth

* Natural resources

* Environmental quality

* Science and technology in local, national and global challenges

The National Science Education Standards ( are published by the National Academies Press (

Social Studies

Standard III. People, Places and Environments: Students will make informed and critical decisions about the relationship between human beings and their environment.

The Curriculum Standards for Social Studies ( ) are published by the National Council for Social Studies ( ).

National Educational Technology Standards for Students

Standard 5: Technology problem-solving and decision-making tool.

  • Students use technology resources for solving problems and making informed decisions.
  • Students employ technology in the development of strategies for solving problems in the real world.
  • The National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) for Students (, published by the International Society for Technology in Education (


  • United Nations Environment Program
  • United Nations System-wide Earthwatch
  • World Wildlife Fund: Global Forces
  • EPA: Environmental Kids Club
  • Keywords

    Earth, natural resources, land, water, wildlife species, habitat destruction, overpopulation, climate change, environmental footprint, extinction, protection E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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