FOOTPRINTING AND GEOGRAPHICAL ENQUIRY LEARNING
This section has been compiled
by Daniel Ellison a geography teacher from Little Heath School, West
Berkshire. Many of the ideas outlined
been used at the school with Key Stage 3 pupils. Initially Year 9 pupils
worked with ideas before they went on to lead Year 7 and 8 pupils in activities.
These activities led to pupils taking formulate individual action plans
and group actions such as assemblies, an appearance on local radio to influence
their community and then to plan campaigns to influence their local community’s
If we can see the outcome of an environmental event we can usually understand
it, but issues such as sustainable development are hard to grasp as you
cannot see them.
The measurement of ecological and carbon footprints of a population or
individual allows people to actually see the issue being discussed, making
it significantly easier to discuss. Some of the questions below and the
suggested activities could be worked through and the pupil’ responses
assessed as to their changes before and after undertaking the activities.
Suggested activity (41k download)
Excel spreadsheet for use with activities below (58k download)
The following questions can be answered
using the various calculators (summary and evaluation
Why do ecological footprints change
What can I do to change the size of my footprint?
What can my community
do to change the size of their footprint?
What are the social, political
and environmental consequences if I try to reduce the size of my
is sustainable development? What has it got to do with ecological
is an ecological footprint? How much land do I need to survive?
Time 15-10 mins
Resources: paper, pencils and pens
Idea: Students imagine what will happen if you cover a city with
a glass dome through which light and heat can enter but nothing
In Practice: Draw a city on the board and discuss with the group
what makes a city function. Establish the city’s key inputs (food, water, trade,
air etc.) and key outputs (waste etc.)
Once these have been established draw a glass dome over the city.
In groups ask students to draw their own city with a dome and ask
to label the
city showing what will happen. Many of them will pick up on pollution,
lack of access to resources and problems with waste. They can be
encouraged to think of secondary impacts such as increases in disease
Debrief what students have found by letting them add to the city
on the board. Now ask them to draw another city with a dome over
time they must imagine how big the dome will need to be to support
it (how many hectares for forest, water, waste, crops, oil?).
Debrief by discussing how Earth is isolated in space and what may
happen if we place greater demand on resources than there is supply.
what an ecological footprint is (an estimate of the amount of land
that is actually needed by a population such as a city).
2. My island
Time 30-50 mins
Resources: paper, pencils, pens, what makes up a typical footprint
Idea: Students draw an island that shows how much land they need
to survive and what it is needed for.
They can then go on to explore the resources needed for their lifestyle
by investigating their luxury resources.
In Practice: Students write a list of the basic resources they
need for survival and an estimate of what they use each year with
how much of each resource they use.
They then draw a scale on a plain A3 sheet or paper or graph paper,
with a clear scale of 10cm to 100m.
Ask students to draw out the areas of land and water that they
think will be needed to supply them with each of their basic resources.
These do not
need to be very accurate; it is the idea of the ecological footprint
that is important at this stage and not the accuracy.
Now go on to list and map their luxury resources, doing this will
give students the chance to explore differences in lifestyle as
it is principally
the differences on luxury resources that have greatest impact on
EF size and especially fossil fuels.
Debrief by asking students what the map shows, how it could be
used, what would happen if they did not have enough land for their
resources? This is a good launch activity for an EF quiz as students
understand and even want to explore greater accuracy in their work.
Why calculate ecological footprints?
1. The carrying capacity of a boat
Time 20-40 mins
Idea: In groups of four, students are given a selection of food
and a bottle of water either ‘virtual or real’.
They prepare and show a small play about a group of four people
in a boat, at sea with only a limited amount of food. What happens?
In Practice: Students are put into groups of four and given a selection
of food and a bottle of water.
Give them parameters by telling them how long it will take to get
to land, how much food and water is available and how long they
food and water.
Make sure that it is possible to reach land, but only if at some
point one of the group leave the boat. Ask the students to think
the mathematics and then come up with a short play based on what
on the boat.
Debrief by making the point that just like their boat, Earth only
has limited amounts of resources and people place demands on them.
Explain that when studying the environment carrying capacity is
the total population an area is able to support given the resources
available, just as the boat had a given carrying capacity.
While they could count the supply of food and then demand upon
it relatively easily a more sophisticated method is needed for
ecological footprint calculator.
2. The carrying capacity of Twister: the supply and demand of spots
Time: 10 mins
Resources: twister Board or something similar
Idea and Practice: Students play a game of Twister, adding one
limb at a time to the board. The circles represent resources. At
overshoot (the point where human consumption and waste production
exceeds nature’s natural ability to create new resources and absorb waste)
occur? What is the carrying capacity (total population that the board can
support) of the Twister board?
Are ecological footprints the same around
the world? Do wealth and development change the size of a footprint?
Wealth and footprints
Time: 20-40 mins
Resource: Graph paper, pencils and relevant data from this website
Idea: Students produce a scatter graph by plotting GDP per capita
against carbon or ecological footprint sizes of nations.
In practice: Give students a table of data that shows the name,
GDP and footprint size of several nations. Unless you wish to focus
income group make sure you have a fair spread of countries from
different regions and wealth groups, student resource 1 has a range
information. Using graph paper ask students to label the axis’s GDP per capita
(0 to 35,000) on the Y axis and ecological footprint size (0 to 10 if 1999
data) on the X axis.
They should then find the corresponding data for GDP and footprint
size for each nation and plot it on the graph with a small cross
meet. In another colour they should label each cross with the countries
name (they could use three colours for country labels that represent
high, medium and low levels of development as shown on student
resource 1, spatial
Once all of the nations have been plotted students can draw a line
of best fit. Is there a positive correlation?
Debrief the group by discussing the overall trend and any anomalies.
Explain the correlations found by writing a short paragraph. What
might be the
reasons for any anomalies? Is there any pattern between levels
of development and the size of a footprint?
Have ecological footprints always been the same size?
Generations of Footprints
Idea: Students question a group of people about their lifestyle
when they were the interviewee’s age. The student records the data and presents
it in a graph.
In Practice: Students complete an ecological footprint questionnaire
for themselves. They then question four people who are at least
ten years apart
in age. These people must imagine what their lifestyle was like
when they were the same age as the interviewee. The participants
family members and this could work particularly well as students
explore what life was like for those close to them. Students can
the data by seeing how and why the footprints change overtime.
They may also
compare there generational footprint to historical data on ecological
Global 1: Ecological Footprint Living Graph
Idea: Students use a line graph showing the ecological footprint
of all nations as a ‘living graph’ (Leat: Thinking Skills, Chris Kington
Publishing; 1998). Students annotate the graph using prompt cards to explain
its changes. These may include real events such as changes in oil supply,
periods of recession, changes in the number and size of commercial flights
or changes to food production, packaging and transport. The cards may also
include fictitious experiences of individuals like not being able to afford
to go on holiday or loosing their job.
Will ecological footprints always
be the same size?
Idea: Students complete an ecological footprint calculation for
various stages in their life so far. On a graph with years 0 to
then plot how their footprint has changed in size. Students then
their individual footprint will change into the future and why.
In Practice: You either need a EF calculator that is sensitive
to quantities or imaginative students. Ask students to calculate
ecological footprint from birth to present. Discuss the key events
that make their
EF change like eating more food, not needing nappies anymore and
having more money. Now establish key events in their futures that
the size of their footprints like buying a car, travelling abroad
more or buying
a private jet. Will their footprint change in size again as they
get older, have children or retire? Ask students to list the key
will happen and predict how it will affect the size of their ecological
footprint. In another colour to their ‘true’ EF ask students
to complete the graph by drawing a line that considers when their EF will
change size. Ask them to annotate the graph, explaining when it will change
and why. They can then go on to plan how to manage the size of their EF.
Global 2: Best, likely and worst futures…
Idea: Students use an incomplete graph from 1960 to 2060 that only shows
EF data until 1999. They are given a number of scenarios to sort into
best, worst and likely scenarios. Based on these they predict the remaining
possibilities by completing the line graph and annotating the outcomes.
In Practice: Handout an EF 1960 to 2060 worksheet to all students. Discuss
the trends shown on the graph (possibly with the help of ‘Global
1’ or data on oil, GDP, population etc.) and annotate the key events.
Now ask students to imagine what the graph might show over the next 60
years. In groups ask students create a mind map of any key issues or
events that could effect the results. You may well want to give cards
with scenarios to groups that they can sort into best, likely and worst
future events for support and ideas. Now, on their graphs, ask students
to draw three EF lines coming from the actual EF data, for the best,
likely and worst possible futures. They should annotate and explain their
lines, showing clearly the issues or events that have altered their futures
Following this activity students can plan out what actions that could
be taken on an individual, national and global level to encourage their
best possible outcome and avoid the worst.