Unit 5: Interconnenctedness

Interconnectedness might not be a word all the students understand.  The [1]definition and other words similar to it from Dictionary.com:

From Dictonary.com…. in·ter·con·nect·ed·ness




  1. the state of being connected with each other.


Other words for interconnectedness:  interrelation, correlation, connection, communion, association, analogy, correspondence, mutuality, reciprocity, interdependence, togetherness


When you study climate change (or any other facet of the Earth’s systems), you quickly come to the realization that everything is connected.  The carbon cycle, energy budget, and the water cycle are all great examples of how things are connected.  When humans put more carbon into the atmosphere it will cause a change in our climate.  Nature also puts more carbon into the atmosphere, but sadly we are much better at loading carbon into the air than nature!  The more we learn about our environment, the more we’ll see that everything is connected.  My favorite quote from environmentalist and Wisconsin native John Muir:  "When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe."  You can easily have your students review the carbon cycle, energy budge, or water cycle to find the connections.  New areas for students to explore:

  •  Adding pollution to the environment and humans. 

  • Chemicals that make their way into the ecosystem (such as DDT) and its effect on birds, or runoff from farms that effect rivers/lakes/algae/and fish 

This Unit is up to you where you want to go, so this is your time to get creative.  You can challenge your students to find connections all around them.  As I’m writing this, the COVID-19 pandemic has shut down all schools.  Students can look back at this time and see how our normal connections changed when we were forced to shelter inside our homes.

Connectedness is also a great area to introduce a First Nations view of the environment into your classroom.  This is one way to complete your Act 31 requirements by the DPI.  We have 12 First Nations in Wisconsin.  While each first nation’s views on the environment/nature are unique, they all have great insights into how to appreciate the world around us.  A resource on first nations in Wisconsin:  https://wisconsinfirstnations.org/ 

A link to the Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform (LCIPP) involving the inclusion of indigenes people across the world and their importance in mitigating climate change. https://unfccc.int/LCIPP

I’ve added a few stories that may be of interest to students on this idea of interconnectedness.  I found the introduction of wolfs to Yellowstone National Park particularly interesting. 


Link to quick movie on Wolf Reintroduction: https://youtu.be/ysa5OBhXz-Q




The Yellowstone wolf introduction website could also be an opportunity for the students to explore in interaction between the wolfs, bears, deer, trees, river banks, rivers, and beavers.  https://www.yellowstonepark.com/things-to-do/wolf-reintroduction-changes-ecosystem


From Edutopia.org [2]“Teaching about complex interconnected systems like global climate change can be difficult. There are many unseen pieces affecting the greater whole that young people (and many adults) might not understand. One approach to lifting this conceptual curtain for students is assigning the BrainPOP video on the topic prior to class, flipping the instruction. Try BrainPOP's Make-a-Map tool, which is an open-ended concept map, a playful assessment, to have students demonstrate interconnections.” https://www.edutopia.org/blog/climate-change-and-gbl-matthew-farber

This activity from cpalms.org for 6th graders is engaging, but it will just need to be beefed-up for high school level students.  For example: the PowerPoint showing the Giraffes, you can make more complex with identifying not only the Giraffes as the biosphere, but the grass too.  Giraffes will probably make tracks into the grass they walk, those tracks could lead to some erosion of the soil below the grass, again part of the geosphere, as are the rocks shown in the photo.   https://www.cpalms.org/Public/PreviewResourceLesson/Preview/128958

If you find the cpalms activities isn’t challenging enough for your students you can take a deep dive into Earths systems using the globe.gov site:  https://www.globe.gov/documents/356823/3b18c502-4ad6-4dec-9f38-2007e04510a5

Or NASA’s site: https://gpm.nasa.gov/education/sites/default/files/lesson_plan_files/Connect%20the%20Spheres/Connect%20the%20Spheres%20TG.pdf


The world pandemic of 2020 from COVID-19 slowed the economic engine of most economies with the effect of temporarily slowing the amount of pollution in air and water.  On the opposite end, more garbage was created from online purchases.  We humans affect our surrounding environment and it’s easy to see.  A few news articles on our link to the world listed below.  


From Newsweek: https://www.newsweek.com/coronavirus-major-impact-environment-co2-air-quality-animals-1493812

India improved visibility by Snopes: https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/himalayas-visible-india-30-years/

Bloomberg on unexpected results on environment by covid-19 https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-03-30/the-unexpected-environmental-consequences-of-covid-19

From The Milwaukee Journal  https://www.tmj4.com/news/coronavirus/as-covid-19-impacts-the-environment-in-the-short-term-environmental-leaders-call-for-long-term-plan

From ScienceAlert.com https://www.sciencealert.com/pandemic-side-effects-offer-glimpse-of-alternative-future-on-earth-day-2020


Climate Change and Game-Based Learning. (2020). Retrieved 28 April 2020, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/climate-change-and-gbl-matthew-farber