Exploring Environmental Change

Overview and Objectives


Earth's environment is always changing, from both natural cycles and as the byproduct of certain events or influences, including human activity. To help students understand environmental change on a global scale, this lesson leads them to first understand environmental relationships on a smaller scale. Students begin by discussing a familiar local environment and thinking about the different interrelationships that exist there. Next, they begin to think about how change affects an environment. They look closely at historical changes in one particular environment — the northern coast of Alaska. They also examine how recent environmental changes are affecting the residents of Barrow, Alaska, and how these changes may ultimately affect the global community. Students conclude by researching local environmental changes and thinking about what these changes might imply for the future.


  • Explore a familiar local environment and understand the connections in that environment
  • Examine the Arctic region as a case study in how natural and human-caused factors are currently changing an environment, and what these changes mean for the global community
  • Explore whaling in the Arctic region as a case study in historical environmental change and how such changes are studied
  • Research how human activity is causing local environmental changes and consider what these changes imply for the future