Unit 3 of the Grade 9 Geography course focuses on natural resources. We use a “simple” can of tomatoes to explore what natural resources are, how humans use them and how we use energy resources at every stage of production. The class had to brainstorm the production steps required to start with a tomato seed and end up with a can of tomatoes sitting on a supermarket shelf.
Once we brainstormed the steps in production, we traced back which natural resources were used in each step. As a class, we investigated several of these in depth. For example, if you want to put the tomatoes in the can, you first have to make the can. What natural resource would you gather? What impact might gathering that natural resource have on the environment? What energy natural resource would be required to manufacture the can? What resources are used in transporting the can?
At the end of the lesson, students started to understand that there are hundreds of steps in the production of even a simple item, and that resources and energy are used in every step. Ultimately this led us to a larger discussion of how to reduce the amount of natural resources and energy that we use in our daily lives.