Gulf Oil Spill Teaching Resources

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Image by Earthprints via Flickr

Windows to the Universe – from the educators at Windows to the Universe, a compilation of classroom activities for teachers and educators who wish to address oil spills and the effects of oil spills with students.

From the National Environmental Education Week newsletter:

  • Information on Bird Impacts from the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill from the American Bird Conservancy
  • NWF Eco-Schools Special Report from the NWF (with and amazing perspective on the size of the spill –by looking as if it were in your own neighborhood)
  • Gulf Oil Spill Interactive Resources from the Smithsonian Institute
  • The Physics Of Oil Spills – interactive feature on MSNBC’s website provides an overview of the physics behind an oil spill
  • GOMEEN– Gulf Of Mexico Alliance Environmental Education Network has several links to lesson plans on oil spills
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    Florida’s Great Senator- The Oldest Cypress Tree in North America

    Senator CypressEvery young student can tell you what are the biggest theme-park attractions in Orlando.  But probably very few can tell you about Big Tree Park, home Florida’s oldest and most distinguished resident, the Senator bald cypress tree. Located in Longwood, FL , the Senator majestically looms high as if he could touch the clouds, above a land blanketed with way too many strip malls and concrete.

    Big Tree Park, part of the Spring Hammock Preserve is a nice reprieve from the modernized world and also a nice glimpse back at what Florida’s past must have looked like. Its amazing that the Senator still exists and wasn’t a casualty along the road of Florida’s development frenzy. (In fact, cypress wood was highly prized  for building by early Floridians, as the heartwood is famous for its resistance to insects and decay.  This characteristic is only found in very old cypress trees.)

    The Senator has the the distinction of being the oldest cypress tree in North America and also the largest tree of any species east of the Mississippi River. Its estimated to be 3500 years old,  and according to Wikipedia, the fifth oldest tree in the world. It is 125 feet (38 m) tall, with a trunk diameter of 17.5 feet (5.3 m). As you can read from the dedication plaque, the Seminole Indians and other Native Americans Indians used the tree as a landmark. In 1925, a hurricane destroyed the top of  the tree, reducing its height by 47 feet.

    Continue down the boardwalk and you will meet the Senator’s companion, Lady Liberty, a mere 2,000 years young.

    Park admission is free and it is usually not very busy. I like to visit the Senator in different seasons. Its like returning to see an old friend, there is always something different and interesting going on.

    Its almost impossible to capture the massiveness of the Senator cypress in a photo. To appreciate it, you will just have to visit in person (about a half hour drive from downtown Orlando).


    Map Symbol Maps with Driving Directions [Seminole County Disclaimer]
    Location: West of U.S. 17-92  at 761 General Hutchinson Parkway Longwood, FL 32750
    Hours: The park hours are 8:00 a.m. to sunset seven days a week 363 days a year. (Note:Parks Close at 5pm on the day before Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and New Year’s Eve.)The park is closed for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
    Contact: 407-665-2001

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    Plus 10 Reasons to Plant (Native to Your Area) Trees in Your Neighborhood

    1. Trees Give us Clean Fresh Air– Trees absorb carbon dioxide and turn it into oxygen. Every mature urban tree removes up to 26 pounds of carbon dioxide and releases 13 pounds of oxygen into the air each year.

    2. Trees Cool Our Earth– Trees cool the earth by giving us shade and by transpiring water through their leaves. Trees are known as carbon sinks because they remove the heat-trapping greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide from the air and store it.

    3.Trees Act As Wind Break in a Storm or Hurricane-Trees that are planted and maintained correctly, serve as barriers against strong winds.

    4. Trees Clean Our Water– Roots absorb and remove pollutants from the water that recharges our drinking water aquifer.

    5. Trees Reduce Storm Runoff and Protect Against Topsoil Erosion– Humans need fertile topsoil to grow crops. The roots of trees hold onto the soil and save it from erosion.

    6. Trees Provide Habitat for Native Wildlife and Migrating Birds– Trees provide nectar, nuts sees and fruit for wildlife to eat. Trees also provide another component of habitat, shelter and a place to raise young.

    7. Trees Provide Food For Humans As Well.

    8. Trees Increase Property Values and Add Beauty to the Landscape– Well cared for trees add 5-7% to the sale price of a home.

    9. Trees Contribute to Community Pride and Peace– Urban communities with trees are more peaceful, quiet, and cooler and act as a deterrent to crime.

    10. Without Trees There Would Be No Humans– Trees play a vital role in our planet’s ecosystems. The Amazon rainforest has been named the “Lungs of the Planet” because it provides the essential service of recycling carbon dioxide into oxygen and  produces nearly 20% of the world’s oxygen.

    More info on Trees:

    Florida Urban Forestry Council

    Treelink.org

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    Living Beyond Earth’s Budget & Happiness

    Thanksgiving is a recognizable holiday to most Americans but can anyone remember the event that fell on September 25th of this year?

    September 25th was Earth Overshoot Day and marked the day when humanity begins living beyond its ecological means.

    According to the Global Footprint Network, collectively at the present time, humanity is using 1.4 planets worth of resources. Many people in western countries like the US  are using four to five planets worth of resources. Since we only have one planet, I want to pause here for a moment because living beyond our means in this context doesn’t mean just paying some interest on a credit card. It is, quite literally, taking more than our fair share. In order to be sustainable, civilization must meet current needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.

    But even today, we have over a billion people on the planet whose basic needs are not being met. While those people need to consume more, others are literally drowning in ‘stuff’. Annie Leonard used the term “stuff-saturated”  to describe this phenomenon in her presentation to the Bioneers Conference this year.

    The Environmental Protection Agency reports the United States produces approximately 220 million tons of garbage each year. That’s an average of five pounds of garbage for every man woman and child in the USA. But, guess what?  Studies show Floridians generate almost double the national average of garbage – creating nine pounds of municipal solid waste each day.

    What you throw out is only part of the story. In order to get one can of garbage, approximately 70 garbage cans of waste were created upstream in manufacturing the products we throw away. Looking at this system, it becomes painfully obvious that we are trashing the planet.

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    Image via Wikipedia

    So does having all this stuff make us happy? The studies show a resounding no!  The Happy Planet Index measures happiness over resource consumption or the efficiency that a country converts natural resources into human well-being. In 2009, out of 143 countries, the US ranked 114th, ahead of just a few African nations. The happiest country on the planet this year was Costa Rica, which is a country that notably has no standing army.

    Another Happiness Index was just published this month by Mainstreet.com. It found Florida ranked dead last in happiness of Americans by state. Is it a coincidence that Florida showed up as both the top producer of waste and the bottom of the Happiness Index?

    Next time we will explore some alternatives to going crazy at the mall this holiday season as I pack for my holiday in Costa Rica.

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