To practice the skill of reasoned decision making, and to encourage students to anticipate the consequences of their choices.
Students should get into the habit of considering alternatives and their consequences. The concept of trade-offs should show up in many parts of the curriculum.
In this lesson, students practice balancing different interests involved in solving social problems, looking for the most realistic solution based on the advantages and disadvantages. They also consider the concept of compromise.
Preview the site used in the lesson, Little Planet Times, and print out pages ahead of time, if necessary.
To introduce the notion of social trade-offs, begin by having students engage in some form of classroom decision making, perhaps related to a classroom rule, outing, or pet.
Students should look at all of the possible options, as well as the consequences of each. Have students look at the advantages and disadvantages of each option, and discuss the notion of compromise.
Ask questions such as:
- Is there a solution that would allow many people to get what they want?
- Would you need to give up one thing in order to get something else?
This article tells the tale of a town council meeting at which the Little Planet Creatures have gathered to vote on whether or not to tear down a local hill. The hill is preventing one of the councilmembers from arriving to meetings on time, as he must struggle to climb up the large hill. The councilmembers are divided on the issue, trying to balance the needs of their friend with the potential impact on the environment.
Divide the class into four teams and assign each team one of the four concilmembers. Pass out the Councilmember Information Sheet. Ask students to use this student sheet to gather information about their councilmember. Once students have gotten this information, bring the class back together to do some role playing so students will have a chance to discuss the issue. In addition to the questions included in the article, ask students:
- What are some of the possible consequences of tearing down the hill?
- What might happen to the animals that live in the area?
- The creatures on the council all have very different opinions. Is there something that they can do so that many people get what they want?
You could assess students' decision making and reasoning skills by having them participate in a class debate.
Students could send a message to the Little Planet Times by clicking on the "write" link toward the bottom of the text. By doing so, their recommendations, along with other students’ recommendations, will be posted on the site.
Geoguide: Dams, from National Geographic, allows students to contemplate why—and how—people build dams, and explore the good and bad impacts a dam may have on a community.
Students can practice their decision-making skills even more by going to Amazon Interactive: Coffee and Conservation, from Education Web Adventures. In this activity, students can become Quichua farmers who must choose what to plant on their land. They can find out if the decisions they make are able to sustain their family.