Unit Overview

A Comparison between Japan and the United States

Susan Feldman, State College Area School District

Overall Purpose: The students will be introduced to the Japanese environment and will compare it to the United States. The children will have the opportunity to discover ways in which humans are affecting the land in both places. Students will be encouraged to brainstorm ways in which they can make a difference to reverse the damage that's been created.


Lesson 1 – Introduction of Japan:

Lesson Summary: In this first lesson, the students will use the National Geographic site and a note collector to gain general information on where Japan is located, the names of the islands and major landforms, nearby seas and oceans, the people and the culture.

Lesson 2 – The United States of America vs. Japan - A Comparison:

Lesson Summary: In the second lesson, the students will use the National Geographic site and a note collector to gain general information on where the United States is located, the names of the bordering countries, the major landforms and national parks, nearby seas and oceans, the people and the culture. During this lesson the children begin to recognize some distinct similarities and differences between the country of Japan and our country. A venn diagram is constructed to show those comparisons.

Lesson 3 – Humans vs. the Environment:

Lesson Summary: In the third lesson, the students revisit the basic needs of all humans to survive. Then, a good deal of discussion follows on the various wants of humans over time. A conversation about how these wants and needs of these two countries has negative consequences. Among them, pollution and waste. This lesson is a SmartBoard interactive lesson which also has a link to a news article about Japan's burning of their trash.

Lesson 4 – The Great Pacific Garbage Patch:

Lesson Summary: In the fourth lesson, the students will be reminded about the common ocean, the Pacific, between the United States and Japan.  They will watch a video on: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch and they will see the garbage problem that's occurring and how it is worsening. Then, students will work in groups of 3-4 to discuss four types of pollution: air pollution, water pollution, soil pollution, and light/sound pollution. They will chart ideas of what things in our environment cause this pollution and they will discuss why this is a problem.

Lesson 5 – Other Environmental Issues:

Lesson Summary: During this lesson, the children will learn that sometimes, it's not people who affect the environment or do the polluting, but a combination of people and "natural disasters". The children will watch a video about the 2011 Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan. After watching this, the discussion that follows would be about how these weather disasters can cause problems with humans wants and needs. Obviously, Japan is focused on getting their needs met after this disaster. Then, the children will read a 2 year update from the Salvation Army on how the rebuilding effort is going. The children will create Donation Posters, talk to classes about helping by bringing coins/money in, delivering money jars, and after a month of collecting, donating to the Salvation Army World Service Office to help Japan.

Lesson 6 – Chemicals Destroy the Environment:

Lesson Summary: During this lesson, the children will read about Minamata Bay and the disease that affected so many Japanese people. The students will learn about mercury poisoning and how the Chisso Corporation dumped chemical waste for years into the bay. The children will write  a persuasive letter to the Chisso Corp. encouraging them to find alternative ways to deal with their chemical waste.

Lesson 7 – What Choices Can We Make?:

Lesson Summary: During this lesson, the children will pull all of the information together about Japan and the United States and our responsibility to take better care of the environment. We will chart ideas that we feel we can do to make a difference. This will be the wrap up of the fact that we have one world and we need to really think about our pros and cons as we develop things in the future. What can we do with the damage that's been done already?

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