Unit Overview

Beth Buglio, Downington Area Schoot District

This unit connects everyday customs of Japanese life with steps toward sustainability. In an island country with urban population density seventeen times greater than American cities, efforts to live sustainably are a necessity. Japanese face challenges similar to ours as an urbanized, consumer culture, but the need to change lifestyle is more acutely felt.  The Japanese people bring to bear a highly cooperative sense of community, traditional values that deplore wastefulness, and new technological innovation. By studying how Japan faces the challenge of conserving water, energy, and material resources – including how to dispose of its waste – we may build concepts that will be useful in discussing our own issues of consumption and environmental impact. Interested teachers are encouraged to pick and choose among the activities in this unit, as there are resources that could be used to achieve learning outcomes at various levels.

Upper elementary social studies teachers could draw from the first three lessons in this unit to show students how the physical environment in Japan is connected with similarities and differences in daily activities in a Japanese home.   

High school social studies teachers could use this material to look more deeply into the ways in which Japanese people are changing their homes and their habits to conserve resources and reduce waste. The concerted effort of government and industry to reduce residential electricity consumption through cutting edge construction technology is highlighted. There is also material on the Japanese cultural values that are helpful in motivating resource conservation.

PA Standard Aligned System – Social Studies

  • Standard Area 7.3  Human Characteristics of Places and Regions
  • Standard Area 7.4  Interactions between People and the Environment

Lesson Topics:

  • Resource Consumption – Disposable Chopsticks
  • Trash and Recycling – Sorting Chart and Pick-up Schedule
  • Water Use – Bathrooms, Dishes, and Laundry
  • Home Energy Use – The Net Zero Energy Home
  • Cultural Values Extension – The Meaning of “Mottainai”

Resources

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