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MIT Environmental Solutions Initiative


9th, 10th, 11th, 12th


Science, Chemistry, Physics, Earth and Space Sciences, Engineering

Resource Types

  • Podcasts, 10 minutes, 4 seconds
  • Articles and Websites
  • Lesson Plans
  • Worksheets

Regional Focus




Mined Materials and Climate Change

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  • This lesson about the climate impacts of mined materials, the recycling potential for commonly used elements, and innovations in steel and cement includes a lesson plan, a podcast, several articles, and discussion questions.
Teaching Tips


  • Students will be interested to learn about the materials that go into making a smartphone and how few of the elements can be recycled.
  • The student handout is wonderful and the data communication exercise will really get students thinking!

Additional Prerequisites

    • Students should have a good understanding of how greenhouse gases contribute to climate change.


    • Students could make charts with three columns to list what they know, what they want to know, and what they learned about the relationship between materials and climate change. At the end of the lesson, if there are any unanswered questions in the middle column, students could work in pairs to research the answers.
    • After reading an article from page 5 of the student pages, students could work in pairs to record short interview-style podcasts using the questions from page 4. 
    • For an SEL connection, have students think about other large statistics that may be hard to internalize and process, such as the number of people who are already affected by climate change or affected by deadly diseases.
    • Other resources on this topic include this ClimateScience course on industrial innovation, this video on producing sustainable concrete, and this TED-Ed video and lesson on concrete manufacturing.
    Scientist Notes

    This resource explains the effects of manufacturing products like steel, cement, cars, and other materials on the environment as well as ways to reduce the carbon footprint from the manufacturing sector by using technology, recycling, clean energy, and new materials for production. This resource is perfect for the classroom.

  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • HS-ESS3-2 Evaluate competing design solutions for developing, managing, and utilizing energy and mineral resources based on cost-benefit ratios.
    • ETS1: Engineering Design
      • HS-ETS1-3 Evaluate a solution to a complex real-world problem based on prioritized criteria and trade-offs that account for a range of constraints, including cost, safety, reliability, and aesthetics, as well as possible social, cultural, and environmental impacts.
    • PS2: Motion and Stability: Forces and Interactions
      • HS-PS2-6 Communicate scientific and technical information about why the molecular-level structure is important in the functioning of designed materials.
  • Common Core English Language Arts Standards (CCSS.ELA)
    • Reading: Science & Technical Subjects (6-12)
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.11-12.2 Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; summarize complex concepts, processes, or information presented in a text by paraphrasing them in simpler but still accurate terms.
    • Speaking & Listening (K-12)
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.11-12.5 Make strategic use of digital media (e.g., textual, graphical, audio, visual, and interactive elements) in presentations to enhance understanding of findings, reasoning, and evidence and to add interest.
  • Related Resources


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