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MIT Environmental Solutions Initiative


9th, 10th, 11th, 12th


Science, Social Studies, Engineering, Computer Science

Resource Types

  • Interactive Media
  • Lesson Plans
  • Podcasts, 14 minutes, 03 seconds
  • Activity - Classroom
  • Worksheets

Regional Focus




Travel and Climate Change

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  • This lesson provides students with first-hand experience in sustainable city planning, transportation, and transit system design through group activities, research, and critical thinking exercises.
  • The podcast provides context, discussing the environment and climate-related issues with transportation in cities today while highlighting important solutions like complete streets, urban street design, and sustainable transport.
Teaching Tips


  • This resource includes all necessary teaching materials, an educator's guide on how to use the activities, resources for your own better understanding, and additional discussion questions.
  • This resource provides an easy-to-understand general overview of how city planning and transportation systems are linked and their critical role in causing and mitigating climate change.
  • Each activity can be used as a standalone or in sequence.

Additional Prerequisites

  • Once directed to the main case studies page in the first activity, students should use the search tool to find case studies relevant to the activity.
  • The first two activities require access to the internet for research.
  • Before starting the lesson, students should know that gas- and diesel-powered vehicles release carbon dioxide and how that contributes to climate change.


  • If it is not possible for all groups to access the internet, the third activity can be completed if the teacher prints out a map for each group.
  • These lessons can be used in social studies classes during lessons about urban policy-making and city planning, in environmental science classes when analyzing emissions by source and end-use, and in engineering classes during lessons about civil engineering applications.
  • Have students look into how their city plans to address emissions from transportation as a follow-up activity.
  • Have students research the top climate solutions, according to Project Drawdown, to assess the relative impact of transportation on addressing climate change.
Scientist Notes
This resource accentuates the role of the transportation sector in supporting the net-zero ambition and Paris goals. It compares transportation systems in developed and developing economies and also highlights the immediate, short-term and long-term strategies to switch to a low-carbon transportation system. As a matter of fact, it tasks students to design a multi-modal transit system for their cities or communities. This is commendable and suitable for learning. The podcast has been verified and there are no misconceptions in the resource. Hence, this is recommended for teaching.
  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • ETS1: Engineering Design
      • HS-ETS1-2 Design a solution to a complex real-world problem by breaking it down into smaller, more manageable problems that can be solved through engineering.
      • 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.
  • College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Standards
    • Dimension 2: Geography
      • D2.Geo.1.9-12 Use geospatial and related technologies to create maps to display and explain the spatial patterns of cultural and environmental characteristics.
      • D2.Geo.6.9-12 Evaluate the impact of human settlement activities on the environmental and cultural characteristics of specific places and regions.
    • Dimension 4: Taking Informed Action
      • D4.7.9-12 Assess options for individual and collective action to address local, regional, and global problems by engaging in self-reflection, strategy identification, and complex causal reasoning.
  • 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.9-10.5 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.
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.11-12.1 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 11-12 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.11-12.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence, conveying a clear and distinct perspective, such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning, alternative or opposing perspectives are addressed, and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and a range of formal and informal tasks.
    • Writing: History, Science & Technical Subjects (6-12)
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.11-12.1 Write arguments focused on discipline-specific content.
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