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General Information
Teacher: Pete Kohnen
Grade Level: 11 and 12
Number of Students: 25
Unit: Ethics and Environmental Impact of Humans
Lesson 1: Tragedy of the Commons Day 1
Approximate Length: 60 min

Targeted Benchmarks:
Students will:
Develop an understanding of what the Tragedy of the Commons is
Understand how TOC affects the environment
Begin to understand the difficulty between balancing human demand with

NGSS Addressed:

HS-ESS3-2: Evaluate competing design solutions for developing, managing, and

utilizing energy and mineral resources based on cost-benefit ratios

HS-ESS3-3: Create a computational simulation to illustrate the relationships among

management of natural resources, the sustainability of human populations, and

II. Summary of Lesson

This lesson will be a major carrier of the theme uniting the entire semester. It is important
that we understand that, on this planet, we have a finite amount of resources. Balancing
the demand for those needs with the safety of our planet is a paramount concern for

Students will have a bellwork question to answer and then well have a brief discussion
of student responses.

The students will be given a class activity / demonstration where they will compete for a
common resource and then harvest a common resource with some reasonable restrictions.
I would use this explanation with some modifications:
1)Still use the gold fish as what is being harvested
2) Pay students with candy, not money
3) The fishermen would be competing for their team so that all the students would be
involved, not just the people on the lake.

After the activity is done to completion, we would have a discussion about what had
happened. I would ask the first group of fishermen why they so aggressively harvested
their fish in the first phase instead of waiting for when they would receive more payment.

We would discuss whether their team mates agreed with that approach to the situation.
We would then do the same for the phase 2 fishermen.

After the discussion comes to a close, I will give them a question to consider and respond
to. Think of an example of the tragedy of the commons (well regulated or not) and
propose what could/ couldve been done or if you think it is being handled appropriately,
why do you think that?

The response to this will be the beginning of tomorrows lesson.

III. Sequence of Activities

1 Bellwork What do you think the Tragedy of the Commons is? (4 min)

2 Bellwork debrief Discuss students thoughts on TOC. No confirmation or rebuffs

here. (6 min)

3 Class Activity -

game/ Use candy instead of money. (20 min)

4 Student led discussion (have some extension questions prepared in case discussion
falters) (25 min)

5 Closing question/ Journal work Think of an example of the tragedy of the commons
(well regulated or not) and propose what could/ couldve been done or if you think it is
being handled appropriately, why do you think that? (tomorrows opening question)
(remainder of class time)

IV. Instructional Standards Comments

High Order Thinking: In this exercise, the students will draw connections between the
resource in the activity (fish) and other resources (land, air, water, minerals, etc)
Additionally, they will begin to be able to judge the merits of environmental policies
based on the idea of the common good versus human demand.

Deep Knowledge: This lesson seeks to connect the students to the struggle of balancing
the needs of the people with the needs of the planet. The game play invests the students in
the concept of human needs and then exposes them to the risks they accept when they
overweigh their needs to that of the environment. It will also allow them to relate to how
regulation of the use of natural resources allows for a more sustainable, although still
limited, use of a resource.

Substantive Conversation: The discussion will begin AFTER the activity. The
discussion will first be focused on the first group of participants and why they reacted the
way they did. The discussion will then move to the second group and their motivations

and feelings. We will then talk about how the concept of the Tragedy of the Commons
relates to ecology, environmental science and the ethics of using common resources.

Connections to the World Beyond the Classroom: It is important for the students to
develop an understanding of the needs of others (empathy) and balancing them
against other needs. Additionally, the Tragedy of the Commons is a concept adapted
to economics, so this lesson will go well beyond just protecting important, limited
resources. Connections to current events will be made in the next lesson plan.