Students watch a video about the economic development of the Loess Hills region of Western Iowa, and learn about issues relating to sustainable development. They then create a list of policies that can help the region.
This lesson is part of "Great States: Iowa 9 | Activities for Grades 8–12." This unit is comprised of activities for 8th grade and high school students. In this unit, students will explore the environmental, historical, and political factors that characterize the state of Iowa.
SS.9-12.11: Use disciplinary and interdisciplinary lenses to understand the characteristics and causes of local, regional, and global problems; instances of such problems in multiple contexts; and challenges and opportunities faced by those trying to address these problems over time and place.
E.SS-Econ.9-12.14: Use cost-benefit analysis to argue for or against an economic decision.
G.SS-Geo.9-12.20: Assess the impact of economic activities and political decisions on urban, suburban, and rural regions.
- Video: Working Landscapes - Economic Development
- An interactive whiteboard, projector, or another type of screen to show videos to the class
- Class set of Mining the Loess Hills handout
- Ask students to think about the term “sustainable development,” a term that can be defined as an economic activity that is conducted without depletion of natural resources. What are some examples of sustainable and non-sustainable developments in their region of Iowa?
- Distribute the Mining the Loess Hills handout. Indicate that they will be watching a short video that will explore issues related to sustainable development in the Loess Hills of Western Iowa. As they watch, they should note the positives (benefits) and negatives (costs) of mining in the Loess Hills on the handout.
Play the video, Working Landscapes – Economic Development. [5:16]
- After the video, ask students to recall the three aspects of sustainable development exemplified by the Bed & Breakfast (social, ecological, and economic). Then, review the handout, categorizing each factor as social, ecological, or economic.
- Put students in small groups. Give them five to ten minutes to discuss the costs and benefits of mining the Loess Hills that they recorded on their handouts. Explain that they are performing what economists call a “cost-benefit analysis.” Ask them to draw an initial conclusion—based on their analysis—about whether they would allow mining.
- Next, remind students of the definition of sustainable development (instruction #1) and have them brainstorm and list ideas of how mining the Loess Hills might be accomplished in a sustainable manner to balance the costs and benefits.
Benefits of Mining:
Jobs & choices of jobs (social and economic)
Better standard of living (social and economic)
Natural resources for development (economic and ecological)
Costs of Mining:
Water pollution (ecological and social)
Lack of open spaces (ecological and social)
Threats to wildlife (ecological)
Lack of ecological diversity (ecological)
Decimating resources (ecological, social, economic)
Erosion of fragile hills (ecological and economic)
Sustainable Development Ideas:
Understand the geography to know best how to utilize and protect it simultaneously
Balance productivity with conservation/health of the resource (the family farm was the example in the video)
Local authorities (the county was mentioned in the video) could limit mining to certain part of the hills
Restrict mining on the Western side (the video mentioned that the west side was the most fragile/vulnerable)
Reduce wastage of the natural resource through better technology in mining
For more information and discussion questions, see the support materials on the video page.