Section 5: Developing attitudes about our environmental impact

Earlier sections in this module considered how living things are adapted to survive in their environment. The great human adaptive advantage, developed here in Africa, is the ability to think of and make tools to cope with changing environments and to learn new things. For example, the earliest evidence of learning how to make and use fire is found in South Africa. (See Resource 1: The ‘Out of Africa’ theory of human origins for further information about early humans.)

In Case Study 1, a teacher uses artefacts of human life from thousands of years ago, found on a local sand dune, to develop attitudes of respect for what early humans could do. This is one way of starting this topic with your pupils; you could also use some of the background materials in Resource 1. Make sure you give a purpose to this activity; ask pupils to find one idea that is new to them or to summarise the main ideas in a way suitable for younger pupils, perhaps with some pictures.

In Activity 1, you lead your pupils through thoughtful discussion that will encourage them to seek more evidence from a range of different sources.

Case Study 1: Inspiring pupils with shards, stones and bones

Alan is a teacher who grew up spending holidays on the coast of South Africa. Here, when the wind blows away sand in the dunes, it uncovers places long hidden. You can find broken parts of very ancient pottery and marvel at how it was made and decorated. You can find parts of stone that have been chipped and shaped to make tools for cutting, hammering and even grinding. There are also bits of bone that show evidence of having been shaped into awls (pointed tools) for piercing leather, or cut into tubes as beads.

Sometimes Alan takes his pupils there. When pupils hold these things and imagine people thousands of years ago, and the time and trouble they took to make these tools, he can see the sense of wonder in their faces.

For more details on looking at artefacts see Resource 2: Interrogating artefacts.

Activity 1: Imagining the deep human past

First read Resource 3: History of technology to yourself to give you some ideas about early technologies.

Now, sit your pupils around you. Ask them to close their eyes and imagine themselves back in the very distant past. They are a family of hunter-gatherers, living off the land, making their own tools and seeing to their own needs for survival. Tell them to keep their eyes shut and to hold the answers in their heads to the questions you ask (later you will talk about the answers).

Ask them to imagine themselves waking. Where did they wake up? What kept them warm and safe in the night? What are they wearing? Who made it for them and how? What do they eat and drink? How is it prepared and stored? Take them briefly through the probable activities of the day. Focus on the tools, implements and other objects used.

Record your subsequent discussion in the form of a mind map titled ‘The earliest technologies for a good life’. (See Key Resource: Using mind maps and brainstorming to explore ideas [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .)

Section 5: Developing attitudes about our environmental impact

2. Discussing environmental issues in groups