Grade 4 Standard 6.0 Environmental Science Clarification: People

Grade 4
Standard 6.0 Environmental Science
People affect the environment. But the environment also affects people. This
indicator and objective investigate how Maryland’s environment determines how
humans live. Climate and soil type determine the kinds of plants that grow
naturally or are cultivated in an area. Plants, in turn, determine the distribution of
animal populations. The abundance and type of natural resources used by Native
Americans, European colonists, and now by us today, determines settlement
patterns, agricultural products, and industry.
This indicator can be easily integrated with Social Studies Standard 3.0
B. Environmental Issues
1. Recognize and describe that people in Maryland depend on, change and are affected
by the environment.
Objective 1: Identify and describe that human activities in a community or region are
affected by environmental factors
 Presence and quality of water
 Soil type
 Temperature
 Precipitation
The essence of this indicator is that there is, or can be, a cyclical effect when humans
make decisions or take actions. Human activities obviously take place within the context
of the local (and sometimes global) environment and those actions, deliberate or
otherwise, change the existing situation. The change can be for “better” or “worse” or be
debatable. In either case, the changed environment will become part of the new cycle in
which the humans who made the change must live. Theoretically, everybody should be
trying to make the world a better place, if for no other reason than it is self-benefiting.
As educators we should hope that the decisions made and actions taken are done so from
an informed position and also that improvements to the environment more than balance
any negative effects.
Presence and quality of water: One of the requirements for any life is the
sufficient supply of usable water. Desert conditions make life more difficult for
people (though not impossible; i.e., Las Vegas) and too much water (New
Orleans) can also be problematic, but procuring, using and getting rid of water is a
daily requirement. Human activities can pollute community water supplies and
add to community costs. Water Treatment Plants represent human efforts to
speed up the natural water (cleansing) cycle.
Soil type: Land is literally the foundation upon which humans build anything.
Land is zoned by people to restrict or allow specific kinds of constructions or
activities and part of the zoning process includes an analysis of the soil
ingredients (clay, sand, silt and associated chemicals). The efficient growing of
plants requires a knowledge of the physical, chemical and biological make-up of
the local soil. In large scale gardening or farming humans should be aware of the
changes affected in the soil by the annual production of specific plants or crops.
Particularly in agriculture, the harvesting of a crop also means the removal of the
nutrients that made that crop. Constant removal without replenishment is not
Temperature: Extremes of cold or hot temperatures usually restrict human
activities in a region. Most people are not interested in modifying the
environment beyond certain limits (normal air conditioning and heating
requirements) just to take up residence or work in a particular location. Like all
living things, people have optimal conditions (which includes a temperature
range) that will determine their ability or willingness to live somewhere. Areas
that have close to optimal temperatures tend to attract large numbers of people
(the demographic trend in the U.S. is toward southern states) and that increase in
population can cause environmental problems. Regional temperature can also
affect the other factors under discussion here; water availability, precipitation and
soil characteristics.
Precipitation: Rain (the receiving half of the water cycle) determines whether
plants will grow or be washed away, whether erosion needs to be controlled,
whether dams need to be built, whether streams will remain in their banks,
whether a vacation will be successful or not and hundreds of other conditions that
affect human activities. So far, humans are unable to control the weather, but it
needs to be considered every day. The other large factor to consider is that
precipitation originates in the atmosphere and therefore ingredients (pollution) in
the air can affect the quality of that precipitation. It would be better for the
environment if human activities did not contribute to acidic rain because, as
already mentioned, what goes around, comes around.