Welcome to Earth Matters: Studies for Our Global Future, 5th edition, a curriculum that develops students’ understanding of the interdependence between people and the environment in an increasingly global society. There are a variety of ways to use Earth Matters. Using the full curriculum provides an in-depth understanding of the environmental and social issues facing our global family. Alternatively, each unit, reading, or activity can stand alone to emphasize one particular topic.

While Earth Matters originally debuted in 1991, this is the first edition to be produced online. The new online format has many new features and a number of new activities and resources that were not available in previous editions.

Getting Started

The curriculum can be viewed from a desktop or tablet/handheld device using any web browser.  The only software you will need is a program to read Portable Document Format files (PDFs), such as Adobe Reader. To enter the site, simply enter the code you receive at the time of purchase and create a user account. On subsequent visits, enter your username and password from any of the site’s pages in order to gain full access to the kit.

To get started, select any of the 15 thematic units from the Home page. Within each unit, view the unit activities as well as the Student Reading and Case Study(ies). Each activity and reading is a PDF that can be saved for offline use or to digitally share with students. Materials can also be printed for easy distribution to students or colleagues.  An overview (description, subjects, and skills) of the kit’s 44 activities can be found in the Summary of Activities chart located in the Teacher’s Guide.

Subject Areas

The issues covered in Earth Matters are interdisciplinary, resulting in materials that are highly cross-curricular. The readings and activities enhance knowledge and skills in social sciences (geography, economics, government, world/U.S. history), science (environmental and biology), math and language arts. Earth Matters materials are designed to be easily integrated into existing curriculum and to supplement both state and national level standards. Each activity PDF includes a list of relevant courses and the Activities by Subject link found in the top navigation bar provides a list of all activities organized by course.

Grade Level

While the readings and activities are designed for students in grades 9-12, they can be easily adapted for use with college students, especially in introductory courses on environmental and global issues. Earth Matters is also a perfect pairing for Advanced Placement courses, especially in Human Geography and Environmental Science.

Accommodating Learner Needs

The activities in Earth Matters are written to accommodate a variety of learning styles. The emphasis on hands-on, experiential learning engages students of different strengths and abilities and especially lends itself to an inclusive classroom. The mixture of visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning experiences also make the activities accessible to ESL students and those with language-based learning differences. The provided Follow-up Activities on each lesson can serve as an excellent extension of learning for GT students. The activity format is clearly listed on the Activity Detail Page and the method is stated in the side bar of each activity PDF.


Earth Matters activities are designed to develop a number of student skills, ranging from basic process skills including lab preparation, estimating, and graphing to higher order skills like data analysis, researching, developing questions, scientific modeling, comparing and evaluating, debating, strategic planning and conflict resolution. Activities reinforce the Framework for 21st Century Learning, preparing students to be informed critical thinkers in our increasingly interconnected world. Relevant skills are clearly identified in the side bar of each activity PDF.

Thematic Units

Earth Matters is divided into 15 thematic units and each unit includes the following materials:

  • Student Background Reading: Provides an overview of the issue, including relevant charts and images. Readings are written with high school students in mind but also provide good background for the teacher. Vocabulary words are bolded throughout the readings and can be looked up in the Unit Glossary.
  • Case Study: Explores one aspect of the issue in more depth or highlights a successful program aimed at addressing a specific issue.
  • Activity Lesson Plans: There are 2-5 lessons in each unit. Each lesson is hands-on, interdisciplinary, and linked to both national and state level standards. Clicking on the activity name takes you to the Activity Detail page with specific information on that activity and a link to view the PDF.
  • Glossary: Vocabulary words are bolded throughout the activities and readings. A list of the unit vocabulary words can be found in the Teacher’s Guide.
  • Sources for Further Exploration: A unit-by-unit list of print, digital, and media resources meant to supplement both teacher and student learning on the topics covered in Earth Matters.
  • Teacher’s Guide: Includes links to all of the kit’s supplemental materials (graphics and Case Study readings), as well as information on the Population Education program and professional development workshops.

Activity Detail Pages

Each activity PDF can be viewed from an individual Activity Page. There are 44 activities in the curriculum and each can be used independently or as part of a larger unit.

Each activity page includes the following information:

  • A short description of the activity
  • Button to view the activity PDF
  • Time required (includes preparation time)
  • Relevant subject areas/courses
  • Activity format (small group hands-on, whole class discussion, etc.)
  • Related readings: background readings and case studies to enhance student knowledge
  • Related graphics: meaningful infographics related to the topic
  • Related lessons: links to other Earth Matters lessons that complement the activity

Activity PDFs

The activity PDFs are linked for easy viewing, but can also be easily saved to your computer for offline use or for electronic sharing with students.

Each activity includes the following components:

  • Introduction: Provides background information for both teachers and students on the topics covered in the activity
  • Materials: Outline materials required to complete the activity. Most items are common household or classroom supplies.
  • Objectives: Lists the desired, measurable outcomes for student learning.
  • Skills: Includes both subject specific skills (e.g. interpreting line graphs) and higher order processing skills (e.g. comparing and evaluating)
  • Discussion questions: Range from basic recall to high level evaluation and analysis. Questions stimulate critical thinking and assess student understanding.
  • Assessment: Ideas for formative assessments that provide feedback on student learning.
  • Follow-up Activities: Presents ideas for ways to extend student learning; a great resource for working with GT students.