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Database Provider

Author

Kim Preshoff

Grades

6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Subjects

Science, Social Studies, Chemistry, Earth and Space Sciences

Resource Types

  • Videos, 4 minutes, 55 seconds, CC, Subtitles
  • Interactive Media
  • Articles and Websites
  • Assessments

Regional Focus

Global

What's a Smartphone Made Of?

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Synopsis
  • This animated video explains the prevalence of smartphones and that the process of making them has many environmental costs. 
  • Students will learn about the chemical elements that are used to make smartphones, the risks associated with mining these elements, the side effects of throwing these items away instead of recycling e-waste, and other impacts of smartphone production that promote climate change and habitat destruction. 
Teaching Tips

Positives

  • The text and visual aids in the video help reinforce important concepts. 
  • This resource touches on a topic that is relatable to many students and explores a wide range of smartphone implications, from the extraction of elements to justice issues surrounding e-waste. 

Additional Prerequisites

  • For students who are less familiar with metric measurements, teachers might do a quick conversion from kilograms to pounds to help students conceptualize the amount of precious metals used in smartphones. 
  • Students must create a free account in order to use the interactive features of the site. 

Differentiation

  • Because there are many important terms in the video, teachers could ask students to use a graphic organizer while they watch the video to take notes on specific vocabulary meanings such as precious metals, rare-earth elements, and open pit mining.
  • Before watching the video, teachers could ask students to reflect on their own associations with smartphones and what hidden costs they predict might be correlated with smartphones.
  • Other resources on this topic include this article about the impacts of cryptocurrency on the climate and this video that discusses the link between the Internet and energy usage. 
Scientist Notes
The products we buy often have hidden environmental costs that we do not think about. One such product is a smartphone, which requires rare-earth elements and precious metals (that are often mined and cause pollution) to function. Please note that multiple sources say that as of 2021 there are over 6 billion smartphone users in the world. This resource is recommended for teaching.
Standards
  • Science and Engineering
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • MS-ESS3-3 Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment.
      • MS-ESS3-4 Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth’s systems.
      • HS-ESS3-1 Construct an explanation based on evidence for how the availability of natural resources, occurrence of natural hazards, and changes in climate have influenced human activity.
      • HS-ESS3-3 Create a computational simulation to illustrate the relationships among management of natural resources, the sustainability of human populations, and biodiversity.
    • PS1: Matter and Its Interactions
      • MS-PS1-3 Gather and make sense of information to describe that synthetic materials come from natural resources and impact society.
  • English Language Arts
    • Reading (K-12)
      • R.6-8.12 Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.
      • R.9-12.7 Interpret words and phrases as they are used in various texts, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.
  • Social Studies
    • Geography
      • Geography 1 (F2): Students understand the geography of the United States and various regions of the world and the effect of geographic influences on decisions about the present and future by evaluating and developing a well-supported position about the impact of change on the physical and cultural environment.
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