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20 October 2014
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Key Stage 3, Citizenship - Where to shop?

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Lesson Plan:

Curriculum links

Unit 21 - People and the environment, Section 1.


Shopping CentreEngage students with a topic of an environmental nature that is relevant to them (as individuals) on a local level, but with global implications. Students should consider whether their family's shopping habits have any lasting effects on the environment.

In depth

While the range of work is potentially huge, areas of discussion may include:

  • Which is less environmentally damaging? Visiting an out-of-town supermarket, with everything under one roof -or- several local shops?
  • Do supermarkets favour the big producers over small local farms, if so, why?
  • What are food miles (see Q&A) and why are they important?
  • Is it more environmentally friendly to grow organic or inorganic food?
  • What are fairtrade goods (see Q&A)? Do we have a responsibility to support fairtrade in less economically developed countries?

There are many individuals and organisations with differing views to consider, for example: The European Fertilizer Manufactures Association and Garden Organic. How big a part does bias play in the views and opinions expressed either vocally or in print?

What are the views of the students? Differing views may spark debate and will raise awareness. Pre-debate research can be carried out both in class and in the local area.

Saving waste Q&A

What single product would be ideal for highlighting the impact supermarkets have had on local trade?

Milk, more specifically the relationship between milk production and the supermarkets, it raises a lot of contentious issues.

What is fair trade?

Where the producer is given what's considered a fair price for his goods rather than a price dictated by the (international) buyer.

Who would put forward the case for organic farming over inorganic farming and vice versus?

The Soil Association and Garden Organic support organic farming. The Fertilizer Manufacturers association support inorganic farming.

What are food miles?

Food miles are a measure of the distance food has travelled from the manufacturer to your plate. Generally, the larger the distance, the greater the damage caused to the environment.

Suggested activities

Retailers and Suppliers

Answer the following questions on retailers/suppliers:

  • Are there any specialist shops nearby (ex. bakery, green grocers, butchers etc.)?
  • Is there a supermarket nearby, more than one?
  • What about a farmers market and if so, how often does it run?
  • How far do you need to travel to visit the above retailers/suppliers?
  • Is there a difference in cost for common items like milk, eggs and bread when comparing the supermarket to specialist shops?

Conclude by answering the following question:

  • Is it more financially and environmentally friendly to visit individual stores or to pay the supermarket a single visit?

Divide the class into two groups, one group for organic food and the other against. Allow each group to formulate their argument by researching the topic. To get you started, organic food is more environmentally friendly than inorganic, but inorganic food is cheaper to produce.

Food miles

Ask each student to bring in food packaging from home. Using a world map you can create a fantastic display to identify where certain foods are sourced from and the distance they've travelled to reach the UK.

Discuss which of these products could be produced in the UK, why it's viable to transport them over such large distances and whether we really need all foods all year round. What are the environmental consequences?


Discuss the difference in price between fairtrade goods and their conventional competition - is it worth paying extra?

Single out newspaper articles covering the topic of fairtrade and the differences in how the same topic is treated by different publications. Use this opportunity to discuss the valid evidence. This would be good preparation for students taking Science at Key Stage 4, who assess Science in the news.

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