Living in a Material World: Lessons on Commercialism, Consumption, and Environment

The average American spends over an hour each day reading, viewing, or listening to advertising five full years in a lifetime. Is excessive commercialism - manifested, in part, as ubiquitous product marketing - transforming Americans into consumers rather than citizens? In comparison to the massive resources that our society devotes to promoting consumption, very little is spent "selling" us on caring for our environment, being better citizens, and contributing to our communities. Gaining perspective on commercialism is a vital need for today's youth and tomorrow's citizens and leaders. These concerns were the motivation for the Exchange to develop a unique set of activities for students in grades 8-12. Living in a Material World: Lessons on Commercialism, Consumption, and Environment is a teacher's guide useful in the context of social studies, language arts, environmental studies, and media literacy classes. Living in a Material World was the first curriculum guide developed by the Exchange for national distribution. As with other materials developed by the Exchange for teacher use, input from educators was important throughout development, beginning with focus group brainstorming meetings and continuing with teacher review of written drafts. During the piloting phase, the activities were field tested by teachers in urban, suburban, and rural schools in five states across the U.S. The eight interactive lessons can be used alone or in flexible units. The write-up for each activity includes goals, notes on preparation or materials, suggested procedure, a two-page reading for both teachers and students, master copies of overhead transparencies and student handouts, and more. The guide also contains several pages of additional activity ideas as well as a listing of references and resources. Research and development of Living in a Material World was funded by the Tortuga Foundation, through the Center for the Study of Commercialism in Washington, DC. When that organization merged with the Center for Science in the Public Interest, also in DC, the latter began to distribute the materials, along with another national non-profit organization, the Center for a New American Dream.