12 The Anthropocene Education Program

Michael Long

About The Anthropocene Education Program

The Anthropocene Education Program (AEP) is a joint effort between The Anthropocene Project (TAP) and the Royal Canadian Geographical Society (RCGS) that is available through Canadian Geographic Education.  The AEP is an interactive tool for teaching the impact humans have on the planet and includes a documentary (Anthropocene: The Human Epoch 2019), short films, audio clips, augmented reality (AR), 360 virtual reality (VR), and interactive gigapixel photos. TAP was created by renowned documentarians Edward Burtynsky, Jennifer Baichwal, and Nick de Pencier (Manufactured Landscapes 2006, Watermark 2013) to provide engaging ways for learners to comprehend and connect with the scale of human-induced changes to the functioning of the planet. 



The AEP is founded on the research conducted by the Anthropocene Working Group (AWG), which is a scientific committee that seeks to gather evidence and recommend whether the Anthropocene Epoch should replace the Holocene Epoch as the current time frame on the Geologic Time Scale. At the moment, the Anthropocene is under consideration as a new Epoch by leading geological and scientific institutions around the world. However, for this geologic time change to become official, there need to be indicators to track that change. As the AWG has discovered, there are not only individual indicators of this human impact, but there are entire categories of indicators including Global Warming and Climate Change, Terraforming, Techno-Fossils, Anthroturbation, Extinction, and Extraction.

In this activity, we will learn about the history and science behind the Anthropocene Epoch, and the AWG and their 6 categories of anthropogenic harm to the planet. In doing so, we will also exemplify this harm by focusing on the category of Terraforming, which is the widespread transformation of the surface of the planet by human activity. Although there are numerous ways to access the AEP, such as on-loan classroom kits, we will utilize the free online resources. These materials include a 360 virtual reality video and interactive gigapixel photos taken by Edward Burtynsky that contain embedded visual triggers which reveal audio clips and short films about the particular category under study. When using geomedia projects in education, it is necessary to supplement the AEP’s content with instruction and external materials in order to achieve the desired learning outcomes. 


Watch the documentary: ‘Anthropocene: The Human Epoch’ (87 minutes). You can access the film through your Kanopy account. If you are having trouble gaining access, please follow these instructions.  We recommend that you watch the entire documentary, but please focus on the segment beginning at 12 minutes, titled ‘Carrara, Italy.’ If accessing Kanopy is not feasible, consider substituting the documentary for the video essay listed below in part 3.

360 Virtual Reality and Gigapixel Photo

Navigate through the interactive materials below, which are intended to provide an experiential account of one of the AWG categories. Although there are many AEP materials that elaborate on the various categories of harm outlined by the AWG, which you are free to explore (Techno-FossilsExtinctions), please focus on the AWG category of Terraforming, in particular.

360 VR Film Instructions:

1) Open the attached link;

2) Play the video (8 minutes), and use your mouse to scroll around the screen.

Note: If you do not have sound, click and unclick the volume icon.

Gigapixel Photo Instructions:

1) Open the attached link;

2) Locate all 9 triggers that are embedded into the photo, and watch, listen or read the information found in each trigger.

Note: There is a ‘Hint’ button in the menu at the top left of your screen to help locate triggers.

Supplemental Resources

Read, watch, and listen to the following material:

Guiding Questions

  1. What is the Geologic Time Scale?
  2. What are the time frame and key characteristics of the Holocene Epoch?
  3. What are the time frame and key characteristics of the Anthropocene Epoch?
  4. What is the Anthropocene Working Group (AWG)?
  5. What are the 6 categories of anthropogenic harm to the planet outlined by the AWG?


Canadian Geographic.  (n.d.). Anthropocene Education Program. https://anthropocene.canadiangeographic.ca/. Accessed November, 2023.

Long, M. J. (2022). Geomedia as a Pedagogical Tool: Toward Sustainability Competence.  In The Emerging Role of Geomedia in the Environmental Humanities. Edited by Terry, Mark Ph.D. and Michael Hewson, Ph.D., Rowman and Littlefield. https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781666913422/The-Emerging-Role-of-Geomedia-in-the-Environmental-Humanities

Geo-media: general description. (2021). Motivate and Attract Students to Science. MASS. http://www.mass4education.eu/geo-media. Accessed November, 2021.

Terry, M. (2020). The Geo-Doc: Geomedia, Documentary Film, and Social Change. Palgrave Macmillan.


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Engaging STEM: A Guide to Interactive Resources Copyright © 2021 by Michael Long is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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