Empowering students with skills to take actions, both individually and collectively, to impact environmental problems in positive ways is a necessary step toward building "earthwise" attitudes and saving biodiversity.
Organizing group projects and encouraging individual choices which lessen "ecological footprints" may enable students to identify relationships, organize information from research, use critical thinking skills, problem solve, apply information, practice cooperation and affect real life situations.
Projects can easily be cross-curricular and are a nice extension to the Focus on an Endangered Species culminating project.
This strategy is especially suited to teachers that enjoy the challenge of a long-term, multi-disciplinary project. It cuts across many academic areas and touches upon many national curriculum standards. Some examples are below:
Social Studies (see http://www.ncss.org/st andards/)
Strand 10: Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of the ideals, principles, and practices of citizenship in a democratic republic.
Language Arts (see http://www.n cte.org/about/over/standards)
Standard 7: Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and non-print texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
Technology (see http://www.iste.org/)
NT.K-12.6: Technology problem-solving and decision- making tools: (1) Students use technology resources for solving problems and making informed decisions; (2) Students employ technology in the development of strategies for solving problems in the real world.
- Research materials for understanding selected environmental issues including human impacts (web-based, library, newspapers, videos)
- List of environmental organizations
- List of sample projects to benefit the environment
- "Green" journals
- Materials specific to group project selected
- Introduce the term "ecological footprint." Ask students if this term holds any meaning for them. Facilitate discussions around ways in which our individual actions leave footprints on the environment. Actions considered could include choices regarding transportation, consumerism, energy consumption, waste disposal, use of pesticides and other chemicals, food selection, land management and agriculture. Students may need time to research the impact of certain actions. Continue the discussion by posing the question: "Do we have a responsibility to lessen our footprint and/or speak out about controversial issues?"
- As age appropriate, discuss the idea of "environmental ethics" or consider the meaning of quotations such as: "All things are connected"; "Think globally, act locally"; "The earth does not belong to us, we belong to the earth"; "Never underestimate the power of one individual"; "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. In fact it is the only thing that ever has."
- Brainstorm ideas and research ways each individual can make choices, on a daily or weekly basis, which benefit the environment. Categorize the positive actions into things that can be done at school, at home, while shopping, when traveling, etc. Each student could commit to adopting particular earth friendly practices, encourage each other on a daily basis and share successes periodically. A class "green code of conduct" could be created.
- Cooperative group projects can be highly motivational and influential. Allow the class to select an environmental issue towards which they would like to take action as a group. Begin by having students list issues of particular interest which may relate directly to a species and habitat they have studied. Students may present persuasive speeches as part of the classes selection process.
- After a decision has been reached, address the question "What can we do to help?" Depending upon the nature of the issue (global or local), there may be a limited number of suitable actions which the class can undertake to impact the situation. Letter writing, public information or fund raising campaigns may be the most feasible. An additional approach could involve identifying parallel issues on a local level which may broaden the possibilities - wildlife habitat restoration, waste reduction and water quality are good examples.
- Students will need to thoroughly research the issue. Invite guest speakers, search the internet, collect news articles, monitor TV news, interview experts to get up-to-date information. Contact environmental groups for further information and "action" ideas. Some relevant groups are listed under attachments.
- Once students are well-informed, the class should set a realistic goal and devise a plan of action. What will they like to see change as a result of the project? What are the specific objectives that will help them reach the overall goal? List the tasks that need to be accomplished to meet each objective. Who will be responsible for each task? Will support from others in the school or community need to be solicited? Will money need to be raised to complete the project? Creating a wildlife attraction garden, for example, will require a suitable location, tools, seeds, soil enrichment, a water source and knowledgeable helpers. When will the project begin and end? List ideas for ways to publicize and generate support. Describe criteria for measuring success.
- Once prepared, begin the project and let others know what is happening. Post photographs of students working on the project to websites and bulletin boards. Help students feel proud of their accomplishments and encourage other classes to embark on projects of their own.
- Challenge students to involve their families in adopting earth-friendly practices.
- Challenge the entire school to adopt new practices.
- Challenge students to approach school system administrators or local community leaders about issues and actions towards which they feel strongly.
- As the project is completed, guide students in assessing its success. Did they accomplish their goals and objectives? What worked? What didn't? Why? Survey parents and community members involved about their views. If appropriate, evaluate how students planned for sustainability of the project.
- Have students keep "green journals" to track their accomplishments - both individually and as a team.
- Have students do presentations to other classes and/or schools about their "green code of conduct" or action projects.
- Teacher or student created rubric
- Recognizing a need for information
- Identification and location of appropriate resources
- Reading required for research
- Extracting relelvant information from a variety of sources
- Considering content validity
- Organization written and spoken thought
- Planning for action
- Evaluation of product
Author: Hamlin, Joy