|I strongly believe that the study of environmental topics combined with actual actions to better our environment should become one of the foundation courses in all our schools. We have placed great importance on the sciences and social issues that may or may not become our student’s bread and butter, but we continue to neglect the reality that our planet is the basis of all our lives whatever our passions, and that unless we learn how to take care of our resources and surroundings which in today’s world means “the world” we may be unable to enjoy the fruits of our learning in school or in any other context.
Our students today were born with computers, plastics, fast food and travel to space. They do not see how these “new” developments in our human history could be the very tools of our demise, or how we may be able to ameliorate for the short term, and improve for the long term the fate of our species in this beautiful planet.
Regardless of our actions, I believe that planet Earth will continue to exist. Our fate, and that of all the living things on the planet, however is not so certain. Already there have been five mass extinctions of almost all living things in the planet’s history. Are we but the hand that will create the sixth extinction? Will we survive it? Even if we do, will our bodies and minds be able to benefit and progress from our continued abuse of the planet resources?
There are many theories and studies about how to better our planet, many of which are “learned” in school. However, we still do not have the courage in schools to make the connections that are necessary for change between our actions and habits and the realities of environmental degradation. We teach our students about rain forest destruction, but we fail to connect that destruction to our consumption of forest products or our treatment of the people and countries where those forests are. We encourage our students to donate money to charity organizations, but we fail to instill in them a true sense of civic duty and love for nature and all the people and things of the world. We make fundraising activities that bring to light the many environmental issues of today, but we use many of the resources we are trying to save in the making of the fundraising. We must do better if we are to truly make a difference.
Not only must we change our curriculum to include actual environmental experience and activism, but we must change ourselves and the way we run our schools. We can not laminate all our materials, turn on the air conditioning, copy and print countless materials or serve fast foods and snacks that are packaged in plastics if we truly care to “teach” about the environment and how to “save” ourselves from destroying the planet and ourselves. We can not just leave the answers all to science because in fact, our science has been causing as much destruction as it has improvements, perhaps more. We are now dependant on fossil fuels, nuclear energy, pesticides and chemical materials that have not necessarily answered the needs they meant to answer, but have actually created far bigger troubles. Now, we have genetic foods which are meant to help “feed the world” yet may in fact cause just the opposite. How can we try to grapple all of these subjects and more unless we have the courage to make them an integral part of all children’s education? Change must come, and it must come fast if we hope to help the next few generations achieve positive changes in our quality of human life.
|Earth 911 – COURSE DESCRIPTION
As individuals we all profess to be concerned for the environment, but we seldom take the time and energy to really learn about how the environment works, and why there is such concern for its future within our society. This Web-based course is designed to help interested students explore the many aspects of how environmental issues are intrinsically connected to our way of life and it’s meant to challenge students to create change for the better in their own lives by learning AND personal action.
Earth 911 is the first Web-based course in ASIJ history. As such, it is in itself an experiment in that students will have autonomy and responsibility to use their assigned time to work on their own for most of the time, while taking the initiative to use some of that time to meet with me (course advisor), conduct observations and meet with other students to create a learning community.
One important goal of the class is to use technology to save our finite resources, as such there will be minimal paper use, and most of the work will be done either through the internet, or through Blackboard. After the first class meeting, students and advisor will determine when to meet and what expectations are to guide the rest of the quarter.
Students are expected to work on developing good reading, writing and research skills. Quality written work using computer software, and their own creativity will be required. During the first quarter students will be expected to examine different environmental topics such as: species degradation, energy source use, abuse and management, climate change and possible impacts, land use and management, waste issues, etc . The second quarter of the course, students will be required to explore how their own lives affect environmental issues, and will be challenged to make positive changes for themselves and their community.
Although the student will have great autonomy to decide what aspects of the environment to focus on for their particular research presentations, a global understanding of issues and connections in expected. Possible projects to assist in gaining understanding are:
1) Endangered Species Project: Students will choose an endangered animal to study and will explore the reasons for its endangerment. All projects will be displayed in the ASIJ web upon their successful completion.
2) School Improvement Project: Students will become “Environmental detectives” and will concentrate on an environmental study of the school and how we use our natural resources. A report that outlines observations, problems and ideas for change will be the final goal of the project. Students will have the opportunity to present their report to the school administration and community at large.
3) Individual Interest Project: Students will have the opportunity to explore a personal environmental interest and create a final project for the course. This is an ” open idea” individual project in which the student is free to use his/her personal interests, skills, technology or any other tool available at school.
4) Self Study Project: Students will be asked to observe their every day habits. They will be asked to take daily notes on their environmental habits, and then, they will be challenged to make changes on those habits that affect the environment negatively. This is a Semester long project.
5) Photographic Exhibit: Photograph (8 x 10) Matted Color or Black & White (film or a disk will be provided). The theme of the exhibit will be “Environmentally Speaking.”
6) Garbage Art Project: Students will be asked to create a two or three dimensional art piece with garbage materials. Students will be asked to collect the garbage they produce (paper, plastic, non-toxic and non-degradable garbage) in order to make their artistic piece.
GRADING POLICY: Students grades will be based on the following:
Projects and Papers:
COURSE RULES: 3 basic rules:
1) Be responsible for yourself and your work: Communicate with advisor regularly on progress and document all your work. 2) Use time wisely, it is one of your most precious resources! And 3) Challenge your mind! Be an active learner.
|Course Parameters/ Curriculum
Course Title: Earth 911
Grade: 7th and 8th grade
Length of Course: One semester
Books & Materials: Although there is no text, our class is involved in constant research and reading of environmental materials. Students are encouraged to read the newspaper or magazines to be aware of environmental news. They are also encouraged to view environmental programs on TV if available. Our regular sources are as follows:
In addition we use various magazines periodically for our research which are available in our library such as:
We also use environmental websites extensively to guide our research. Some of the mayor ones are:
Finally, when the number of students allow, we use the following computer software:
Course Description: The fate of many species and natural resources is in jeopardy. In order for us to help protect our home and all its inhabitants we need to be better informed about environmental issues and we must learn how each individual can make a difference. The first quarter is spent focusing mainly on endangered species and their surroundings. Students learn about the many causes of endangered species, and they have the opportunity to become experts on one endangered animal. Students also become involved in a “self-awareness” program that asks them to look at their own environmental habits and make changes in their daily activities that may harm the environment. Students also prepare a photography show entitled “Environmentally Speaking” in which each student is responsible for making a visual statement of the environment. During the second quarter, students are involved in a “school-improvement” project in which they evaluate the school’s environmental practices by making observations, polls, and finally recommendations for change. Students also expand their “self-awareness” study to include their family’s practices and habits. During the second quarter students have the choice to research a project on their own in an environmental topic of interest, and finally, they create a sculpture with garbage. Outings include a study of the Nogawa Park environment during one class period, a visit to the local Tama zoo on a school day, and a hike in the nearby mountains (with parental permission) on a Saturday. If possible, students also visit the nearby incinerator for a tour of their operations.
Part II ASIJ Schoolwide Student Learning Outcomes
Critical Thinkers and Problem Solvers
Self-Directed, productive Learners
Constructive Community Members
Part III Critical Questions
Part IV Technology Use and Library Use
Part V What Students Should Know and Be Able to Do
Content: (What are the key topics and concepts of the course? What should students know?)
Skill Outcomes: (What skills and processes do we want students to possess after successful completion of course?) Students will:
Part VI Examples of Expanded Assessment
Student progress will be assessed in a number of ways:
Those involved with preparing this syllabus: Sara Baquero-García