Thursday, May 23, 2019

Environmental Education: Creating Interdisciplinary Learning

As students complete a series of three STEAM projects and their year-long climate change efforts, I am thinking about how we'll roll out this collection of relevant, standards-based lessons next year.

Our team reflects on the learning in an ongoing fashion, and as we carefully analyzed the STEAM survival series, we noticed that this series of lessons as well as the climate change projects create a perfect opportunity for embedding social-emotional learning (SEL) goals too.

Over the summer, we'll analyze this more as we prep for the new school year. I imagine that our efforts will look somewhat like this.

We are a team
We'll begin with a number of team building activities to teach students what it means to effectively work as a team, and then give them opportunities to practice teamwork with these activities and more:
  • Note card challenge: working as a team 
  • Math team number activity: listening skills, partnership skills
  • Videos, stories, and more explicit teaching via team building activities
  • Class jobs and responsibilities introduction, efforts
Learning outdoors; using hand-held science/math tools 
A number of lessons that introduce students to outdoor learning, then practicing what we learn in our school yard environment to learn the skills and tools of outdoor exploration. These lessons will include ponding, measuring, observation, photography, videotaping and more. 

Survival Stories
We'll bridge the fourth to fifth grade years, but reminding students about the animal adaptation they learned about in fourth grade and how the objective of animal behavior is survival. Students will read about survival in the outdoors with books like Hatchet and other related articles and storybooks. They'll also write survival stories.

History of the hometown
Introduction to timelines, the history of people, and the history of our local environment. Integration of social studies standards with a big picture introduction to set the stage for greater environmental and history study later.

Math Data and Statistics
We'll use numbers related to the local environment, science standards, and climate change as data for math concept, knowledge, and skill learning. 

STEAM Introduction
We'll re-make our STEAM survival series packet to include more explicit information about STEAM think and process including the science, tech, and engineering standards we'll cover during the study. To build out the STEAM think and action more, we'll likely change the pattern of study a bit by including the following existing and new steps:

  • preview at home via watching videos and reading articles
  • explore with a scripted hands-on lesson first
  • analyze the results
  • open time for improving and/or revising the design
  • testing again and potentially redesigning and testing yet again
  • final analysis and reflection 
Creating water filters
Students will learn about water and then complete a number of standards-based, water related investigations and learning experiences including the creation of water filters. 

Creating plant packets
We'll look for ways to extend this exploration to create indoor gardens using over-the-door-shoe-holder into vertical gardens. 

Solar Ovens
We will create solar ovens, and study the related science standards.

Watershed Maps and Models
Students will learn about the local watershed via map and model making

Greenway Hike
We'll celebrate our learning with a hike to a local nature preserve.

Climate change introduction and projects
We'll introduce students to the science of climate change and related standards. And we'll give students an interdisciplinary opportunity to lead a climate change service learning projects. Integrating this study more with math, reading, writing, and social studies may be able to help us tighten up the project it a bit sooner in the year so that it doesn't occur during our busy MCAS, fifth grade play, and biography project time. 

Throughout the summer, we'll continue to think about and develop this series of learning activities to improve upon the overall success and meaning of this series of learning experiences.