Monday, June 15, 2009

Final Project for Assessment (520)

It's week 7 and I'm working on the final project for this course. The greatest challenge for me has been to learn how to write learning targets. It's a little like the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears: what is too few? what is too many? what is going to be juuusssst right?
Image Sources: The Value Locus Decision Matrix in Leonard Cohen Search (blog) March 20, 2008

The project I've chosen is a rewrite of part of my Earth Science 11 program. Earth Science should be the science with the broadest appeal to young people because it's full of drama and action and controversy. Unfortunately, high school Earth Science courses are sometimes about as vital as a collection of rocks gathering dust on a shelf. Except for a short reference to the greenhouse effect or global warming, because this is 'science', the people are left out. It's in the human/Earth interaction that the intrigue and the most interesting stories lie.

My search for a new way to present ESC 11 began when I heard a CBC radio broadcast of an interview with Alanna Mitchell in a series about Watersheds. (Unfortunately there is no embed code for this podcast so I'll substitute a video of her talking about her book entitled Sea Sick. This "is the first book to explain how the global ocean -- 99 percent of the planet's living space -- is undergoing vast chemical changes at the hand of man and why that matters. At risk is the very structure of life in the ocean and, therefore, on the planet as a whole."[Note: To hear the interview which was fascinating, click the link and then scroll down to March 4 -- Sea Sick: The Global Ocean Crisis.]

If I could turn ESC 11 into a tale of discovery, change, and looming crisis, I could make my students begin to sit up and take a look at the landscape in which they live. In the Pacific Northwest we are surrounded by the evidence of geologic transformation. My kids ski and board on mountains carved by the action of glaciers during the last ice age (below left). They party at the beach on the northern shore of Semiahmoo Bay overlooked by our nearest volcano, Mt. Baker (below right).

[Click on on picture for full view taken December 2008.
It was assembled using PhotoScape the free alternative to Photoshop.]

They take the ferry to Vancouver Island across Georgia Strait which is being pushed closer to the mainland every day by the subduction of our own Juan de Fuca Plate -- the remnant of the once vast Farallon Plate from which the chain of volcanoes from BC down into California was built.

They live every summer under water restrictions because the winter snow pack is generally not able to supply our watershed with enough water to meet the demands of our metropolitan area. Our province is a mosaic of ecosystems that reflect a topography created by successive slamming of micro-continents into the ancient continental margin. If you drive east from our coastal temperate rainforest over the Coast Range and into the BC interior and you'll pass through a once thriving forest being devastated by pine beetles and end up in a desert.

[This collage was created using Vuvox.]

Our Arctic Ocean is being claimed by other nations greedily eyeing its ocean floor resources now that global warming is destined to open the elusive Northwest Passage, and that is where my project for this course is going to start: with an exploration of the global oceans and a look at Canada's northern continental margin.

The challenge is to figure out how to embed the science in the stories, and to grow a generation of children who feel connected to their landscape and understand the reciprocal nature of their relationship with it. My goals for this course are to excite the students' passions and to help them understand that some knowledge of science can be helpful in understanding both natural events and the human issues that are so interconnected.
“When people know how scientists go about their work and reach scientific conclusions, and what the limitations of such conclusions are, they are more likely to react thoughtfully to scientific claims and less likely to reject them out of hand or accept them uncritically. The myths and stereotypes that young people have about science are not dispelled when science teaching focuses narrowly on the laws, concepts, and theories of science. Hence, the study of science as a way of knowing needs to be made explicit in the curriculum. Once people gain a good sense of how science operates - along with a basic inventory of key science concepts as a basis for learning more later - they can follow the science adventure story as it plays out during their lifetimes” (Benchmarks Online: The Nature of Science).
Oceans 11.2

I'm compiling a Diigo list of resources for this project. It will certainly grow over the next weeks as Oceans 11 take shape. The one that most fascinates me right now is called: One Planet Many People: Atlas of Our Changing Environment. If you can believe it, this thing can be downloaded! It's incredible.
"Increasing concern as to how human activities impact the Earth has led to documentation and quantification of environmental changes taking place on land, in the water, and in the air. Through a combination of ground photographs, current and historical satellite images, and narrative based on extensive scientific evidence, this publication illustrates how humans have altered their surroundings and continue to make observable and measurable changes to the global environment." ( from their home page)
Here for example is their page on global ocean 'dead zones' followed by a case study look at the Mississippi. (Again click the picture to view the full sized image.)
I also suggest that you take a look at the book Fragile Earth for inspiration. It's a powerful compilation of juxtaposed photos that tell the story of the transition of the Earth from cool and hospitable to hot, unpredictable, and even treacherous to life as we now know it. [Note: Please turn the sound down on my video. I forgot to disable the mike when I did the screen capture! You can view the image video on the website -- but the book is even better.]

"We don't want to believe what we know."
(Yann Arthus-Bertrand in Ted Talks)

No comments:

Post a Comment