It's Not Easy Going Green

Course Description:

This unit is designed to fit into a senior science course; one in which students have already had experience in biology, physical science, earth science and chemistry. The topic, Going Green, draws on student knowledge in multiple science disciplines and is designed to be a culminating science experience in whatever course the student is enrolled in during the senior year.

Unit Context:

This unit supports the state science initiative Every Learner Inquires (ELI), which utilizes the research-supported learning cycle for teaching science, initially conceived by Robert Karplus. The cycle used in ELI has five phases: engage in which a student’s interest is captured and the topic is established, explore in which the student is allowed to construct knowledge in the topic through hands-on experimentation and/or manipulation of data, explain in which students are asked to explain what they have discovered and the teacher skillfully questions and connects the “scientist’s understanding” with the student’s experiences, elaborate in which students are asked to apply what they have learned to different situations/experiments and evaluate in which the instructor and the student evaluate what is learned by the student. Evaluation is often an on-going endeavor throughout the cycle. The essential aspect of the learning cycle is that students must be actively involved in conducting experiments, doing activities, and doing the thinking. The teacher’s role is to design the task that will involve students, to ask questions to focus students’ attention on inconsistencies in their logic or critical aspects of the activity, and to pull students ideas together in a culminating discussion where students understand how their understanding aligns with the scientifically accepted understanding of the concept. It is essential that the engage/explore come before the “explain” and the “explain” is not the teacher telling the students what they should understand.

This unit will be most effective if taught in a science course during the senior year. The first activity, Proxy Paleoclimatology, assumes students have skill in using spreadsheet software to manipulate and graph data. They also need to be able to think about environmental consequences they should have been exposed to in previous science courses. The second activity draws on their lab experiences from chemistry. From here, students apply their knowledge from earth science and chemistry as they quantitatively compare carbon emissions from humans to those from automobiles. In the fourth activity, students develop a sense for their own contribution to carbon in the atmosphere and finally, in the culminating activity, students take their knowledge “on the road” by developing public awareness campaigns to educate the public and change behaviors.

Length of Unit:

5 to 7 class periods