The desired outcome of my unit is social change. The underlying objective is for students to recognize that every one of us is part of the water shortage/pollution problem and every one of us has the ability (and responsibility) to initiate positive change for the benefit of the environment and the survival of mankind. The intended audience for my unit is 4-6 grade, and the lessons are scaffolded for students to construct knowledge.
The first step in change is recognizing there is a problem. My first lesson focusses on the limited availability of fresh water on our planet. The visual simulation format was created to capture attention and physically demonstrate how precious fresh water is as a resource. The assessment for activity one is designed to solidify the understanding that, although it seems that water is everywhere on our planet, the freshwater we use daily is in very limited supply.
The assessment for lesson one is also designed to spark conversation and stimulate critical thinking regarding how each of us waste water and contribute to pollution. This concept is explored further by the Home Environment Checklist in Activity two. At this age, students have limited exposure to environmental issues, and daily routines are filled with reading, writing, and math. Self reflection and meaningful dialogue can be a powerful tool in constructing knowledge. It is important to note the characteristic of the learners for this unit is somewhat unique. My unit is designed as a field trip where students from a variety of classrooms would come to me for a portion of the learning. Some sections of the unit are designed to be facilitated by the teacher in the classroom while others will be hands-on with me during the field trip. I hope this unit would be related and connected to a curricular topic of study in the classrooms, but it is possible that it will be somewhat artificially inserted into a rigid schedule. The discussion and follow-up activities are where much of the real potential for learning lies. All are designed with collaboration and social interaction in mind. Discussing new ideas and understandings with classmates, as they brainstorm lists and define vocabulary terms, helps make meaning of the new information.
Activity two involves the whole class in a role play scenario. Students are assigned an occupation and a container of contaminants. As the Catchment Story unfolds students physically dump their pollution into a clear tank of water. Because water waste/pollution is a real-world, collective problem, I chose to incorporate a Project Based Learning model. The use of storytelling and role playing in this activity aims to immerse students in the problem, and collectively generate possible solutions. Differentiation is incorporated through multiple methods of communication and delivery, thereby catering to various learning modalities. The Home Environment Checklist bridges the gap between home and school. It is designed to critically examine habits and behaviors that add to pollution with the assistance of a parent (who will be paramount in initiating any lasting change). The Checklist offers real-world examples to begin solving real-world problems.
Activity 3 involves students in another role-playing situation. Students learn about, and conduct various indicator tests to measure levels of pollution in different water sources. The activity and discussion, based on The Water Quality Interpretation Chart, is designed to help students understand how human behavior leads to the diminished water quality from samples they just tested. This is a very busy, active-learning experience with characteristics of the learners in mind. Because this is not my class of students and therefore I don’t know individual learning styles, preferences, or disabilities, this activity incorporates a variety of learning modalities. The assessment is largely built into the activity. The predicting, comparing and contrasting, and measuring water quality with indicator tests are all objectives and activities in which the students will participate.
The final activity brings the unit together with a deliverable. Students take their newly gained information and create a product that shares a message with the greater community. This fits into the model of Project Based Learning as well, by engaging student voice as well as collaboration with peers, teachers, professionals, and community. This activity is designed to be completed with the guidance of the classroom teacher, and the provided prompts, resource videos, and student created projects will assist in idea generation. I would like to facilitate publicly posting brochures and posters at the store to create incentive and add perceived value to the final product.
Throughout this course, and specifically through the study of learning theories, I have discovered that my philosophy for teaching and learning is deeply rooted in constructivism.
The lessons and activities in my unit are developed so that students are active participants in constructing knowledge through social interactions and hands-on learning.
In general, assessments are designed to reflect the knowledge that students have constructed through learning activities and discussions. Assessments are measurable and speak directly to the learning objectives outlined.