Category Archives: Environments

Exploring Environments: Science Writers

 

Building on last year’s Exploring Environments units (G10 Environmental Science), in which students formed groups and designed their own units of inquiry, we have once again taken on the science-writing challenge.

Image: Writing in Nature #98872063 / gettyimages.com

Brief: write a 1,200-1,500 word article for an online audience highlighting a case study connected to your unit’s central ideas. The articles should be aimed at peers and smarter, and should include properly-used media and video where appropriate.

Assessment: One World and Communication in Science

Process: Topics proposed and drafted through GoogleDocs, with students seeking feedback on writing through highlighting and comments in the GoogleDocs. In the final sessions they put the articles together in WordPress and gave peer-feedback for quality of presentation, flow and message. We aimed to use images found through CreativeCommons Search and through Getty’s free Images (though the embed widget went squiffy on some of their wordpress editors).

Teacher note: this kind of task is a great way to realise that we are all language teachers. Managing workflow through GoogleDocs/Hapara makes commenting on drafts easier, though students need to keep their work there in order to show progression.

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Some highlights (with a range of scores) are posted below. Please click-through, read them and leave some encouraging comments!

 

Niches for Species: George Monbiot’s TED Talk on Rewilding.

This TED Talk from Guardian environment writer George Monbiot (@GeorgeMonbiot) makes a compelling argument for rewilding: putting back what we have taken from nature, letting the ecosystems do what they will and allowing the megafauna to re-reshape the ecosystem.

“It offers us the hope that our silent spring can be replaced by a raucous summer.”

The connections across the curriculum here are clear, most notably to 5.1 Ecosystems and HL Option G4: Conservation of Biodiversity. Well worth 15 minutes and could be the stimulus for class discussion.

Exploring Environments: Student-Designed Units & Hapara

Click here for a summary of our recent student-designed Grade 10 (MYP5) Environmental Sciences unit that we planned for students to design and implement. I used this project as my trial for Hapara, a GoogleDocs dashboard system. 

Hapara Dashboard: screenshot well after the project has finished, but you get the idea. Green = Bio, Orange = Chem.

Hapara Dashboard: screenshot well after the project has finished, but you get the idea. Green = Bio, Orange = Chem. Click on the image for the post about the project, including some sample documents. 

In summary, using this as a management tool allowed for a smooth and highly differentiated, student-led inquiry unit in MYP 5 Environmental Science. Find out more.

Student Science Writers: Environmental Issues

As we finish our Exploring Environments student-designed units, students have published blog posts for the science communication assessed task. In this task, assessed for Communication in Science, they had to pick a case study or current news item of interest and direct connection to their group’s unit. Using guidance, models of good science writing, GoogleDocs drafting (and for some, pointers from professional science writer Andy Revkin), they wrote short articles on their case study.

There’s no point writing for an audience of one, so…

..here they are!

If you do visit and feel like posting a comment, remember that these are school students, and that your comments must be appropriate, constructive and positive.

“Changing Crops for a Changing Climate” Mark Lynas & a Nature Special on GMOs

Here is Mark Lynas at Cornell University, with his speech “Time to call out the anti-GMO conspiracy theory.” It runs almost half an hour, though he does have a transcript of the speech on his blog. The connections to IB Biology Genetics & Genetic Engineering here are obvious.

What should be noted for background is Lynas’ own story. In the 1990’s he was a prominent anti-GMO activist, but has recently apologised and is now on a mission to right the wrongs he feels he has done. It has not been easy, and has generated lots of controversy.

“Allowing anti-GMO activists to dictate policymaking on biotechnology is like putting homeopaths in charge of the health service, or asking anti-vaccine campaigners to take the lead in eradicating polio.”

Powerful and provocative stuff – and a great stimulus for discussion and debate. Lynas refers to a lot of studies, claims and organisations in this speech. Students could follow this up with finding out more about each of them.

We might never be able to get students to the absolute truth on GMOs – we may find it difficult ourselves – but it is useful to give some insight into just how delicate the balancing act can be and how cloudy the discussions of ethics in science can get. The issues around GMOs are complex: scientific, political, ethical, economical, environmental. They are far more complex than a couple of short assessment statements in a Biology syllabus can really do justice.

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Rise of the Superweeds. Click-through to the Nature Special.

Also recently, a very useful Nature special edition on GM Crops: the Promise & Reality. Look in for some in-depth articles and case-studies, including the true, the false and the still unknown on GM crops.

Nature articles often have presentations of data that can be used for data-based question practice (such as the one to the right – click through to see). Follow the patterns of the DBQ’s and make up your own questions based on different articles:

  • Identify
  • Describe the trend in…
  • Calculate the difference in…
  • Compare
  • Suggest reasons for…
  • Evaluate

Hanging Out with Andy Revkin

“How do we head through nine billion people by around 2050 without really screwing up too much?”

Andy Revkin writes the DotEarth blog for the New York Times, and has been writing about the environment for almost thirty years. His topics are diverse (and his Twitter stream rich with links) and connected to much of what our students have chosen to explore in our current Environmental Sciences unit in Grade 10 (MYP5).*

He very kindly agreed to G+ Hangout with some students before school, to discuss science writing in general and how he masters his craft on the environment beat. We learned a lot from Andy, and loved his assertion that he is not a ‘doom and gloom’ writer, but that the environment is different, and more complex than we first thought.

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Here are links to some of the ideas & issues he mentioned in the chat:

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Andy chatting with the early arrivals on G+ Hangouts.

*As part of our current Grade 10 Environmental Science unit, students have broken into groups depending on their interests and IBDP Sciences choices. They have designed their own unit content, though assessment types are common – a lab they design, a test we’ll write based on their chosen assessment statements and a piece of science writing. I’ll dedicate a whole post to how the unit worked once we’re done.

For the science writing task, students are asked to find real-life articles, case-studies or stimulus materials that will provide a context for some of their content. We showed them some models, of great science writing, but I realised my Twitter lists were light on environment writers.

A quick tweet (and some follow-up emails) fixed all that:

Thanks again to Andy for chatting to us – it was a great opportunity to talk to a real pro.

It is also evidence, once again, that Twitter can be an amazing tool for classes and professional development.

Birds of Paradise Project [Cornell Ornithology Lab]

Thanks to Celia, our librarian (@CeliaSchatzky) for sending me this!

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology (@CornellBirds) and National Geographic have been working on this documentary on the Birds of Paradise. A great connection to E6 Further Studies of Behaviour and the importance of protecting habitats.

Check it out (and then spend the rest of your day on their YouTube channel)

While we’re at it, here are the Lyre birds again, from BBC Worldwide.

Red Bull Stratos – Jumping from the Edge of Space

Felix Baumgartner is ready to jump! Follow the live feed below, or on the Red Bull Stratos website. His aim is to jump from the edge of space, breaking the sound barrier in freefall. Whoo!

Here’s a CGI simulation of what’s expected:

Atmosphere & Pollution Resources

These are for the Grade 10 Environmental Science students. More are on the topic page, here.

Habitable Planet chapters

Save the Panda? Group research, database and discussion task.

This task is based on Chris Packham’s comments on Panda conservation and is intended to give students an insight into conservation issues and use of the IUCN Red List database. Here is a quick news clip with him defending his comments, and the activity is embedded below.

By the end of this session, students should be able to:

  • Distinguish between keystone and flagship species, with examples of each
  • Access and use the IUCN Red List database
  • Appreciate that threats to one species often threaten other species in the same area
  • Discuss the benefits of whole-ecosystem conservation
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Once this is complete, watch one of these TED Talks on active conservation management techniques and their successes. Conservation really is inspiration!

Dan Barber: How I fell in love with a fish

John Kasaona: How rhino poachers became caretakers

Willie Smits: How we regrew a rainforest

Wow!

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