Integrated Studies: Sustainability and Cross-Curricular Connections

Integrated Studies: Sustainability and Cross-Curricular Connections


>>Tom: The social,
economic, environmental needs of this generation, that in and
of itself is important to teach. From an education perspective, we are experiencing
increased engagements across a variety of disciplines.>>You can trim both
of these right there. You still have, right, the leaf. This is the leaf, photochloroplast will
be photosynthesis. This though is the
shoot and it’s going to keep growing, make sense?>>Student: Yeah.>>Tom: When I first got up here, we weren’t even using
the term sustainability, but we were recycling,
we were composting. And then we started tying in a
little more into the classes. Then I realized, if
we were to really look at all the different
facets of sustainability, certainly the social and
economic in a biology class, we wouldn’t get to all the
other things we had to teach. So we put out an email
to teachers to see who was interested in
having a conversation around using the
concept of sustainability to make cross-disciplinary
connections. About a dozen teachers
came together after school on their own time to
start talking about, what can we do here
on the campus to really model sustainability? The idea of food production
came up pretty quick. We use the overarching
theme of sustainability to provide this context.>>Sam: We have greens, and what
eats our greens other than us?>>Student: Aphids.>>Sam: Aphids consume
some of that, and ladybugs eat the aphids.>>Tom: We use the food
system as a vehicle to generate these
experiential lessons; they’re standards-based. So teachers were involved from the beginning
on a voluntary level. Then we started to find
different ways to tie in other classes, other
teachers and said, “Hey, while we’re doing this, you
know, in biology, you’re looking at maybe these ecological
implications, maybe you can look at some of the economic
pieces that are driving it.”>>Heather: What’s cool
about public banks is that they’re not just a
way to reduce inequality, but they’re also a way to promote sustainability
in our state, so–>>Sustainability is really
important to me and it’s sort of surprising to me that it’s
not important to all economists because economics is the study
of how to use scarce resources to fulfill infinite
human wants and needs.>>A priority of a
public bank would be to make low interest
loans to small businesses. Imagine that TJ and
Tabitha decide to start a business
growing and selling wheat. They could then get a small
loan from the public bank, so you get that wealth creation but you don’t have
the wealth extraction because the interest ends
up staying right here.>>Tom: We were going to
do this irrigation system, so we wanted some type
of alternative energy to power the pump
that was out there. So I tossed that over to Anne
Watson, the physics teacher, and said, “Hey, this is
what we’re looking for. You want to tie this
into your curriculum?”>>Anne: And I said, “Well, maybe we could make
this a feasibility study for my students.”>>We need to write
a table of the data that you’re going to collect.>>And so we, as a class,
came to some conclusions, one of them being that
the school should look into getting photovoltaics
or solar panels.>>Tom: They raised the money
for it and ultimately worked with the company to
install those panels.>>Anne: Now for my physics
classes, we’re looking at what the production rate is,
and is that space sustainable in terms of electricity? Are we producing enough to
meet the needs of that space?>>Sam: So you’ve
got biomass weight. What’s the third one?>>Student: Respiration?>>Sam: Yeah, heat and
respiration, right?>>Tom: We introduced students
to the greenhouse in biology, focusing on nutrient cycles, as well as plant
physiology, anatomy.>>Sam: Make a flow chart of
that energy that’s coming into the greenhouse.>>Right now we’re doing
a unit on the biosphere and we’re looking
at energy transfer.>>We can use something from…?>>Student: From the
biomass, from those consumers when they die goes
into the ground. They can be used
by the producers and their nutrients
from their body.>>Sam: Yeah, the key
word there is nutrients. Decomposers are really good at returning these
things back to the system.>>Tom: Over the years,
though, we’ve worked hard to give them a number of
different options of classes from AP Spanish to algebra, in which they would have
a broader experience with sustainability
and food production.>>Sam: It doesn’t matter how
long I stand at the front of the room and talk
about photosynthesis and cellular respiration if
they have no context in which to think about those things. Being able to go out
to the greenhouse and really see those things
in action makes the learning that much more meaningful.>>Anne: I would encourage
teachers to find those ties between what they’re doing and someone else’s
class or curriculum. We can create these
opportunities for each other as teachers.

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