Reflection: High Quality Task Environmental Science vs. Environmentalism - Section 4: Presentations


I hate to say it, but this project turned out to be a bit of a dud.  It’s not that the question wasn’t worth exploring, it’s just that I don’t think it was split as evenly as I thought it would be.  What I mean to say is that researching the environmental organization was just too straight-forward and dry to interest most students.  It was essentially just a research project with no real hook to get students to care about the information they were gathering.    

The environmental scientist side of the project, on the other hand, seemed to be much more engaging to those groups who completed that part.  It’s not that the question was any more interesting, but rather they were required to explore university departments, learn about fields of research they didn’t know existed, get excited about classes they might take, and most importantly, communicate with a real live scientist.  

I had several students excitedly tell me that, “my scientist wrote back!”.  It was a great way for students to begin to have the kinds of conversations with professors that will be necessary to succeed in college.  Despite this enthusiasm that many students had, there was also the problem of the fact that many of my ELLs and below grade level readers had trouble understanding what the scientists said.  As you can see in the exchange between me and my student (they were required to forward their email thread to me to prove they actually sent emails to scientists), they had some real difficulty with comprehension that made it less of an enriching experiencing than it might be for students reading at grade level.  

Still, that part of the project alone made it worth doing.  I don’t feel the same way about the environmental organization side, however.  If I were to do the project again, I think I would make these two separate projects.  I would keep the environmental scientist side more or less unchanged, but the environmental organization project really needs some “hook” for students to care about it.  Perhaps a fun scenario like, “If you were very wealthy and could give $1,000,000 to an environmental organization, which organization would you donate your money to?  Why?  What problem would you be helping solve?  What makes you think they could best help solve the problem and not some other group?”

When students have a reason to care about what they’re learning, they always invest more of themselves into it and, ultimately, learn more.

  High Quality Task: An uneven project
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Environmental Science vs. Environmentalism

Unit 2: The Nature of Environmental Science
Lesson 8 of 17

Objective: Students will be able to use the internet to investigate a claim about the difference between environmental science and environmentalism, conduct a short correspondence with environmental scientists using appropriate language and tone, and present their findings to their class in short presentations.

Big Idea: By definition, environmental science and environmentalism are not the same thing. In this project, students will investigate environmental scientists and environmental organizations to understand the relationship between them.

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