CAPSTONE: Environmental justice in Sunset Park (3 of 3)

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Objective

Students will be able to 1) describe the successes and failures of the Sunset Park waterfront development plan through the lens of environmental justice and stakeholder interests; 2)make evidence-based recommendations for the future environmentally just development of Sunset Park; and 3) identify community organizations that would be most able to assist with future development work.

Big Idea

The environmental justice movement needs informed citizens in afflicted neighborhoods to advocate for change. How might we use Sunset Park as a case study for of how citizens can apply STEM skills to create a more environmentally just community?

FRAME: Group pitches, individual meaning, community action

What can we do to bring environmental justice to our community?  This CAPSTONE experience brings together the various threads of this unit-an environmental justice framework, community mapping, geographic information systems, stakeholders, and engineering design thinking-to return to an analysis of environmental justice in the Sunset Park community. Do community residents disproportionately shoulder the brunt of a toxic environment? What evidence can we find to support our ideas? And what might we do to make our community more environmentally just? 

Students have just developed presentations about environmentally just waterfront development based largely on information in the Sunset Park Vision Plan produced by the New York Economic Development Corporation. During this final day of the CAPSTONE, students will share ideas with each other, reflect on the level of environmental justice in the Sunset Park community, and identify potential community allies.

CAPSTONE PROCESS OVERVIEW

DAY ONE:

Students develop a baseline understanding of environmental justice issues in Sunset Park. They will take a virtual "toxicity tour" of the neighborhood, learn about environmental justice issues specific to Sunset Park through readings, and engage in a silent debate to evaluate the merits of Bush Terminal Park through an environmental justice lens.  By the end of this first day, students should be able to identify at least three toxic areas in Sunset Park, describe local environmental justice issues in Sunset Park, and cite evidence to support claims made for or against Bush Terminal Park as an adequate solution idea to environmental justice problems in Sunset Park.


DAYS TWO AND THREE:

Students learn more about Bush Terminal Park and stakeholder investments in the development of the Sunset Park waterfront. To do this, students critically analyze the "197-a" waterfront development plan in collaborative groups with the goal of presenting an interpretation of the plan.  By the end of these sessions, students should be able to describe the history of Bush Terminal Park, describe key features of the Sunset Park waterfront development plan, and develop a compelling presentation with visuals that describes and evaluates waterfront development in Sunset Park through the lens of environmental justice. 

DAY FOUR:

Students present recommendations for the future waterfront development of Sunset Park and also develop a short written synthesis of the major ideas for this unit; both will serve as summative assessments. By the end of this session, students should be able to describe the successes and failures of the Sunset Park waterfront development plan through the lens of environmental justice and stakeholder interests, make evidence-based recommendations for the future development of the waterfront, and identify community organizations that would be most able to assist with future, environmentally just development work.

By the end of this unit CAPSTONE, successful students will have met the following objectives:

  1. identify toxic areas or Sunset Park
  2. describe the successes and failures of Bush Terminal park through the lens of environmental justice
  3. use evidence to debate student-generated claims about the nature of environmental justice in Sunset Park.
  4. describe the history of the Bush Terminal Park complex
  5. identify stakeholders in the Sunset Park waterfront development
  6. extract information about environmental justice from an official New York City planning document
  7. develop a presentation about an environmental issue related to Sunset Park waterfront development
  8. describe the successes and failures of the Sunset Park waterfront development plan through the lens of environmental justice and stakeholder interests
  9. make evidence-based recommendations for the future environmentally just development of Sunset Park
  10. and identify community organizations that would be most able to assist with future development work.

RESOURCE NOTES:

  • The attached PROTOTYPE ACTIVITY GUIDE contains educator materials that might be modified for classes.
  • The attached PROFESSIONAL READING provides a comprehensive overview of the need to study the potential impact of industrial waterfront environments on human health.

EVALUATE: 197-a presentation-GROUP ASSESSMENT

30 minutes

What is the purpose of this section?

Student groups present topics to the class.  Students in the audience provided feedback using a protocol.  By the end of this section, all students should be able to describe how at least four different environmental factors impact human health and community development in Sunset Park. Student should also be able to cite evidence of improving environmental justice in Sunset Park as well as evidence that specific environmental features of Sunset Park are harmful to human health.

What will students do?

Student groups will present for up to three minutes and the student audience will have up to three minutes to provide feedback. For a class of five groups, this process will take approximately 30 minutes. 

Notes for presenting students: 

Before class all presenting students send the teacher any digital documents that will be used. The teacher will manage the setup of equipment. Students within each group will also self-select an area for presentation assessment from this list of Common Core speaking and listening standards. Students ask for a specific focus on one presentation element.  Each group, then, will send an email to the teacher with any visuals to be used during the presentations, and each student within that group will identify a specific Common Core speaking and listening skill that they want evaluated. This focus on presentation skills will be an emphasis throughout the course during every CAPSTONE project going forward.

Notes for audience students:

Audience students follow a simple protocol for feedback:

  • "Something I learned is..."
  • "Warm feedback I have is..."
  • "Cool feedback I have is..."

Students are encouraged to take notes throughout the presentations on paper or laptops for this feedback session.

How will teachers evaluate this work?

Individual group members receive feedback related to their chosen presentation skill. The group receives holistic feedback and feedback for each of the previously defined requirements. As a reminder, these are:

  1. The presentation must begin with context.  What do we need to know about waterfront development and environmental justice? Why does this topic matter matter?
  2. The presentation must include a focus question.  What is the most important question to be able to answer regarding this topic? 
  3. The presentation must include an evidence-based response to this focus question.  What data did the group gather and interpret to answer the focus question? Who are the stakeholders? How do stakeholder create or suppress environmental justice?
  4. The presentation must have at least one visual that helps learners understand content presented. This visual must include at least one map that serves as visualized evidence for whatever position the group takes to respond to the focus question posed.  How might we use visualization to teach content in a way that verbal statements cannot?

For this presentation, teachers should focus on one specific action that groups can take to improve in the future.  In the attached clip, for example, the student group begins to list everything they researched as context. My feedback was to pick one researched idea and to explain its significance for the next presentations. Anything more than that is difficult for students to manage. If presentations are a feature of classroom culture, students will eventually make all of the improvements they need to make over the course of the year. It is counterproductive to attempt to make all necessary changes at once.

EVALUATE: Beyond the waterfront-INDIVIDUAL ASSESSMENT

20 minutes

What is the purpose of this section?

As the final activity for this unit, students will again take a tour of Sunset Park and reflect on environmental justice in the Sunset Park community.  Who is place for? Is it for humans? Is it for other species? Is it for the organisms that interact with abiotic factors to maintain healthy environments? By the end of this sections, students should be able describe the Sunset Park community in terms of environmental justice, provide evidence for a claim about the nature of environmental justice in Sunset Park, and identify a community partner that could support environmental justice work.

What will students do?

Students will take a digital tour of the Sunset Park neighborhood, noting a total of 15 areas of interest to the environmental justice movement.  They will then develop an evidence-based claim about a specific environmental justice issue that they believe is important in the community. Finally, students will identify a group in the community (real or not), that they believe could support future environmental justice initiatives.

What resources will students use?

Students work with individual laptops and work through each of the resources below with the goal of finding five areas of interest to the environmental justice movement from each:

What will the teacher do during this time?

This is an individual summative assessment.  Students will work independently to produce work. The teacher will need to explicitly frame the individual nature of this work because nearly every task in this unit has been fundamentally collaborative.  Here is the criteria for success: Is this student able to support a claim about environmental justice in Sunset Park with appropriate evidence?  This will be a "proficient/not proficient" assessment.  Students have engage in activities throughout this unit to demonstrate proficiency. This assessment allows the teacher to notice overall trends in students' collective data. It is not meant to be a final "gotcha" assignment. Rather, it is an assignment that provides high level data about students' collective ability to apply conceptual frameworks and analytic tools to a real-world scenario and make an evidence-based claim about that scenario. 

EXIT: Unit reflection

5 minutes

What is purpose of this EXIT?

In the last few minutes of class, students pause their work with the INDIVIDUAL EVALUATION and offer a closing reflection for the unit by finishing three sentence starters:

  1. "If I were to become an environmental justice advocate in Sunset Park the issue I would focus on is...because..."
  2. "One way I look at the environmental differently because of this unit is..."
  3. "One thing I would change about this unit is..."

These questions are purely for teacher feedback. The first gives me information about students' interests; the second gives me information about which topics were stickiest; and the third gives me advice for future iterations of this course.