IMPACT ASSESSMENT: The hidden costs of gentrification (2 of 2)

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In this two lesson sequence students will be able to 1) identify a measurable environmental impact of Sunset Park's Industry City; 2) develop a method for measuring environmental impact; and 3) present environmental impact findings to the class.

Big Idea

Sunset Park is home to Industry City, a sprawling former industrial complex turned bellwether of imminent neighborhood gentrification. How might we calculate the hidden costs of the environmental impact of Sunset Park's gentrification?

FRAME: Community-based conservation

Gentrification is an unusual topic for a high school STEM class; usually it falls under the purview of history, literature, or social sciences.  In a STEM class,  however, gentrification can be a powerful framework for understanding human impact on the environment, as well as the need for local communities to advocate for the protection of their environmental resources.  This need for community-based conservation is especially true of low-income neighborhoods. Sunset Park is an example of one such neighborhood that, like communities in the Bronx, continues to be the site of environmental injustice.  

In this continuation of the IMPACT ASSESSMENT activity, students continue to refine their understanding of the environmental impact of Industry City, a new waterfront business hub that signals the beginning of neighborhood gentrification.  In the previous lesson student groups identified a measurable environmental impact of Sunset Park's Industry City and developed a method for measuring environmental impact.  In this lesson, students finish this work, develop presentations for "flash publication," and engage in dialogue about findings. 

In my class, students become deeply involved in this project and dialogue was passionate and sometimes divisive.  Depending on the needs and interests of students, this work could extend over multiple class days.  By the end of this IMPACT ASSESSMENT, students should have developed evidence-based claims about the environmental impact of gentrification.  Ideally, they will also surface ideas about how to translate findings into action.  This action might be community activism, a design challenge, or a service learning project. Teachers interested in turning this project into a service learning project would benefit from ideas in this online course developed by Roots and Shoots, an organization founded by Jane Goodall to develop student leaders for positive community change.

RESOURCES NOTE: Attached are both the prototype activity guide used for this lesson as well as a few articles that teachers might want to read for a deeper understanding of gentrification and its potential environmental impacts.

TIMING NOTE: This lesson takes place over two days, but is presented as a single lesson for ease of reading.  It could be done in a single class or extend to three classes.  Student interest, depth of discussion, and time constraints will determine actual timings.

ELABORATE: Communicating meaning

40 minutes

What is the purpose of this section?

Student groups transition from conducting research to address their chosen design challenge to developing public presentations for "flash publication."  This work parallels the presentation framework in the later "Does McDonalds Have a Farm" lesson, among others.  (In this lesson, however, students have more time and more teacher support.) It also builds on a culture of rapid, "flash publication" that students develop starting with "Unit 0."   The teacher supports groups in making meaning of collected information and clarifying this meaning so that it is understandable to an audience.  During this time, teachers are also able to collect individual data that capture student needs.  The Common Core Speaking and Listening Standards are an excellent reference for organizing the type of data to be collected.  Can students probe evidence?  Do student groups engage in democratic conversations? Can students construct clear sentence?  Do students appropriate use technology resources in the development of presentations? 

TIMING NOTE: As with virtually all the presentations in this curriculum, this activity could fill more than one class period, depending on the needs of the class.  Teachers that want to emphasize Common Core skills, especially the use of evidence to support claims and academic speaking and listening skills may want to extend time. 

What will students do?

Students will work in groups and have a total of 40 minutes to synthesize research from the previous day for presentation.  Many groups will use part of this time to finish the research process.  If groups did not make adequate progress the previous day, they should not rush to accomplish tasks in order to have a perfect presentation. Flash publication is an in-process product that should reflect students' best efforts.  Not every group will finish every aspect of the presentation.

Presentations will be no more than THREE  minutes.  The teacher will randomly assign an order for groups to present.  The guidelines provides for each presentation are as follows:

  1. The presentation must begin with context.  What is the challenge and why does it matter?
  2. The presentation must include a focus question.  What is the most important question to be able to answer regarding this challenge?
  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?
  4. The presentation must have at least one visual that helps learners understand content presented.  How might we use visualization to teach content in a way that verbal statements cannot?

What will the teacher do?

The teacher introduces this section as an opportunity for students to translate research conducted from the previous day for a public audience and then supports students' efficient development of presentations.  Here are some timing guidelines that I used to structure these presentations:

  • By five minutes, student teams should have articulated the context and the focus question.  
  • By the 20 minute mark, all groups should have clarified the methods of data collection and the meaning of the data.  
  • By 30 minutes, student teams should have developed a visual from data.  
  • By 35 minutes, student groups should have practiced presentations once.
  • At the 40 minute mark, student presentations will begin.  The teacher will keep time for student groups and facilitate the transition process from one group to the next

EVALUATE: Flash publication

40 minutes

What is the purpose of this section?

Students present their work to the class and discuss ideas with each other.  The teacher facilitates the presentation process and the feedback process.

What will the student do?

Student teams present work as in-process "flash publications."  These presentations should be about three minutes.  The class then has an opportunity to provide feedback.  Feedback generally takes three to five minutes.  This feedback takes a familiar form:

  1. The class first asks clarifying questions.  These are questions of fact that clarify confusing aspects of presentation.
  2. The class then offers warm feedback.  This feedback consists of positive aspects of the presentation.
  3. The class next offers cool feedback.  This feedback consists of suggestions, new ideas, alternative takes, and wonderings.  Cool feedback is not necessarily negative; rather it is feedback that pushes the thinking of the presenting group.
  4. The presenting group offers a final summary of its response to feedback.

What will the teacher do? 

The teacher structures the presentation order and facilitates feedback.  The teacher can participate in feedback, but feedback should come primarily from students.  If students are not giving appropriate feedback, the teacher might model appropriate feedback, or take a more assertive role in the first presentation.  It is extremely important that teachers resist the urge to reward students silence with teacher-centered feedback.  Unless students are genuinely unable to provide feedback--and this is rarely the case--teachers should expect them to take on the cognitive load of providing feedback to presenting groups.  Any other behaviors teaches students that it is easy to manipulate the behavior of the classroom leader (the teacher) through non-participation.

What are some examples of presentations and feedback?

Attached to this section are videos of a some student "flash publications."  These are purposefully unrefined, in-process presentations.  Student teams receive feedback after each presentation and work to refine their ideas through group discussion in the EVALUATE section.  

FLASH PUBLICATION: The We Started At The Bottom Now We're Here Challenge

WARM FEEDBACK: 1) established context; 2) really interesting solution idea COOL FEEDBACK: 1)context could be clearer; 2) visual would have been helpful; 3) not clear why it would be difficult to calculate impact NEXT STEPS: calculate environmental impact in order to better support the need for the solution idea.

FLASH PUBLICATION: The 500 Million Hour Energy Challenge SAMPLE #1

WARM FEEDBACK: 1) established context; 2) presented some data; 3) good method for defining impact COOL FEEDBACK: 1) explanation of data unclear; 2) not all group members spoke NEXT STEPS: 1) calculate environmental impact; 2) research a solution idea

FLASH PUBLICATION: The 500 Million Hour Energy Challenge SAMPLE #2

WARM FEEDBACK: 1) established clear context; 2) demanded respect from the class; 3) good method for defining impact; 4) all members participated COOL FEEDBACK: 1) not clear why Tropicana was used as a default; 2) not clear why four different types of transportation were discussed; 3) interesting conclusion NEXT STEPS: 1) calculate environmental impact for products specific to Industry City; 2) research a solution idea related to railroads

FLASH PUBLICATION: The Melt My Chocolate Easter Bunny Challenge

WARM FEEDBACK: 1) detailed information about environmental impact; 2) showed great initiative in visiting targeted store; 3) well-developed methodology 4) described meaning of numbers in easy to understand way COOL FEEDBACK: 1) needed prompting to describe challenge; 2) methodology not easy to follow; 3) practical solution idea; 4) not all members participated  NEXT STEPS: 1) develop high-impact visual; 2) develop proposal for Blue Marble that describe plan for reduction of environmental impact

EXTEND: Discussing next steps

30 minutes

What is the purpose of this section?

Students debrief this activity.  What did we learn?  What do we think about what we learned?  What might we do with what we have learned?  The teacher facilitates this discussion or uses a dialogue protocol.  Socratic Seminar structure or Accountable Talk protocol would work well for this type of discussion.

What will the students do?

Students first discussion the challenges and the presentation process.  What should we keep about this process? What should we change about this process?  What should we add to this process?  Students then discuss the content of the presentations.  For this particular presentation, students used a modified "4 As" protocol.

  • What assumptions did student groups make to develop their data?  What are the strengths and weaknesses of this approach?
  • Which presented ideas did we agree with?  Why?  
  • Which presented ideas die we argue with? Why?
  • What do we aspire to next?  What action might we take in our community to turn our classroom presentations into real-world change?

What will the teacher do?

The teacher facilitates this conversation.  In my experience, when students are as engaged in an activity as they were with this IMPACT ASSESSMENT, the facilitation role consists primarily of maintaining a time framework (equal time for each section) and supporting participation from all students.  Most importantly, the teacher should record this dialogue if possible, or take detailed notes for each section.  This "4 As" protocol provides teacher with powerful feedback about the activity and student takeaways that MUST be used to  adjust teacher practice in future lessons and future years.  By this point, students will have applied an environmental impact framework to Industry City, developed action ideas, and also identified areas of improvement for future presentations.  Future lessons will continue to iterate on these core outcomes.  How do our food choices help or hurt the planet?  How do we measure this "hurt"?  How might we most effective present our ideas?  And what are the effective actions to take in the community to address ideas that surface during class?