Ham Ji-Young Ham Educ 555 4 March 2013 Rationale A: How Is Your Topic Central To One Or More Disciplines

(and How Does It Meet Mandates)? This sustainability curriculum is central to one or more disciplines as it meets the mandates. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA), the US EPA follows this principle: “Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or


indirectly, on our natural environment. Sustainability creates and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations” (US EPA). This principle meets the school mandates with Literacy, Social Studies, and Science. As I consulted with my classroom mentors (CMs) for this unit, they believe that this field is important for students to learn. They are supportive of this because it does not take time from Math or Literacy as students are being more exposed to Science. Both of my CMs find that this unit teaches and focuses on environment, economics, and equity along with the academic subjects. This serves as a good teaching tool for building stronger bridges between the classroom and business to the schools and communities. This also acts as an umbrella for other subjects like political science, geography, and civics, and the unit prepares our students for the future leaders in a changing world with diverse growing population. Their ideas correlates to US EPA’s idea about sustainability: “Sustainability has emerged as a result of significant concerns about the unintended social, environmental, and economic consequences of rapid population growth, economic growth and consumption of our natural resources,” which involves government and social cooperation (US EPA). Therefore, both CMs believe that sustainability is a topic that connects and relates to multiple subjects that are academic and social.

Ham As students learn more about the economics and community aspects, the sustainability unit would meet the standards of reading informational text and use textual evidence to make


inferences as they determine the main ideas of the text. Throughout the two week take over, the students will be engaged to interact with other students, so they would also build their speaking skills as they learn how to articulate their ideas. For Social Studies and Science, students would be able to learn how human activity and environment changes are related and what issues affect daily lives. As sustainability connects to multiple fields, this meets the state standards and mandates that are expected for sixth graders and the goals of the US EPA. B: Why Would Your Topic Be Interesting? 1. To Your Students? Students would want to do what we (Ted and I) are suggesting because they can apply the sustainability practices in their daily lives. Not only have they expressed interest, the students will find it engaging because they can see that what they do that can directly and indirectly impact other lives and the environment. Sustainability is also a recent topic for Philadelphia. In 2008, Mayor Michael Nutter pledged to make Philadelphia the number one green city in America in his inaugural address. As a result, the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability was established, and this spent a year researching municipal sustainability, talking with residents, and drafting Greenworks Philadelphia. The plan sets 15 sustainability targets in energy, environment, equity, economy, and engagement to make Philadelphia the greenest city in America by 2015 (Mayor’s Office of Sustainability). Since this is a current issue and Philadelphia has taken measures to become greener, the students can see that this unit is applicable to them. Also, Science and Social Studies are rarely taught, so for the students to learn different topics other than Math and Literacy may be intriguing to them. Thus, the students will find this curriculum to be meaningful and authentic because this is current and affects their lives and their city.

Ham As a result, the students may find this topic engaging in inquiry. Since Kirkbride dedicated January for Global Warming, the students have some prior knowledge about


sustainability. This unit will require the students to question the world around them and how their lives and decisions affect their surroundings. Therefore, this could encourage the students to investigate for answers to questions that may be relatable, rather than acting as passive recipients of understandings. At this age, I would like to have the students research information in order to support their opinions and claims. Their reasons could be less bias are more acceptable to other people when they have evidence. With this developing skill, the students may start constructing their own understanding of sustainability. This could also allow them to critically think and possibly start learning how to anticipate what will happen or what the next person’s response will be. Therefore, the students will either start or continue building logical thinking skill. 2. To You As A Teacher? We chose this topic based on our own preferences. One of the reasons why we chose a topic that focuses on Science and Social Studies is because the students rarely get Science and Social Studies compared to Literacy and Math. Since these students are at the age when they may wonder how and what they are learning from school may relate to their lives, we thought sustainability would be an appropriate topic. Kirkbride does not recycle, even though there are recycling bins, and there is trash all over the neighborhood. Since the students could see their surroundings, they may be able to make connections to their academics and their personal lives in the neighborhood. As they notice more about what sustainability practices, the students may realized that they can think critically, hypothetically, and logically about the practices. They may learn how to take ownership of their knowledge as they begin to learn to develop ideas about sustainable practices, such as recycling, turning off lights, and walking to school instead of driving. This level of thinking may fall into the Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development, since we, as



teachers, may scaffold them with information about sustainability, but also require them to think beyond the facts and see how sustainability is applicable (Culatta). I know that my inquiry question and goals are to have my students realize that they can succeed as they take ownership and responsibility of their education and develop critical thinking skills. Since the school seems to be test-driven with the PSSAs, the students do not seem to think critically as they write. Many of their writing seems scripted as they are required to turn the prompt into a question and give two or three examples from the passage. Since we included persuasive writing, where the students are required to give textual support, we hope that the students would start to learn how to develop their own ideas that are supported by evidence. This would reflect Bloom’s Taxonomy of Cognitive Objective, where the students may progress from knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation (Bloom’s Taxonomy). My goal is to have the students be able to verify and justify their opinions about specific sustainability practices. This may be different from what they are used to since there is a very specific answer that the test-makers desire. The questions that we designed offer the students more choices on how they to answer the questions of which sustainability practices should be adopted and why. As we have discussed in Seminar Class, choices can provide opportunities for students to be creative and take ownership of their education and thinking (Seminar Class notes). C: How Is This Topic Accessible To Students? 1. In Terms of Developmental Appropriateness? Sustainability is accessible to the students in terms of developmental appropriateness. At this middle school age, the students are on the fence of being dependent or more independent individuals. Their intellectual development at this age progresses as they experience more of metacognition and become more egocentric as they learn how to defend their arguments more critically and logically (“Characteristics of Middle Grade Students”). I have seen these characteristics when my students have written some persuasive letters earlier.



These letters were complaint letters about the student teachers, and the students had to make a clear complaint, give reasons, and what can be done to make the situation better. Many of my students complained about why I did not tell them my first name, and these letters were well written and well defended. This is one situation where I find the sustainability unit to be appropriate where they can learn how to research to support their claims. Another incidence when the students were able to defend their ideas is when the students had a whole class debate about Chinatown being demolished for a new Walmart (hypothetically). The students had to give reasons of why Chinatown should be demolished or not. I observed Ted moderate this debate because he spontaneously decided to do this with his class for Social Studies. He acted as the Mayor of Philadelphia and raised counterpoints, and I observed my students trying to convince Ted to keep Chinatown or not. Not only did they give simple reasons such as: “It has good food,” but they were able to think of legitimate reasons to keep Chinatown that may have reflected Bloom’s higher order thinking. One student said, “Chinatown should not be demolished because other people can learn its history.” This student was able to think of a reason that not only reflected his beliefs, but he thought of a reason that reflected how Chinatown affects the community and other people. He seemed to analyze the situation and formulate a reason to justify why Chinatown should exist. This debate may have allowed students to analyze the situation and think critically, and this could reflect Bloom’s higher order thinking and Denton’s and Kriete’s beliefs in The First Six Weeks of School. Denton and Kriete state, “In order for these discussions to be engaging and effective for students, teacher themselves must find the questions engaging and provocative... such conversations encourage high standards for our students’ thinking,” (145). The Chinatown debate was engaging and provocative when I assessed my students, and I was able to determine that they were capable of thinking more logically and critically. These were few instances where Ted and I tested the waters, assessed our students’ capabilities, and saw if our unit was developmentally appropriate, which we believe it is.

Ham 2. In Terms of Resources Available? The resources that are available to the students are the computers, previous field trips, and technology such as the SmartBoard for videos. Because of the PSSA’s and the class’ field trip to the Franklin Institute in January, we were not able to plan another field trip. However, some of the students attended the Changing Earth exhibit at the Franklin Institute, so they may


remember what they learned at that exhibit. There are three computers in the literacy classroom and four computers in the math classroom. These computers will be given to students who do not have computers at home. Also, the students have Computer Lab every Tuesday for an hour, so more students will have access to the computers. Thus, students will have resources available to them in school and outside of school. D: How Does This Topic Provide Opportunities for Multiple Connections? This sustainability topic provides opportunities for multiple connections. Such connections may be from the classroom and from their homes. The students may bring what they learn from their homes into the schools, which reflects Funds of Knowledge. Since the neighborhood seems to allow trash be disposed into the streets, some of the students may possibly come from a family who tosses trash into the streets. As a result, the students may believe that view of trash could be alright. The students may also learn about how their families and neighbors treat electricity, food, and their homes in general. Some families may have adopted some sustainability practices in their homes such as walking to school or turning off the lights or television. Thus, students may realize that they already have some background of sustainability and bring any other sustainability practice from their homes to class. As my CMs mentioned, this unit could help bridge the community and school because the students could learn what sustainability practices could be adopted their schools and neighborhoods. Since Kirkbride dedicated January’s theme to Global Warming, the students may have prior knowledge about some sustainability practices. They had small lessons about carbon footprints and how electricity and carbon are added into the atmosphere. These may be topics

Ham that cover the scientific components. Literacy, Social Studies, and Math are also part of their prior knowledge. The students will be learning on how to be persuasive, but since they wrote a


complaint letter, they may remember the key ideas of making clear statement, give reasons and evidence, and see what can be done for improvement. The Chinatown debate allowed the students to learn how to articulate their ideas to prove their points. With these incidences and prior knowledge, the students will be able to make multiple connections among their homes, classrooms, prior knowledge, and new knowledge about sustainability. Reference: Bloom’s Taxonomy of Cognitive Objective. Handout from Seminar Class. "Characteristics of Middle Grade Students,” Caught in the Middle (1989). Sacramento: California Department of Education, pages 144-148. http://pubs.cde.ca.gov/tcsii/documentlibrary/characteristicsmg.aspx. Culatta, Richard. (2011). “Zone of Proximal Development,” Innovative Learning. http://www.innovativelearning.com/educational_psychology/development/zone-ofproximal-development.html Denton, Paula and Kriete, Roxann. (2000). The First Six Weeks of School. Turners Falls, MA.: Northeast Foundation for Children, Inc. p. 145. Mayor’s Office of Sustainability City of Philadelphia. City of Philadelphia. 1 March 2013. http://www.phila.gov/green/index.html United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA). 28 February 2013. http://www.epa.gov/sustainability/.