Changing Our Earth

Making evidence-based environmental proposals to the local community

By Alan Kostrick, Computer Science Teacher and STEM Team Leader, Hammond High School, Howard County Public Schools, MD

Environmental change seems to be trending as a topic on the evening news, in the classroom, and in many aspects of our daily lives. However, while most high school students can relate to the word change on a personal or even academic level, they are not so familiar with change as it relates to the environment. But for the 2013-14 school year, students and teachers at Hammond High School took on the issue of change in the environment over time as our cross-cutting concept to explore, with the driving question of, “What can we do about how our actions affect our Earth and its resources?”

Our PLC improvement goal for the year was to extend our PBL units of study out into the local community and school neighborhoods. We decided that the audience for the final student projects would be the local community. This is much different from the typical teacher and peer audience for their work, and it pushed both students and teachers out of their comfort zones. Our big idea was to encourage and allow our students to become communicators, believers in their abilities, activists, and agents for change. To support our students, our PLC set out to build on the 21st century competencies of collaborative teamwork, critical thinking, problem-solving, adaptability, and leadership– all skills needed to effectively communicate with a public audience about changing the way we interact with and live in our environment.