This unit is written for use with a 4
grade classroom but much of it can be adapted for use with students from third to fifth, or even sixth grades.
The objectives of the unit are taken from the Grade Level Expectations of the City of New Haven based on the Connecticut science standards.
Forces and motion:
4.1 The position and motion of objects can be changed by pushing or pulling.
Matter and Energy in Ecosystems:
4.2 All organisms depend on the living and nonliving features of the environment.
Energy in the Earth's System
4.3 Water has a major role in shaping the Earth's surface.
More specifically the unit seeks to accomplish the following:
Identify the need for new energy sources
Identify the way to conserve present sources of energy
I plan to teach the unit for six weeks allowing for three periods of an hour each period.
The unit deals with the modern concept of sustainability. As the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 stated, we want to "create and maintain conditions under which (humans) and nature can exist in productive harmony and fulfill the social, environmental and future requirements of present and future generations of Americans." This goal is no less important today than it was forty years ago. Our energy problems have been exacerbated by our slow and inadequate response to the situation. Even those who purport to be strong environmentalists readily concede that our country still needs fossil fuels and will for some time to come. For our students who are the future citizens of the world, the problem will continue to be relevant.
As I began writing the unit, events have conspired to prove this topic is even more relevant than the somewhat gratuitous introduction I started. Oil continues to spill out of the ruptured British Petroleum oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, threatening the coastline of the United States. Off shore drilling is now on hold as the controversial effects of this method are being discussed. The sea life, marshlands and very livelihood of many fishermen and others who make their living from tourism in this region are being destroyed. As the hurricane season approaches, the possibility of spreading this oil to other regions has also become a source of worry.
We have seen our technology develop to where oil can be taken from great depths in the ocean, but our technology to solve problems with these advances has not kept up. There is a feeling of panic for many because, so far, all solutions have failed to quell the gushing oil. We can feel first hand that our technology and engineering skills may not be up to this challenge. This is a good lesson for all of us especially for students to experience. Those of us born in the last half century have seen continual advances in science and technology. Every problem seems to come with a quick solution.
This disaster presents a real live problem to show students how science really works trial and error. When we do "experiments", especially in the early grades, students can't often help but think that there is already a correct answer out there which the teacher has up her sleeve. This accident has shown that science usually operates without knowing what will work. The attempts to stop the oil have been tried with hypotheses about what could or should happen. The failure is an example to all of us of the trials that preceded most of the technology and scientific breakthroughs we have grown used to. We do not know the final solution, or the resulting destruction that will be left behind when a solution is found. Again, I notice myself still espousing with confidence that modern technology and science will solve the problem. Perhaps it is a human trait-- misplaced hubris; or just the need to believe in our own ultimate survival.