There are many topics that the Science curriculum teacher and English curriculum teacher could cover in a science and English-merged course; however, climate change is so widely discussed there is an acute need for students to be "in the know" on this politically charged topic. Our students, who are mostly Black and Latino, will encounter more of the negative effects of climate change because of their poverty and inner-city living. Climate change is attributed to the burning of fossil fuels, which adds to pollution. Our students tend to live in the areas where there is a higher concentration of pollution due to power plants, cars, and industry; thus, our students are more likely to breathe in dirty air than people of a higher economic status living in the suburbs. The burning of fossil fuels is changing our climate, which heightens the possibility of super storms. For example, Hurricane Katrina hit the people of New Orleans with a vengeance. These impoverished citizens are still waiting, 10 years later, to be compensated for their losses. Due to their economic status and lack of resources, they were unaware of the danger headed their way and did not heed the evacuation warnings. We want to educate our students, so they do understand the severity of super storms, so if they are ever faced with that type of catastrophe, they are prepared. Also, many of our students suffer from asthma and other health issues related to pollution. In addition, urban areas tend to have heat islands, which attribute to further health risks. If we can use this unit to educate our students about climate change and its effects, we can help make them better consumers and better voters. While we are concerned about the environment, we are also concerned about human rights—all citizens should be able to breathe in clean air and have clean energy options.
Health Effects and the Marginalized
To introduce the negative health effects associated with climate change, our students will view the graph on the http://www.cdc.gov/climateandhealth/effects/ website. The graph outlines the different health issues associated with climate change, such as asthma and cardiovascular failure. The graph shows what specifically causes these health issues; for example, poor water and food supply can and do lead to malnutrition. The English co-teacher will create a cause and effect flow chart with our students for better comprehension (see Political Debates over Climate Change by Patricia M. Sorrentino).
To bring this issue closer to home for our students, we will view a CBS video. The video, accessible on http://www.cbsnews.com/news/obama-on-impact-of-climate-change-on-health-of-one-of-his-family-members/, deals with President Obama’s direct correlation with climate change; he blames climate change for one of the many causes of asthma. Many of our students suffer from asthma, much like Obama’s daughter. Asthma has been proven to be on the rise due to climate change. Asthma can severely affect one’s quality of life. To best understand asthma, we will explore the structure of the lung, how the respiratory system works, and how asthma affects the functions of both.
The article on http://www.webmd.com/lung/how-we-breathe will help break down how breathing happens, the structure of the lung, and how the respiratory system works. The video on YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7EDo9pUYvPE, will explain how asthma affects the lungs. Since many of our students suffer from asthma, they will have experience with dealing with this struggle.
Finally, we will ask our students to conduct a survey of their friends and family to find out how many have been diagnosed with asthma. This survey will provide data for our students to analyze. I will have my students create a graph to insert their data, so they can visualize the numbers they have collected. With this information, the English co-teacher will ask all of the students to create informational posters to hang around the school building (see Political Debates over Climate Change by Patricia M. Sorrentino).