This unit is adapted to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) assigned to the 4th grade curriculum. I work in the pre-Kindergarten (3 years old) to 8th grade King Robinson Inter-distric International Baccalaureate (IB) STEM Magnet School, in the city of New Haven. Being a title 1 school and a having a double magnet theme, my school has shifted their focus to STEM, focusing on the S, which is science. In fourth grade, students’ study how energy and fuels are derived from natural resources and affect the environment. Specifically, students will be able to describe the environmental effects on a habit or ecosystem due to climate change, rise of sea level, the greenhouse effect & human activity. Additionally, students will be able to explain how different animals and species have reacted to challenges in their environment and ecosystem.
Elementary aged children grasp new topics easier when topics are relatable. To make this unit engaging for students, they will be studying animals and species here in Connecticut who are facing challenges in their environment. Having this unit focus on species in the student’s home state of Connecticut allows them to make a connection to the topic. It also allows students to become more invested in the unit because they most likely have heard of the species and even might have seen them in person before. Additionally, this unit will enlighten students to take action to help their community find solutions to help these species and ways to protect our coastlines from the rise in sea level occurring at a rapid speed.
There are some local organizations that are working to educate communities in Connecticut about the effects of climate change. For example, the Outer Island Research and Education Program located at the Thimble Islands in Branford, Connecticut is a five acre island that was donated in 1995 for environmental education and scientific research purposes. Outer Island is an ecological preserve and refuge for migrating birds off the coast of Branford, Connecticut. Researchers, scientists and students at Southern Connecticut State University work together to study different species and topics ranging in geology, oceanography, island ecology and intertidal ecology. In addition, Outer Island is partnered with the Stewart B McKinney National Wildlife Refuge that includes islands, salt marshes, grasslands and coastal forests. The Outer Island is extremely important to help migrating birds and threatened species by providing birds a place where they can stop during migrating across the Long Island Sound during the spring and fall. Portions of the island are closed to the public to allow these birds and other wildlife to migrate freely from human disturbance
Something that is extremely intriguing about the Outer Island Research and Educational Program is that a researcher will come meet with students two times in our classroom to give background information about migration and how some species living in our Long Island Sounds are either thriving or dying. This connects greatly with my unit topic because they would be able to learn and ask questions to a researcher who has a passion for this topic. Later, students actually get to board a small ferry and attend another hands on program on the actual Outer Island located in the Thimble Islands. These islands are located less than 20 minutes away from their homes. This is an incredible experience that students can see and interact with species, especially the Saltwater Marsh sparrow.
This experience will be tied into this unit so students can connect within the community to bring more awareness to the species living along the Long Island Sound by going on a field trip. In addition, there is a walkway around the block from the ferry pickup, which is also free, that will allow students to walk along the marshes on a pathway where they can make observations during their nature walk. These hands on experiences will allow students to really connect with this topic by allowing them to observe and make connections to the various species living in Connecticut.
This aligns with my school, King Robinson Inter-District International Baccalaureate STEM Magnet School’s mission statement because by the end of the unit, students will be able to “take action and become empowered to be responsible, productive and engaged 21st century global citizens, who are respectful, open minded and reflective with positive attitudes. Students will use their skills to take action that lead to positive contributions to their global environment.”