Project Resilience - a high school curriculum about the environmental challenges facing Gulf coastal communities

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Introduction to Project Resilience

With the Project Resilience curriculum, high school students examine the environmental challenges facing communities along the Gulf of Mexico and learn about resilience planning using a resilience planning toolkit. Project Resilience leads students through the development of a School Resilience Plan which contains student-designed projects to address one or more environmental challenges affecting their school campus. An extension of the curriculum is to implement one of the student projects from the School Resilience Plan.

Project Resilience was developed by the UCAR Center for Science Education (UCAR SciEd) and the South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center (SLWDC). This project was supported by the Gulf Research Program of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine under Grant Agreement number 2000009811. Read about the Project Resilience pilot project, implemented in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana, during the 2019-2020 school year.

The curriculum spans about 20 days of class time, divided into seven lessons, with an optional student project extension (Lesson 8). Lessons 1-4 of the curriculum focus on learning about the environmental challenges and scientific processes in the Mississippi River delta. Students gain an understanding of what the Mississippi River delta is and how it forms, why deltaic formation is important for coastal communities in the Gulf region (including the importance of wetlands and estuaries), and why the deltaic coast is vulnerable. Lessons 5-7 of the curriculum focus on resilience planning and adaptation strategies using a resilience toolkit. As a case study, students explore current and future projects planned for Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana, including criteria for choosing and evaluating factors that put communities at risk, and the scope of different types of projects.

If possible, a half-day field trip is highly recommended. Allowing students to see examples of land loss and current resilience projects in their own and nearby communities is an opportunity to ground their learning with important connections to the real world. The Project Resilience field trip example (linked in the Curriculum Outline below) is provided as a reference should you decide to create a field trip experience for your students.

Lesson 7 helps students to recognize how these larger environmental problems are impacting their own school and culminates in students creating a school resilience plan. The resilience plan is a collection of suggested projects that students feel are necessary to address environmental problems at their school campus. As an optional extension, Lesson 8 guides students to work with school officials and community members to select one project from the resilience plan to implement at their school (exact time for project implementation will vary and is not included in the 20-day curriculum schedule).

Curriculum Layout

The Project Resilience curriculum is organized into seven required lessons, with the optional additions of a field trip and/or eighth lesson. Most of the lessons extend over multiple class periods and are divided into “parts” (Part 1, Part 2, etc.) designed to fit within one 50-minute class period. Journal prompts from the lessons should be assigned at the end of each part and are intended to be completed as homework outside of class time. The target delivery time for lessons 1-7 of the curriculum is 20 days of class time.

You may find that your students require more than 50 minutes to complete part of a lesson if the learning tasks are particularly engaging, if your students require additional direct instruction or background around a new or challenging concept, or if you choose to facilitate any of the extension activities included at the end of the lessons.

The field trip and eighth lesson (project implementation) are optional extensions. Some guidance for these extensions is provided, but extra planning and scheduling for the field trip and projects, as well as securing funding to implement student projects at your school, is outside of the scope of the curriculum.

Curriculum Outline

Lesson 1: Changing Louisiana
  • 50 minutes
Lesson 2: The Mississippi River Delta and Estuaries
  • Part 1: The Mississippi River Delta (50 minutes)
  • Part 2: A Focus on Estuaries (50 minutes)
  • Part 3: A Valuable Environment (50 minutes)
  • Part 4: Sinking Land in the Bayou Region (50 minutes)
Lesson 3: Case Studies of Coastal Change
  • Part 1: Rising Sea Level (50 minutes)
  • Part 2: A Tale of Two Hurricanes (50 minutes)
  • Part 3: Ecosystem Changes (50 minutes)
Lesson 4: Turning Problems into Solutions
  • Part 1: Make a Claim (50 minutes)
  • Part 2: Designing Solutions (50 minutes)
Lesson 5: Risk and Vulnerability
  • 50 minutes
Lesson 6: Addressing Coastal Land Loss
  • Part 1: Multiple Lines of Defense (50 minutes)
  • Part 2: Adapting for the Future (50 minutes)
  • Part 3: Reducing the Risks (50 minutes)
  • Part 4: Analyzing Adaptation Plans (50 minutes)
Field Trip: Finding Resilience in Your Community
  • OPTIONAL: Approximately 3 hours*
*suggested to go on the field trip before Lesson 7
Lesson 7: Resilience in Action
  • Part 1: Breaking Down Resilience Toolkits (50 minutes)
  • Part 2: Walking Through the Resilience Toolkit and Introducing the Culminating Task (50 minutes)
  • Part 3: Brainstorming Possible Adaptation Projects (50 minutes)
  • Part 4: Project Design (50 minutes)
  • Part 5: Present and Revise (50 minutes)
Lesson 8: Making Your School Resilient & Project Implementation
  • OPTIONAL: 12 weeks*
*exact time will vary depending on the project

Within each lesson, you’ll find a list of materials, guidance about preparation for instruction, learning goals, and background information with links to additional resources. Directions for instruction and links to the Project Resilience slide deck, student sheets, maps, charts, readings, etc. are also found within each lesson write-up. In addition, many lessons also include extensions, which are optional instructional activities or suggestions for diving deeper into the content.

Standards

The Project Resilience curriculum aligns with both the Louisiana Student Standards for Science and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Within each lesson, the Performance Expectations and any additional NGSS dimensions (Science & Engineering Practices, Disciplinary Core Ideas, and/or Crosscutting Concepts) addressed within the lesson are listed. However, the NGSS dimensions are not bundled within the Performance Expectations. Because most lessons have multiple parts, each calling upon unique science content and skills, there are sometimes multiple Performance Expectations listed for a single lesson. Please note that the lesson does not necessarily provide for mastery of each aspect of the Performance Expectations as outlined in the Louisiana framework. Bold type indicates the parts of the performance expectation that are most directly addressed within each lesson. The additional dimensions are included to draw attention to NGSS elements beyond those included with the Performance Expectations that students will engage in within the lesson.

The table below lists the Performance Expectations most addressed in each lesson.

Louisiana Student Standards for Science - Performance Expectations

Lesson 1
  • HS-ESS3-1: Construct an explanation based on evidence for how the availability of natural resources, the occurrence of natural hazards, and changes in climate have influenced human activity.
Lesson 2
  • HS-ESS2-5: Plan and conduct an investigation of the properties of water and its effects on Earth materials and surface processes.
  • HS-ESS3-1: Construct an explanation based on evidence for how the availability of natural resources, the occurrence of natural hazards, and changes in climate have influenced human activity.
  • HS.EVS1-1: Analyze and interpret data to identify the factors that affect sustainable development and natural resource management in Louisiana.
  • HS-EVS1-3: Analyze and interpret data about the consequences of environmental decisions to determine the risk-benefit values of actions and practices implemented for selected issues.
  • HS-LS2-6: Evaluate the claims, evidence, and reasoning that the complex interactions in ecosystems maintain relatively consistent numbers and types of organisms in stable conditions, but changing conditions may result in a new ecosystem.
Lesson 3
  • HS-ESS3-1: Construct an explanation based on evidence for how the availability of natural resources, the occurrence of natural hazards, and changes in climate have influenced human activity.
  • HS-ESS3-4: Evaluate or refine a technological solution that reduces the impact of human activities with natural systems.
Lesson 4
  • HS-EVS1-3: Analyze and interpret data about the consequences of environmental decisions to determine the risk-benefit values of actions and practices implemented for selected issues.
  • HS-ESS3-4: Evaluate or refine a technological solution that reduces the impacts of human activities on natural systems.
  • HS-LS2-7: Design, evaluate, and refine a solution for reducing the impacts of human activities on the environment and biodiversity.
Lesson 5
  • HS-EVS1-3: Analyze and interpret data about the consequences of environmental decisions to determine the risk-benefit values of actions and practices implemented for selected issues.
Lesson 6
  • HS-EVS1-2: Obtain, evaluate and communicate the effectiveness of management or conservation practices for one of Louisiana’s natural resources with respect to common considerations such as social, economic, technological, and influencing political factors over the past 50 years.
  • HS-EVS1-3: Analyze and interpret data about the consequences of environmental decisions to determine the risk-benefit values of actions and practices implemented for selected issues.
Lesson 7
  • HS-EVS1-3: Analyze and interpret data about the consequences of environmental decisions to determine the risk-benefit values of actions and practices implemented for selected issues.
  • HS-ESS3-4: Evaluate or refine a technological solution that reduces the impacts of human activities on natural systems.
Lesson 8
  • HS-ESS3-4: Evaluate or refine a technological solution that reduces the impacts of human activities on natural systems.
  • HS-LS2-7: Design, evaluate, and refine a solution for reducing the impacts of human activities on the environment and biodiversity.

Instructional Routines

Project Resilience includes opportunities for students to engage in hands-on activities, with a focus on modeling and student inquiry methods. Students will explore and analyze graphs, maps, and charts throughout the lessons. There are also many opportunities for students to practice the NGSS Science and Engineering Principles (SEPs), including: questioning, modeling, collaborating, discussing, and revising ideas. Ensure that students are familiar with norms for respectful and productive discussion prior to beginning Project Resilience. Project Resilience uses a driving question board to help motivate further investigation and journaling as a means of reflection, both of which are described in more detail below.

The Driving Question Board

Throughout the Project Resilience curriculum, students articulate questions to define what they need to learn about the environmental challenges facing coastal communities and how communities are demonstrating resilience. They document their questions on a Driving Question Board (DQB), a tool used to generate, keep track of, and revisit student questions related to phenomena that students are exploring. The DQB is a visual representation of the questions generated by the class and is displayed in the classroom during the unit. A DQB can be constructed with sticky notes or sentence strips, written on whiteboards, or made with shared software applications. Read about using Driving Question Boards as an instructional strategy for collaboration.

The Driving Question Board is introduced at the beginning of the unit and then periodically revisited as students reach milestones within the curriculum. Plan to spend 5-10 minutes each time you revisit the DQB. It serves as a record of students’ curiosities about phenomena and a way of documenting the progress that they make in understanding the phenomena being studied. It is important that students understand there will be more questions on the DQB than can be answered during the unit.

To prepare a paper version of the Driving Question Board:

  • Write the driving question on a sheet of poster board or chart paper.
  • Make a space in the classroom for the Driving Question Board that is easily accessible to students.
  • Provide sticky notes and markers that students will use to document their questions.

Journaling

The journal prompts provide students an avenue to process the weight of topics presented within the lessons on their own. Journal assignments are intended to be assigned at the end of each day’s activities and completed outside of class. The time needed for a thoughtful response is not included within the planned 50 minute class period. If you do not typically assign homework to your students, consider journals as an optional extension activity.

Share with students your expectations for journal writing. Do you expect formal, polished writing, or is informal writing acceptable? How long should the average journal response be? Will students turn in their journal writing each day, or will they keep all their journal entries together until the end of the unit? Consider sharing an example of a journal response that you feel is a good model for students to follow. A journal scoring rubric is provided, please use this as a template and adapt it to meet your needs. Journal prompts are listed in a single document, below as both PDF and Word doc files, and written into the end of each day’s instructions.

For students living in coastal communities, learning about these environmental challenges will likely hit close to home. We encourage you to incorporate journaling into your Project Resilience curriculum so that students will have an outlet for their thoughts and feelings.

Integrating Project Resilience with your Environmental Science Curriculum

The Project Resilience curriculum can be considered as a case study, encompassing many topics included within your regular environmental science curriculum. Consider where Project Resilience might replace or enhance lessons in your regular sequence, or use the examples within the curriculum as a springboard to launch into a more in-depth study of topics. Take liberty to adapt, supplement, and skim as needed to best fit the learning needs of your students. It is always encouraged to integrate examples with local relevance when possible, especially in the context of learning about resilience in your own community.

Assessing Student Learning

Within the structure of Project Resilience, students are best assessed through their ability to apply learnings to real-world situations and design solutions. Though traditional summative assessments are not included, there are multiple opportunities for formative assessment, including:

  • Student activity sheets
  • Journal responses
  • Exit tickets
  • Discussions (Note: it will be important to establish a culture of productive talk in your classroom to facilitate effective discussions.)
  • Group CER presentations (at the end of Lesson 4)
  • Project presentations for the School Resilience Plan (at the end of Lesson 7)

To assist with assessing your students, we have provided the following rubric templates:

Ideas for summative assessment: If there are summative assessments (for example, unit tests or practice questions from the AP Environmental Science exam) that you already use with your students, pull test items from these sources that match the Project Resilience learning objectives to use as an assessment.

Student Projects

The Lesson 8 extension of Project Resilience is the implementation of a student-designed resilience project on the school campus. Successful project implementation will depend on your ability to secure funding, allocate sufficient time, and cultivate support from your school administration and community members who can advise students as they create the project plan.

Note: If you plan to implement a resilience project at your school campus, it is strongly recommended that you secure funding prior to beginning the Project Resilience curriculum. Sources of project funding may be: project sponsors, student fundraisers, school budgets, or grants. You will also need to work with your school administration to get their support for project implementation.

The School Resilience Plan that students will create in Lesson 7 provides a bank of projects to choose from for implementation. It is suggested that students present their project ideas from the School Resilience Plan to a panel of stakeholders (school administration, school facilities manager, community members who work in engineering, or other relevant professions) who can help select which project to move forwards with. They might be able to help students estimate the cost of the project, for example. Other things to consider might include: permitting, if special equipment will be needed, the amount of time it will take to implement the project, the cost of labor, etc.

Once a project, or projects, have been decided upon, Lesson 8 leads students through creating a detailed proposal/project plan, which includes creating a materials list, budget, and steps to implement the project. The Campus Resilience Project: Detailed Plan document will help guide students through creating their proposals, but students will most certainly need support from outside resources as well.

Extending Project Resilience Beyond the Classroom

A goal of the Project Resilience curriculum is to empower students to be involved in making their communities more resilient. Research has shown that student engagement around topics presented at school can help engage family members as well. Encouraging students to share what they are learning through the Project Resilience curriculum with their families and with members of the community could inspire others to work towards resilience. Look for opportunities for students to use what they are creating in the curriculum within larger community efforts. For example, students could share their ideas for a school resilience plan with the school board or city council. Or they could submit articles to the school or local paper. They could even start a campaign to increase awareness in the community about resilience. Engaging the adults of tomorrow in civic duty helps to strengthen communities and acknowledges the important contributions that youth can make.

Supplies You Will Need

Below is an overview of the supplies that you will need to implement the Project Resilience Curriculum in your classroom. A detailed supply list that includes quantities is provided within the instructions for each part.

Download the supply list (PDF)

TECHNOLOGY

  • Digital Projector
  • Computers or tablets for teacher & student use, with online access
  • Camera/video recorder (phone or tablet is fine)
  • Project Resilience Slide Deck projected for the class
  • Video clips streamed online and projected for the class

SUPPLIES FOR DISCUSSIONS, DRIVING QUESTION BOARD, & STUDENT GROUP WORK

  • Chart paper/Bulletin board paper
  • Sticky notes
  • Colored dot stickers
  • Composition book or notebook
  • Markers

HANDOUTS

  • Student Sheets, Maps, Graphs, Data, Rubrics, and Readings for each Lesson
  • Journal prompts

HANDS-ON ACTIVITY AND DEMONSTRATION SUPPLIES

  • Paint trays with a hole drilled into the bottom (plastic tray recommended)
  • Modeling clay or play dough
  • Clay tool, dowel, or pencil for carving into the clay
  • Indoor/outdoor carpeting strips
  • Kitchen sponges
  • Food coloring
  • Water jugs with adjustable water flow spout
  • Sand
  • Soil
  • Plastic bins or buckets to catch water
  • Spray bottle
  • Graduated cylinders (100mL or larger)
  • Liquid measuring cup (large)
  • Timer or stop-watch
  • Meter stick
  • Tape
  • Clear tennis ball container
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