I was asked to plan a series of lessons for a Science 9 Applied class using the curriculum expectation B3.5 which states “identify some factors related to human activity that have an impact on ecosystems.”
I did an internet search on this topic and found many ideas related to climate change. I believe that students are inundated with this topic in class, so I started looking for a different angle.
I remembered an article that I read about the human impact on Mount Everest and thought this might be the best way to approach this topic. I located several youtube videos showing how the climbers were changing the mountain. I showed these to the class and we discussed the impacts on the ecosystem. I also located 4-5 one page articles on Mount Everest at different reading levels. With the classroom teacher’s help, I assigned one article to each student that met their reading level as best as we could.
After watching a presentation by Leigh Cassell on her project the Digital Human Library I went in search of a speaker who had climbed Mount Everest. This was something that I wasn’t entirely comfortable with. I have never done a web presentation like this before, I’m not good at approaching people I don’t know, and I don’t really like asking for favors from people, but I really wanted to provide this opportunity to my students.
I did a Google search looking for Canadians who had climb Mt Everest. I found a few names and contacted them through their websites requesting a presentation.
Eventually, I connected with Sandra Leduc who climbed Mt Everest in 2012. She was very open to the idea of Skyping with my class. I emailed her about the focus of the lesson and she planned her talk around that idea. She even left work early so she could talk to us in a quiet space and without interruption. Ten minutes before we were to start I was still struggling to get Skype to work. Finally I went into the main part of the library at my school and asked if anyone knew how to Skype. One student came over right away, clicked on one button and we were ready to go.This was all new to me.
Sandra’s presentation kept us all engrossed for an hour and then students were able to ask her specific questions about her climb. It was the highlight of my semester.
Students then wrote an article discussing the three main ways humans impact the ecosystem on Mount Everest. Pictures, graphs, etc were to be included in their final work.This article along with the videos, and our skype talk were the basis of their research. The articles were written using Google Docs and shared with me. I read their work each evening and made comments along the way.
Here is an example of what I gave students after I assessed their work.
Summarize: You wrote a blog post on the human impact on Mt Everest.
Explain: You clearly identified 3 specific impacts on Mt Everest. Why is all this garbage left behind? Why is the waste entering the water system a problem now? Why is it unsafe to remove bodies? Is this true for the whole mountain or only some areas? I don’t think it is warming enough for the bodies to slide down but the warming does cause other problems.
You offered 1 solution for each of the problems. Please expand on these ideas. How might everyone going to the bathroom in the same space cause problems?
Redirect: Please return to the post and explain the human impact on Everest and explain the human impacts in more detail. Also give more details to your solutions.
Resubmit: When you are finished, please send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and let me know that you have made these changes and I will look at your work again.
I then gave each student their suggestions for the article. Students were given a few days to use my suggestions to improve their work. I was available for one-on-one discussion when requested. In the end, I did assign a grade to the work, but students did not see this until after the re-submit time was up.
Overall, this lesson incorporated several new aspects for me which included contacting people to talk to my class, Skyping, and a new assessment system. Moving out of my comfort zone was necessary to my learning and my students’ learning.