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Impact II: Projects & Lesson Plans: Environmental Science
Environmental Science

HOW IT WORKS
Environmental Science is a course lasting one school year. Student responsibilities include homework assignments, which can be e-mailed to the teacher, and labs, which often require students to design original procedures and make frequent use of reference books. Theoretical topics include food chains and webs, adaptation and evolution, ecological succession, material cycles, and land and water biomes such as tropical rain forests and coral reefs. Applied topics include air and water pollution, ozone depletion, overpopulation, alternative energy sources, and the environmental impact of agriculture. Many of the lab exercises last several weeks. As an example, one lab investigates the effect of fertilizer on freshwater plant algae. Students prepare containers of pond water (to provide microorganisms), elodea plants, and de-chlorinated water. Each group of students prepares two containers. One container receives 10 ml. of powered plant food and the other does not. The containers are then covered to prevent evaporation. All containers are labeled and placed on shelves in a greenhouse or in light blanks (shelving units with fluorescent “grow-lights”). These are monitored weekly for a period of four weeks. Students observe the color and apparent health of elodea plants and the growth of algae on the containers. (You can use soda bottles with the tops removed or any clear container.) Typical results might show that the bottle with the fertilizer has shown considerable algae growth, compared to the one without the fertilizer. 

THE STUDENTS
This program is offered as an elective for all juniors and seniors who have completed their Regents requirements. It has also been adapted for use by the Special Education Department and might be suitable for gifted middle school students who have taken a year of Earth Science. Currently, Edward R. Murrow High School offers seven sections of Environmental Science with 34 students per class. Some are average achievers and others are quite gifted. Others have physical disabilities or require resource room support. The range of ability can often be used to advantage by pairing those with different abilities. Many of the stronger students have voiced interest in teaching, so the experience of helping their peers is valuable to them.

THE STAFF
Su Ellen Silverman is a licensed Biology teacher with twenty-one years of experience in the New York City school system. Seventeen of those years have been spent at Edward R. Murrow High School. She has taught Regents Biology, Earth Science, Astronomy, and Environmental Science; has participated in project leadership at York College in 1989; and earned a Woodrow Wilson fellowship, which enabled her to study at Princeton University in 1999.

WHAT YOU NEED
Many of the laboratory materials are simple, inexpensive, and often improvised, i.e., solar reflectors made from Styrofoam cups covered with aluminum foil. Much of the equipment is basic lab material that a school is likely to have already (e.g., balance scales, test tubes, and dissecting kits). Owl pellets are used for a lab on food chains and must be purchased yearly. Large numbers of transparent containers are required for experiments.

OVERALL VALUE
The academic content is both interesting and relevant to the students. Even the weaker ones find their curiosity sparked. A number of students have extended their knowledge well beyond the classroom. Each year, students return from vacations, proudly announcing that they have recognized organisms or relationships that were studied in class. It is not unusual for students to apply their knowledge to their summer jobs. 

 

View the Curriculum Unit/Dissemination Packet

CURRICULUM AREAS
Science

GRADES
11-12

MORE INFORMATION


Su Ellen Silverman
Edward R. Murrow High School
1600 Avenue L
Brooklyn, NY 11230

Principal
Saul Bruckner

IMPACT II 
Catalog 2003-2004

 

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