Archives For Earth Matters

Investigates sustainability Issues. Posted on Tuesdays

Wow! I feel like an explorer who has just rounded a corner and unexpectedly stumbled into paradise. I have just discovered an almost perfect blend of technological innovation and pedagogical motivation. It’s a path that leads us past the outdated bubble-filling regurgitation of memorized facts and catapults us into the future of testing kids on the higher-order thinking skills that the 21st century demands.

Welcome to the beta testing pilot of  SimCityEdu:Pollution Challenge!

If you are like me, you may remember the SimCity games from the days when PC’s were the size of a desk and CD-rom games seemed too complicated for the average adult user to figure out.  I remember sharing this cutting edge technology with my middle school students in the early ’90’s. But I never dreamed that someone, namely a multidisciplinary team known as Glasslab, would turn this game on it’s head and create a sustainability game that helps teachers and students track how well they think.

This game has taken my mission right out of my mouth and served it up as meaningful play. (Maybe Erick Erickson is also clapping from the sidelines). But right now I can’t imagine a better tool to help our future leaders create the emphatic problem solving skills than a device that notices every mouse hover and analyzes your understanding of cause and effect.

SimCityEdu:Pollution Challenge seems like the perfect way to help students learn how to balance their individual needs versus a community’s needs versus the need to protect the earth now and for the future.

I can’t wait to use this thought provoking tool with my own daughter and all the other future global leaders.

So check out this ground-breaking advent of Blooms Taxonomy meets Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs meets standardized testing meets engaging play all of which adds up to a world of more thoughtful citizens.

Not a bad start don’t you think?

a middle grade dystopian novel where science meets social studies meets terrifying what ifs

If a book stuffed to the seams with big ideas, makes your soul leap, then Eye of the Storm is the book for you.

I can’t think of a better page-turner to help future decision makers grapple with ethical problems than Kate Messner’s novel.

In the near future when massive tornadoes are a daily event and meteorological engineering is possible, Jaden Meggs spends her summer in a community-wide storm shelter created by her father. She also learns that her father is steering storms away from her exclusive neighborhood and toward the organic farms, the competitors of his bio-engineered food company. Jaden has to decide what her obligations are and to whom.

Kate Messner takes the modern day issue of global warming, creates a worst case scenario of daily tornadoes and leaves the reader wrestling with deep questions.

Who has the right to decide how to solve weather problems? The government? The scientists? The individual? Communities with access to power? Everyone?

Who has access to safety? Who doesn’t? Why? Why does it matter who has access? Are there similar situations today? In history? What other issues of access does society have?

What kind of foods do people want to eat? Does everyone have choice to eat the food they want to eat? Should they? How does that impact other people in the community?

These questions are some of what future leaders have to face. So why not use Eye of the Storm as a springboard for discussion. Some of you may dismiss this book because it doesn’t neatly fit into a multiple choice test curricula. But would you rather have a president who’s adept at filling out a standardized test or a president who uses his or her critical thinking skills and ethical compassion to solve problems?

I have so fallen in love with this book that I have convinced my seventh grade Science, Humanities and English teachers to work with me to create a research project. As we design this curriculum, we are looking at the STEM standards and environmental issues. We are focusing on, how individuals can take a stand within the context of society or a government and what skills they need to create change. We are also studying the dystopian genre and examining what the format can teach us about the world and about crafting a story.

All of our work has been inspired by Kate’ Messenr’s skillful dystopian novel. Thank you Kate Messner.