Category: Inquiry

The Project Deets

Coming up with the project outline took a fair amount of time and thinking. A big part of this unit is argumentation; however, the students have just come off of a unit where they wrote feature articles. I am concerned about two major writing units being back to back. As such, this outline is trying to make the most out of which standards we need to cover, honoring student choice, and trying to keep motivation high as we move into the last five weeks of the year. Right now, this is my current thinking:


How Do We Make the Better Choice?

Looking at different environmental issues, we have found that there is no perfect or best solution when all factors are considered. What is good for one group, often is at the expense of another.

Your task:

After researching environmental issues and their impact on people and the economy, you will analyze the pros and cons on different solutions/alternatives to the problem. Then, you will select what a better choice (solution/alternative) could be and argue for that choice.


The breakdown:

  • use at least 5 sources in support of your claim
    • Clearly listed on Noodletools
  • Cost/Benefit breakdown of two or more approaches to the issue. Make sure you look at how it will impact:
    • yourself
    • businesses/economy
    • People in other places
  • Thesis (claim) clearly stated
  • Link to Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs) and explanation of the link
  • Outline clearly listing your:
    • Thesis statement (claim)
    • Reasons (evidence)
    • Explanation (reasoning)
  • An argumentative paragraph that includes:
    • A thesis statement (claim)
    • Well-organized reasons (evidence) with:
      • Explanation (reasoning)
      • Transitions connecting ideas
    • A conclusion
  • A presentation of some sort.  Examples may include, but are not limited to:
    • poster of your thinking, including cost/benefit analysis
    • TED talk
    • campaign
    • Video
    • Commercial
    • PPT style presentation
    • Infographic arguing for your thesis
    • Create a protoype (if the proposed “better choice” is based on constructing the solution)


There is still concern around the mandatory argumentative paragraph. Is both an outline and paragraph (which inevitably will turn into an essay) necessary? Can we get away with just an outline and really focusing on crafting strong Thesis statements? What is most important for students to be able to do? For me, it’s to analyze how our actions impact ourselves and others, and to take a look at how small change can have lasting, far-reaching impact. Unfortunately, argumentative essay isn’t coming up high on my list. Right now I’m thinking of trying the paragraph with one class, and then not with the other class to see if it makes a difference in thinking, showing of learning, or movement towards a “better choice.”

What Am I Getting Myself Into?

Full disclosure: I’d like this bit of thinking to be deep, powerful, witty, and yet I’m sure it will be loads of rambling and overall a hot mess. I have decided to enter into an inquiry along with my students as I develop a unit that I hope to be impactful. Year after year, I’ve grown weary with reports on plastic bags destroying the oceans; and projects explaining or even arguing for the cleaning up of the Pacific Garbage Patch. Sustainability, to me, has become a buzz word that is losing its impact. I know how important it is for students to learn about how their choices have impact and that sustainable alternatives need to be explored; I’m just tired of clinical approach to a problem that is quite personal for millions of people around the world.

So, here I am thinking “Oh man, why oh why did I say I’d do this project with them?” I’m developing on the go and don’t even have a complete picture of how all of this will work. I want to give my students as much room to take this in whatever direction they can. This means things aren’t fully developed in my mind. Every day I ask students to show their thinking, push their limits, dig deeper in their work and then when it applies to me I’m realizing finally how my students feel. “What do I choose?” or “Am I on the right track?” “How do I approach this?”

I wanted initially to show an example-perhaps even one someone else had done and then rely on that. The compelling question driving us forward is:

  • How do we make better choices?

Students have learned about the food industry, plastic industry, impact of advertising, and water usage. Each kiddo seems to be going off in different directions around areas of interest and I’m pushing them. .  .I’m pushing them to not only understand the environmental issue, but also to look at alternative solutions and analyze the pros and cons of each one on themselves, businesses, and the greater world population. Surprisingly, they’re into it, they’re thinking of things I haven’t, in ways I haven’t considered. Which leads me back to my project. It was after conversing with the kiddos that I knew I couldn’t use someone else’s example. If this is so important for them to explore, it’s also important for me to be thinking about, modeling, and then putting into practice in my life. And so I created a list of possibilities.

  • going vegetarian
  • riding my bike instead of using didi regularly
  • taking shorter showers
  • making a firm commitment to sourcing only second hand clothing (I do mostly for myself but not for my girls)
  • researching fashion brands that are more sustainable
  • looking at the amount of plastic in my home (sigh…it all comes back to plastic)
  • alternatives to the never ending supply of dish soap we go through
  • sourcing toilet paper that doesn’t come in plastic

Of course with each of the possible changes above, there would be research attached: what is the cost, benefit of putting this into action? At the moment, two or three are jumping out at me. I want to argue for a change I know I can do and keep up. I do not want this to be something I do simply as an example. Instead, I want this to be a life change for me that I can continue to add on to.

So, I am officially committed. Who knows where this will go. Who knows if I will be successful, or at the end of it all, talking to my students about how I tried and ended up not accomplishing my goal. Stay tuned…