1. Brainstorm Neighborhood Issues:
- What issues do people care about in your community?
- How can teens get involved in solutions to those issues?
- Make a mind map, KWL chart, or any other brainstorming format your students are familiar with. Keep these initial ideas for reference throughout the next activities
2. Introduce a Design cycle:
- This unit addresses climate change impacts in your city. Students will get an introduction to climate change content through hands-on activities. If you live in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New York, or Washington D.C., you may be able to borrow activity kits from your local Climate & Urban Systems Partnership (CUSP). Contact Pat McShea at Carnegie Museum of Natural History for details. After an introductory exploration, students will teach the activity to others. Introduce a design cycle as a framework that students can use to map their own learning, improve the activity to make it more relevant to new audiences, and improve their presentation skills. The CUSP activity kit designers use the same model.
3. Investigate the urban heat island effect:
- Make predictions about which outdoor spaces will be hottest and coolest on a sunny day, then use an IR heat gun or other thermometer to collect data. There are many excellent online resources for urban heat island experiments. We were inspired by this one from Arizona State University. The CUSP Urban Heat Islands kit can also be used to introduce the concept.
4. Investigate the impact of green infrastructure:
- Experiment with the CUSP Extreme Events kit and test different models to show the impacts of green infrastructure.
5. Think about ways to address climate impacts and other community concerns:
- Use the CUSP Climate Adaptation in Empty Spaces kit to imagine a future use for community spaces. Think back to your original brainstorm about community concerns, and what you learned about urban heat islands and green infrastructure. Can you redesign an empty space to meet your neighborhood needs?
6. Teach these activities to others:
- Students should use the design cycle to document their learning for activities 3 – 5, and in the “Improve” part of the cycle, make plans for how to teach this to others. Go into your teaching opportunity with some new questions about what you want to learn from the audience. Make updates to your lesson plans, build your own activity kits, and share resources as you learn.
7. Reflect to track learning:
- Revisit your notes from the first brainstorm about community issues and how teens can get involved. What do you think about these questions now? Which of your ideas have been reinforced, and why? Which of your ideas have changed, and why? Definitely do this at the end of the unit, but you can also do this after each activity as part of the design cycle.