Environmental Science Series Immerses Students in Real Problem

As activity on the earth escalates, so d'es the need to understand how it affects the dynamic nature of ecosystems. Protecting the earth's fragile life-support system demands environmentally informed citizens who can recognize, understand and address critical environmental issues. Yet, so many students fail to make the connection between science learned in school and its importance in both their everyday lives and the quality of their futures.

Scenarios Teach 

Specifically developed to help students make this vital connection between curriculum and real-world experience is TLTG Environmental Science Series, from Texas Learning Technology Group in Austin, Texas

This multimedia program promotes critical thinking and problem solving by using real-world scenarios in which students explore environmental pollution and health-related issues. Content presents a number of perspectives on scenarios: biological, chemical, geological, medical, economic, sociological and political. 

Its scenario-based curriculum is intended not only to educate, but to stimulate students' natural interest in environmental sciences. And many students report that working on a project caused them to become more interested in the world's health problems, and eager to do more research on the environment, health risks and pollution. 

"This is the closest thing to the way I like to teach
that I have ever found."

Furthermore, the program's multidisciplinary approach allows it to be integrated into a variety of classes, such as earth, life or physical science, health and social studies.

Interesting Topics 

Among the TLTG Environmental Science Series are four titles. The instructional design for all units is a combination of technology, print, and activity-based materials. Each unit provides approximately 10 hours of instruction.

Ec'Expert: Fuel Site Quandary Students learn about soil types, remediation of oil spills, and the biological effects of contamination as they assume the role of an investigator trying to assist citizens of a fictitious town in selecting the best location for a new fuel site.

Ec'Expert: Case of the Polluted Playground Students assume various roles in a community where a city park is planned to go over what is discovered to be an old landfill. Students learn about types of contaminants in landfills, biological effects of contaminants, soil types, ground water, movement of spills through the ground and remediation techniques.

Health Risk: Incident at Elk Run Students play the role of a health investigator trying to determine the source of a mysterious illness afflicting children in a community. Students investigate and learn about pesticide contamination, effects of heavy metals, toxicity of various substances and hazardous waste disposal.

Health Risk: Shadow Over Crystal Valley The program teaches students about non-point source pollution as they try to determine what is causing some birds and animals in a particular area to be deformed.

Students Are Captivated 

Teachers in Texas who pilot tested the TLTG software report positive results. "The environmental science series involved students to a high degree. It engaged the kids more and kept their attention," says Kim Wolff, a teacher at Vines High School in Plano ISD. I'm looking forward to using it in the spring for an environmental curriculum and am exploring the idea of using it for an honors biology class. "I think the students most enjoyed it because it was very realistic," Wolff elaborates. "They worked in groups for problem solving and were able to use real life experiences."

Judy LeMoine, a teacher at O. Henry Middle School in Austin ISD, has only good to say about the programs: "This is the closest thing to the way I like to teach that I have ever found. It actually takes what you want students to learn and has them apply it, and not just memorize information. The interactive curriculum allows them to get enough information to make wise decisions." LeMoine also mentions how much students enjoy the program. "Kids like working in groups, and interacting with the computers," she says. "I have never gone to a group and overheard them talking about anything other than the task at hand... they get into some real heated, intense discussions."

This article originally appeared in the 12/01/1996 issue of THE Journal.