Social Responsibility
How are we interconnected?
Healthy oceans are necessary for a healthy planet including all its populations.

Social Responsibility Rationale
Unit Designers: Denice Crettol, Beth Cotter, Eugene Matejek, Mary Weigold

Transdisciplinary: Transdisciplinary learning is the exploration of a relevant issue or problem that integrates the perspectives of multiple disciplines in order to connect new knowledge and deeper understanding to real life experiences. Transdisciplinary units culminate in authentic assessments with a genuine audience. Transdisciplinary units weave throughout the school day and are taught though multiple disciplines. Although content may be grounded in a discipline, the unit is not considered a science unit or a social studies unit.

Inquiry: A student-centered, active learning approach focusing on questioning, critical thinking, and problem solving. It's associated with the idea "involve me and I understand."

Introduction to unit:
Big Idea: Social Responsibility
Unit Essential Question: How are we interconnected?
Unit Enduring Understanding: Healthy oceans are necessary for a healthy planet including all its populations.

This unit is designed to develop a sense of social responsibility in students, and an awareness of the interconnection between ocean and land systems. Our students have the opportunity to learn about problems facing Long Island Sound and to focus on actions to rectify the problems. These actions empower students when they realize that they can influence change in their community and improve their environment.

Students develop an understanding of the ocean system and its inhabitants through questioning, first hand observation, web-based activities, science experiments, and text-based research. Each week is assigned a conceptual focus question to guide discussion and exploration. Foundational lessons ensure that all 4th grade students have exposure to content, concepts, and skills aligned to state standards, Greenwich curriculum requirements, TEPL expectations, and the Vision of the Graduate. Think of these lessons as “assured experiences” that provide a variety of platforms for your students to dive deeper into the issues introduced. Additional resources and extension activities are listed following the foundational lesson to support further investigation.

A sense of social responsibility evolves as students develop a list of problems and research the effects on the Long Island Sound. Through investigation and research students deepen their understanding of the problems. Then students shift focus toward proactive solutions and how students may influence those solutions. They may choose to address one specific cause of the problem (ex: harvesting horseshoe crabs for bait), or they may choose to raise awareness of the problem itself (ex: decline of horseshoe crab population). Students choose a solution that is reasonable in scope and cost. They identify the target audience for their public service announcement (PSA). Then they write in advocacy of the solution.
The unit culminates with two assured assessments:
1. Each student individually writes a persuasive article to a relevant publication, or writes a persuasive letter to an influential person.
2. Small groups of students create Public Service Announcements to raise awareness of the problem and inspire action to solve the problem.
Both the individual writing piece and the PSA are shared publically. (See contact suggestions linked to websites below.)

Inquiry is the driving force throughout the unit. Questions fuel investigations, and lead to social action. Some students may develop a passionate interest or the class may galvanize around an issue early in the study. Other classes may need more prompting or modeling. Teacher strengths and interests can be powerful catalysts, but remember that an inquiry unit must be driven by student questions and interest. It must be an active learning experience.

Some lessons will need to be improvised to meet the needs of individual student populations. Differences of background knowledge, interest, and skill sets will require teachers to generate or modify lessons. The engagement and motivation of students will cause the unit to take on a life of its own, and teachers may be challenged to keep up. Rely on focus questions and foundational lessons to guide the unit. Gradually release responsibility while providing support and resources as needed.

In the 7 classes that piloted this unit (2009-2010), students investigated problems as diverse as the Greenwich recycling system, the BP oil spill, endangered species, invasive species, and sedimentation. Extensions to the unit included a puppet show, EcoBooks (world friendly poems bound using recycled materials), game design, bottle cap recycling, and a cafeteria contest between grade levels to reduce garbage. Although the focus of the unit is Long Island Sound to embrace grade 4 Science GLEs and to give students a sense of local ownership, current events or individual interests may lead teachers and students to investigate other ocean ecosystems.

Long Island Sound provides a laboratory in our backyard. As a result of this study, students will see this local natural resource with new eyes. Some students may even be encouraged to continue their interest into the world’s oceans, and someday may make valuable contributions to our understanding of this virtually undiscovered world that so intrinsically affects our daily lives.

Assured Experiences:
Trip: The purpose of this trip is to launch the unit and engage students in inquiring about the problems facing Long Island Sound and to take responsibility for cleaning up our beaches.
*If you go before May 1st you don’t need to get a permit.
  • Remember to check for tides, must go at low tide.

Food Web Lesson

Writing pieces: mid-unit reflection of 2 – 3 paragraphs

Science notebooks
End of unit PSA
End of unit writing piece

State Standards Addressed:
4.2.1 Give examples of ways that living and nonliving things are interdependent within an ecosystem
4.2.2 Draw diagrams showing how the sun’s energy enters and is transferred from producers to consumers in an aquatic food chain
4.2.3 Design and conduct simple investigations to record interactions among producers, consumers, herbivores, carnivores, omnivores and decomposers in an ecosystem.
4.2.4 Analyze food webs to describe how energy is transferred from plants to various animals in an ecosystem
4.2.5 Distinguish between naturally occurring changes in ecosystems and those caused by human activity

B INQ.1 Make observations and ask questions about objects, organisms and the environment.
B INQ. 2 Seek relevant information in books, magazines and electronic media.
B INQ. 3 Design and conduct simple investigations.
B INQ. 4 Employ simple equipment and measuring tools to gather data and extend the senses.
B INQ. 5 Use data to construct explanations.
B INQ. 6 Analyze, critique and communicate investigations using words, graphs and drawing.
B INQ. 7 Read and write a variety of science-related fiction and nonfiction texts.
B INQ 8 Search the Web and locate relevant science information.
B INQ. 9 Use measurement tools and standard units (e.g., centimeters, meters, grams, kilograms) to describe objects and materials.
B INQ 10 Use mathematics to analyze, interpret and present data.

Social Studies Locate manmade and physical characteristic of Connecticut Describe how physical systems (weather and climate) have affected people’s lives in Connecticut (e.g., economy, recreation, transportation). Explain significant characteristics of an effective and responsible resident in one’s state (e.g., voting, participating in government). Predict various points of view people might have on a contemporary issue. Analyze articles from appropriate sources that propose solutions to contemporary issues.

Language Arts
TBD – Lit Life July 2010

Essential Questions:
• How do ocean animals transfer and conserve energy?
• How do natural changes and human activities cause change in ocean communities?
• What happens to organisms when change occurs?

• How do questions guide research?
• How does the appropriate choice of media all for effective communication?
• How do I use digital media to collaborate with others?

Social Studies:
• What are the economic, geographic, and civic impacts of healthy oceans?

• How can we influence the world through written communication?
• How do conflicting points of view shape human action?
• How can we use voice to convey a message?

• How do the arts express ideas, feelings, and experiences?
• Why is it important to express myself through the arts?
• How do my creative choices best express my idea of and intent?

Physical Education
• How do people conserve and transfer energy?

A Day in the Life of Social Responsibility