For the last 10 years or so, I have used a biome project to start the year in Biology. The first version of the project was the best! Over the years, I have modified the project in small ways, always trying to improve but not always succeeding. This year, I decided to make a big change and I am so excited!
Have you heard of an island country called Kiribati? Well, I hadn’t until Mary Robinson (former President of Ireland) spoke at a conference I attended. She wrote a book on climate change (actually she’s written several books) and one chapter focused on this tiny island country that is basically disappearing into the ocean due to sea level rise. Over 100,000 people live in Kiribati and they are all on the brink of losing their country.
As I was preparing to introduce the biome project to my class last week, I showed them this video on Kiribati. We talked through the parts of the video to identify the problem, causes, consequences, and solutions. Then, I asked them to name other places on earth suffering from the consequences of climate change. We also talked about whether the consequences are “even” across the globe or if some are suffering more than others, and tried to identify why that might be the case. It was a full conversation from all of my classes. One of my students asked, “What if the USA is the only country to do anything about climate change? Would it really be enough? There are other big countries, too. ” I almost laughed but caught myself. I had to pause to make sure I was being professional in my answer and said, “I might argue the USA is one of the last countries to start fighting climate change.” I braced myself for the backlash, but instead he bobbed his head and said, “Yeah, true” and others also agreed. It was then I knew my new project idea might just work!
The new biome project includes a focus on the impacts of climate change on an environment. The students are already sharing news stories with me, experiences, and understanding far beyond what I was expecting. Climate change is clearly something they see as relevant and timely. The project tasks students with choosing a country or region that has experienced consequences due to climate change, like Kiribati. They will research all kinds of information about the region (including plants, animals, humans, diseases, and natural disasters) and the impact climate change is having. They will then propose a strategy to reduce the effects of climate change on this region. I set this project up with the scenario of a billionaire offering money to help the country most deserving and with a solution that will do the most good.
We are only a few days into the project. So far, though, the energy in the room has been encouraging for me. I will keep you posted on the outcome 🙂