Real Life Lessons: Should Maryland Stop Smoking?

Teachers, if you are looking for a great STEM learning project which could help students understand health, climate change, politics and power,  look to our polluted skies.

Will Maryland choose to reduce greenhouse gases and pollutants to improve the health of our citizens and reduce the harm from global warming?  Or will we walk away from these reductions to fight a perceived threat of cheaper power production in neighboring states? 

This is an open question.

The state set a ambitious goal in April for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but the path for creating those reductions is not clear.

When Governor Hogan began his administration, he refused to publish air quality regulations which would have required older, highly polluting coal fired power plants to reduce their emissions or close.  Now, the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE)  is considering whether Maryland will leave the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) to reduce a perceived power cost advantage of neighboring states.   The argument is that if neighboring states can produce power more cheaply by polluting heavily, then Maryland would suffer from the pollution without profiting from the generation.

This project enables students to learn about the health and environmental costs of our dependence on fossil fuels and to consider which power sources are the most socially, economically and environmentally viable.

In the following six video clips,  advocacy groups, the Secretary of the MDE and citizens testify in support of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and in support of Maryland remaining in the multi-state cap and trade program to help reduce dependence on fossil fuels.    No one testified in favor of leaving RGGI, but Ben Grumbles, the Secretary of the Maryland Department of the Environment discussed the possibility of the state withdrawing from the agreement.

What are the arguments which your students find most persuasive? Should Maryland consider the health and environmental costs of pollution when it calculates the price of energy?

What path would they suggest for the future of Maryland?

You can find additional materials in the resource section or email me at shan@coolgreenschools.com to create a project fitted to your class.

 

Learning in the World of Wonder: Michel Anderson helps children connect and learn in the natural world

IMG_0289 by Shan Gordon.
Michel Anderson leads a tour of the garden, play areas and forest at the Waldorf school in Baltimore. Children help grow plants used to dye clothes, and chickens which produce eggs given to students on their birthdays.
IMG_0285 by Shan Gordon.
This note above the terrariums prompts children to understand the water cycle and sunlight exposure on plants.
IMG_0284 by Shan Gordon.
Terrariums in a windowed staircase enable students to pass by and observe the water and growth process.
IMG_0268 by Shan Gordon.
Paintings of nature are displayed in hallways. Note the attention to detail and how the images are stylized.
IMG_0265 by Shan Gordon.
Children used sticks, found items and small sculptures to build a miniature village.
IMG_0260 by Shan Gordon.
Teachers photograph children made projects during the garden and outdoor tour at the Waldorf School in Baltimore.
IMG_0329 by Shan Gordon.
Michel Anderson talks about some of the explorations and learning projects he and the children undertake at the outdoor after school program. Students have built shelters from sticks, searched for a colors in nature and created their own names for trees and animals. Anderson said the students also learn the common names, but that naming things themselves empowers the students. These names can be wonderfully descriptive and imaginative. Who could forget the Coconut Weirdo Tree?
IMG_0322 by Shan Gordon.
Michel Anderson talks about the need to keep the innate love of nature that children have, alive. The hours that children spend in observing and adventuring in the forest and gardens helps create that strong connection to the natural world.
IMG_0314 by Shan Gordon.
Willy Herrerra looks at the child made structure in the forest at the Waldorf School.
IMG_0303 by Shan Gordon.
Hay bales, purchased for a few dollars, provided a movable, changeable play structure for children.
IMG_0298 by Shan Gordon.
Michel Anderson supplies each child with a birthday egg. It is a big hit with the children at Waldorf. “If I forget, they will remind me”, Anderson said.

Learning about the Real Stuff

In a room filled with scientists, researchers and government officials, two seniors from City College High School, Nil Walker and Cameron Potts are answering questions about their summer research project. They explain how they collected and counted mosquito larvae, tested the water quality and velocity in local steams and counted pollinators. Potts tells how they used timothy grass immersed in water to attract mosquitoes and how they detected leaking sewage in the Gwynns Falls. “First it smelled like outdoors, then it smelled like eggs, then it smelled like the real stuff, he says, wrinkling up his face at the thought of the “ real stuff” in the stream.

IMG_0026 by Shan Gordon.
Nil Walker, a senior at City College High School in Baltimore, talks about his environmental research and his college plans at the Baltimore Ecosystem Study annual meeting.
IMG_0015 by Shan Gordon.
Cameron Potts, a senior at City College High School in Baltimore discusses his summer research with the Young Environmental Scientist program, YES-BES.

Potts lights up as he talks about this research. “If I had found out about this earlier, I would have joined as a freshman.” “I want to learn this stuff to be able to help my community,” Potts said.
Professors and researchers are leaning in, asking where they want to go to college, handing out their cards.

Bob Shedlock, a retired researcher from USGS shook hands with the students. We don’t feel like there are enough people working in our field. We want to encourage them, he said.
While Baltimore simmered through a summer marked with conflict, these students spent five weeks doing real science to help understand and improve our environment and our community.
The program, YES BES, is a youth outreach program run by the Baltimore Ecosystem Study. This summer it paid 20 students to do environmental studies in the Baltimore area.
The program is searching for funding for the upcoming summer. If you would like to support this program or know someone or some organization who would, please contact Bess Caplin at 410-455-1863 caplanb@caryinstitute.org

IMG_0008 by Shan Gordon.
Alan Berkowitz photographs Nil Walker and Cameron Potts, seniors at City College High School in Baltimore, with their poster on the ecological research they did this summer in the Young Environmental Scientist program sponsored by the Baltimore Ecosystem Study. Berkowitz is BES Education Team Leader with the Institute of Ecosystem Studies.

The Annual meeting of the Baltimore Ecosystem Study continues today at the Cylburn Arboretum Vollmer Center at 4915 Greenspring Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21209 from 9am –noon.
A reception featuring art and design connected to ecological research in the Baltimore area is 5:30-8pm at 16 W North Avenue, Baltimore, 21201