Climate Justice Projects 2022
The CJEP awardees executed their lessons from January to June 2022. The CTUF has completed supporting seven teachers in funding their climate justice lesson plan. We are proud of the teachers’ work of constructing a culturally relevant curriculum that reflects the students in front of them, demonstrating responsive lesson design to meet the whole child in mind. This looks different depending on the student’s age, but the common theme was that the students are genuinely more engaged in the topic when posed through the lens of climate justice, which shows a child’s inherent care for their surroundings.
- Water Protectors: From Flint to Standing Rock
- How might changes in temperature affect the Karner blue?
- Chicago History and Environmental Justice Unit
- Is there LEAD in your water?
- Community Toxins, Solar Energy & Circuits
- Water Is Life! Rethinking Collaborative Art making & Climate Justice
- Water Quality Project
Lesson: Water Protectors: From Flint to Standing Rock
Educator: Andrew Chenohara
School: Gillespie Elementary School
In Water Protectors: From Flint to Standing Rock, students learned how groups of people have resisted and fought for the resources their communities need, such as access to clean water. The kindergarten students will be guided by questions such as how do social movements bring about change? Indigenous groups have been fighting for the rights to water and land for a long time. Communities in cities like Detroit and Flint have gotten together to demand access to clean water and to prevent water shutoffs.
Students participated in a simulated oil spill: filling several plastic, clear containers with water and then having the students drop a few drops of (vegetable) oil into the container. Students used different tools to try to remove the oil (paper, Q-tips, paper towels); at the end, show how soap helps disperse the oil, all while offering the students to realize it is hard to remove. The students either shared (orally) w/ dictation or written observations. At the end of the lesson, there is a Read Aloud: Rise Up and Write It! Explain to the kindergarten students that just like the protestors at Standing Rock and the youth and community in Flint, we can do things as activists to draw attention to these issues and raise awareness.
Lesson: How might changes in temperature affect the Karner blue?
Educator: Alesha Daniels
School: Sherman School of Excellence
Grade: High School
Community: Back of the Yards
Students rotate through four different stations, collecting data to show how changes in temperature affect the Karner blue butterfly. Then, they use this information to construct a revised explanation as to why the Karner blue butterfly population declined. Students will collect and analyze data to identify patterns of change in the Karner blue butterfly’s life history and morphology across temperature differences. Lesson is adapted from Chicago Academy of Sciences / Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.
Students learned about the difference between weather and climate in these lessons. They then applied this knowledge to study patterns about changing climate and the impacts of plants, animals, and humans. Students were able to discern that human activities such as car usage and fast fashion are major contributors to climate change. We also watched a video about more local issues pertaining to climate and air quality. Students were able to make connections to their own lives and discuss issues such as the prevalence of asthma in their Back of the Yard community.
Lesson: Chicago History and Environmental Justice Unit
Educator: Johanna Fernandez
School: Benito Juarez High School
Grade/Subject: 10th, History
Students studied the history of Chicago and Environmental Justice from the stockyards and Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle to current issues in the river going through the Pilsen neighborhood. We got bags, gloves, and garbage grabbers. The supplies allowed the class to take a walking field trip to South Branch Park 571 to pick up trash as we walked to and from Park 571, where we met with elected officials to discuss current and historical issues of environmental justice in Chicago. We also used the supply fund to take a group of 20 students to the MSI to visit their exhibits related to climate justice, and they reported back to their classmates.
Lesson: Is there LEAD in your water?
Educator: Bradley Fisher
School: Walt Disney Magnet School
Grade: 7th and 8th Diverse Learners
Students first address the difference between environmental change, climate change, environmental justice, and climate justice. The students looked at this more closely by examining the amount of lead in the water from the Chicagoland copper pipe system. The class of 12 diverse learners in 7th and 8th grade learned about environmental racism and how it has impacted our communities. They were very engaged during the hands-on activities, including testing water in the school’s water fountains for lead, and testing their tap water at home. Every student received a water-filtering pitcher!
Lesson: Community Toxins, Solar Energy & Circuits
Educator: Jasmine Jones
School: Al Raby School for Community and Environment
Grade/Subject: 9th, Physics
Community: Garfield Park
The highlighted lessons fit within a larger multi-unit project, the Solar Community Project. The lesson focuses on contextualizing environmental justice for our community by emphasizing the social, historical, and political nature of past and present environmental justice efforts.
“Depending on what race is around a certain will determine what type of health crisis they could have. Like mostly colored neighborhoods usually have a polluting company which could be very harmful” – Al Raby Student.
Throughout the larger project, the various investigations and learning tasks guide students toward critically examining the environmental issues related to air pollution and insufficient sustainable development on the West Side of Chicago.
Lesson: Water Is Life! Rethinking Collaborative Art making & Climate Justice
Educator: Amy Lizabeth Vecchioni
School: Waters Fine Arts Elementary
Grade/Subject: K-8, Art
Community: Albany Park
The opening unit for my students was to begin a year-long study of clean water rights, youth artists and water activists. Students began the school year collecting colorful recycled papers to create community paper murals. We then translated our collage learning to felt quilts that was a call to action for endangered water animals using felt created with recycled plastic bottles and reused fabrics donated from our school community. Older students created Genius Hour projects using any recycled materials available to build awareness of our climate justice challenges. We used all of our art making experience to bring us together as a school community again after struggling with pandemic learning. This climate justice project was a great way to work for positive change and to remember as a community, as Greta Thunberg says, “We are never too small to make a difference.”
Lesson: Water Quality Project
Educator: Gina Vittoria
School: Kennedy High School
Community: Archer Heights
Students will learn how government chooses the source of water and its subsequent treatment, quality of water varies state-to-state, town-to-town, and neighborhood-to-neighborhood, and how historically individuals in lower income neighborhoods have access to lower quality water and have to fight for equitable resources in their communities. The students were engaged and took ownership of their learning through this hands-on project. Water is a resource we don’t really think about in our day to day life, but I witnessed my students inquire about water quality locally and nationally. They made connections to readings, videos, and politics in a chemistry class. Specifically we purchased class sets of water quality testing kits for each student to take home, test their water, and bring back data to share with their peers.