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Cross Curricular or Interdisciplinary Learning using Alberta Tomorrow

Over the past 3 months, I have been working with an 2 amazing grade 4 teachers, Kara Vincent and Grayson Adams, at Glenbow Elementary School in Cochrane.
Starting in October, the students started learning about the different eco-regions in Alberta. They used the video from Alberta Tomorrow as an introduction, and then in groups had to do more research, culminating in a poster presentation. During this time, they explored the different types of industry taking place in each region.

The students then began using Alberta Tomorrow, watching the Forestry, Hydrocarbon, Agriculture, Water Quality, Water Use, Fish Community Health, Greenhouse Gas emissions, GDP, and Human population Growth videos.
By watching, discussing, and re-watching, the ideas that land-use have both benefits and liabilities (drawbacks) was stressed. A typical initial Grade 4 reaction to liabilities for example is to just stop industrial development to save wildlife habitat, but through many discussions, students gained a thorough understanding of how industry contributes to our GDP and economy, and how a balance between the economic benefits and environmental liabilities is what’s important. After these discussions, it was not uncommon to hear one student say to another, “Ya, but that industry contributes to a higher GDP which helps fund our schools!”

With this background knowledge the students set out to use the simulator. In groups of 2 or 3, students looked at the Land-use Assessment and saw how the Calgary study area had changed from 1884-1984, from 1984 to 2010, and how, with the same growth rates, the area might change from 2010-2040. Students watched the maps change, and saw how the change in land-use affected the environmental and socio/economic indicators.
Students then went on to create their future land use plans. After a quick demo, they were instructed to set their future goals, and then were left to explore on their own, making connections between changes on the dials and their map drawings. The class was brought back together for discussion and then asked to watch the Best Practices video. They were instructed to make new plans, incorporating the knowledge they just learned from the Best Practices video. Students submitted their land-use plans to their teachers, and were assessed on how well their future drawing met their goals, and how realistic or sustainable their plan was.

Through their “What’s in the News” presentations, students heard about a newspaper article written about the public consultation on the Land-use Framework’s South Saskatchewan Regional Plan and that the province was asking for feedback.¬†As part of their Language Arts curriculum Grade 4 students are required to learn how to write formal business letters. The students were asked to write a letter to the government, with their recommendations on how to balance development and the environment. They were to think about what was really important to them, and write a persuasive letter.

Throughout the entire process, they came to a good understanding of the balance needed between social, economic and environmental factors.

This is a clear example of how these issues can be used in our classrooms, brining together the English, Social Studies and Science curriculums.

Interested in trying this in your classroom? Goto www.albertatomorrow.ca and register as a teacher, or email info@albertatomorrow.ca

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