Today’s high school students have a myriad of things clamoring for their attention, many of which are far more interesting to them than their average classroom period. In light of this I wanted to create a science unit that was novel and meaningful to keep them engaged in learning topics from food chains to carbon cycling. I also had a broader goal of creating a learning environment that would lay the foundation for students to develop and practice the skills and knowledge necessary to become responsible global citizens.
I chose to use soil as the lens through which I could prioritize and focus my curriculum. Soil is an ecosystem that has comparatively little attention paid to it in science education but it plays a critical role in problems this generation will have to tackle; including biodiversity, food security, and carbon sequestration to name a few.
As part of my curriculum I chose to present students with an authentic real-world problem, represented as a challenge. The real-world problem the students were faced with was how they might change the reality that "by the time they graduate from high school the number of hungry people in Africa will be the same or more than it is today". Using model terrariums for farms and their knowledge, students would collaborate to develop solutions as their farms were confronted with risks that African farms might face (i.e. drought, prices of soil amendments, over-cultivation of soil). My hope is that students learn that healthy soils are essential for a food-secure planet but also that their interest and compassion for people in other parts of the world will be developed alongside their realization of their own potential to make change.