Written by Kevin Beals with
This substantial unit for grades
58 takes the mystery "hook," used so successfully
in other GEMS units like the very popular Mystery
Festival, to engage students in exploring a range of
crucial environmental issues.
In this case, the "crime" is a mysterious environmental
calamitya fish die-off that began five years ago. The
scene of the crime is the "Gray Area," a watershed
that includes forests, a city, a town, a coast, three rivers,
a lake, and a pond. Student sleuths investigate the many potential
causes of the fish dying, including chlorine pollution, acid
rain, erosion and sediment pollution, predator-prey relationships,
phosphate pollution and algal blooms, and oil pollution.
Environmental Detectives provides students the opportunity
to grapple with a complex, interdisciplinary scientific problem.
They hear statements of various "suspects" in the
crime. They study and discuss reference materials, including
records, newspaper articles, charts, graphs, and even "secret
documents," and integrate all of this information with
their own test results.
Placing science learning in a real-world context, Environmental
Detectives conveys solid scientific content and research-related
inquiry skills. Students become aware of the interconnectedness
of the natural world and the complexity of many environmental
problems. They discover that science and society are inextricably
linked, and that most solutions require compromise.
Other GEMS units relating to environmental issues include
Warming and the Greenhouse Effect, and River
Recommends Environmental Detectives
"The real-life problem, so similar to issues that we see
in the news, motivates students to solve the mystery with the
teacher acting as mentor and guide. Subtle lessons in citizenship
accompany the major themes of human impact and population growth.
Becoming an environmental detective will help students develop
a sense of empowerment to help their community fight pollution
as well as making them more confident of their research skills.
The activities will challenge the diverse learning styles found
in most classrooms. This is a GEM of a module."
National Science Teachers Association Recommends
Comment on this GEMS unit.