From 'Our Place by the Sea' to 'Sustainable Communities': The Greene School's 12th Grade Exhibition

  Jeff Johnson           March 19, 2018 - 12:18pm

The Greene School's 12th grade learning expedition, “Our Place By The Sea,” is a year long multidisciplinary unit, through which students study Rhode Island’s historic lack of sustainability from an economic, environmental and social lens. Over the course of the year, students engage through these” three pillars of sustainability,” and through the multidisciplinary lenses offfered by their core classes. By developing these different perspectives and lenses, students are able to identify the patterns of unsustainability. With this knowledge of what becomes unsustainable students are then pushed to identify these patterns in their own communities. Students identify a problem with one of the three pillars -- economic, social, or environmental -- and pursue possible solutions.

Duing the 2016-2017 school year student produced the documentary titled “Who Farms the Wind.” Throughout the year, the students examined the social, financial, and environmental aspects of Rhold Island's sustainability through the study of historical patterns, science-based ocean development plans, and local interviews. The project culminated with the creation of a curriculum for middle school students and a website about wind energy for all youth of ages. The Greene School seniors’ work was shared at The Rhode Island Future Energy Symposium this past April to educate the RI youth about the historic project. Check out all of the work from the 2016-2017 senor class at website.

This school year, students are forming different groups focused on specific issues within their home communities. Students come to The Greene School from more than 20 different towns. We can group these 20 towns into five distinct geographic regions, and form action groups focused on each. The action groups are asked to arrive at consensus on a problem facing their community. The groups begin to research the problem in depth through a series of workshops in research skills. Each individual student is responsible for their own research paper on a different aspect of their communities over arching unsustainability problem. Armed with that research, the group arrives at possible solutions to that problem.

As the Greene School’s  primarily focus is the environment, we expect each action group to address environmental problems. That does not mean that every problem must be an environmental problem. It does mean, however, that each problem that students identify must have an environmental component.

Students' work in this expedition will result in the following final products: 

  • An individual 10 page research paper that explores a specific aspect of the issue identified by the action group
  • A five minute film that explains what the community's problem is, what the students did to research it, and the students' direct action proposal
  • A direct action proposal written in the form of legislation to be presented in a meeting to the state representative or senator from their district
  • A website that serves as a container for the research performed, the five minute video, the proposal and any other material that helps define and resolve the problem like maps, prior legislation, research materials, etc.
  • A presentation developed for the express purpose of addressing a state legislator.

Through these different parts of the expedition's final product, students are able to tap into their interests by addressing issues from their own communities in formats that align with their skills and interests. This wide variety of products increases the depth of understanding while providing for the different modalities.

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