Article: Protecting our environment: making the connections

Protecting our environment: making the connections

Students explore a 3-dimensional ecosystem model with Instructional Coach Andrea Lynch.

Students in teacher Josie Cancilla-Spadafora’s sixth-grade science classroom at the Middle School have been studying the causes and effects of pollution on ecosystems. The problem became much clearer with a hands-on demonstration showing the many different kinds of pollutants and the insidious ways they find their way into our water supply. 

Students began by examining chemical and organic fertilizers, discussing the differences and the impact each has on the environment. They quickly understood that, in spite of the toxic damage they can cause, nonorganic products continue to be popular due to their low cost, convenience and efficacy. The class then utilized a 3-dimensional model representing our own Lake Ontario ecosystem, exploring how pollutants make their way into the lake. From fertilizer or manure runoff from farms, to gas and oil from our cars, or chemicals and waste from homes and factories – it all fouls our environment and water. Students were surprised by how widespread pollution is and how complicated the challenges of controlling it are. 

“It’s important that students understand that there are multiple sides to every complex problem,” said Cancilla-Spadafora. “Solutions can be found, and these very students may find them. They are learning through this exercise that the difficulties we face will require more creativity, perseverance and effort than just saying, ‘We should do this.’” 

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