Teaching is a second career for me. After my two children were grown, I returned to school. Prior to my decision, I had been teaching ESL as a volunteer for our local literacy council and learning conversational Spanish. These experiences directed me towards a degree in secondary education with an English major and Spanish minor. As I was earning my degree, I traveled to Mexico several times with medical and educational teams, spent a semester at a university in northern Spain and tutored international students through the college’s writing center. I graduated from Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Michigan and have never been more content at work. I have taught two years of high school English and Spanish and spent the past three years teaching Spanish at the middle school level. I am also a member of the adjunct faculty at our community college where I teach English to international students and those who are not quite ready for college- level English and teach Japanese business students through a program with Ferris State University. I am currently working on a masters degree, Literacy, Culture and Language Education, through Indiana University, Bloomington.

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My 2012 Japanese Students - I am the blond in the middle with the flowers. The other blond is my good friend from Russia.

My unit will center on Goal 7 of the MDGs: Integrate the principals of sustainable development into country policies and programs and reverse the loss of environmental resources. The unit will include developing a relationship with students' peers outside their community. It is my goal that when implementing it in my Spanish classroom that it will involve cultivating relationships with peers in another Spanish speaking country. This relationship
could be ongoing over the course of a semester or longer (and could also support learning outcomes in other units of study.)

This relationship will also include an exchange of information centered on a culminating project that will be service oriented and will address a local environmental issue. I envision this exchange occurring through multimedia / artistic mediums in a manner that facilitates understanding the problems in each other's communities and how they address them.

As a foundation for helping students to understand more about the concepts that are connected to this project, they will study programs and projects from Costa Rica as examples at a level that is relevant to their level of comprehension. These examples will be presented in ways that help students discover the connections between Costa Rican life and their lives as well cultivate an understanding of the role, value and impact of these connections.

My overarching objective for the service project resonates with the words of Jane Goodall " implement positive change through knowledge, compassion and action" (Goodall, p. 50).
The Earth Charter in Action - Our World's Youth: Taking Compassionate Action for a Better Tomorrow

NOTE: Students will have completed a unit of study in their science classes that provides them with background information. See the link
below for information on one these units.

For the second language classroom this unit could be integrated at various levels of language learning. For my students, I see the review, development and implementation of language skills including asking and answering basic get-to-know-you questions as they initiate and develop relationships, learn vocabulary associated with accessing some aspect of the environment in the communities around them and the environmental project as well as reading and speaking activities in Spanish connected to the project.

Background Information
Strengthening Connections

Unit Outline
Strengthening Connections with the Earth

Teaching Sustainability
Lesson Plan: An Introduction to Relationships with the Earth

I believe it is important to teach sustainability in a manner the cultivates an intrinsic appreciation and a desire to establish a personal connection which will ultimately result in a personal commitment to make the environment a better place. This lesson is designed simply to create an awareness of and an initial connection to the environment around my students as they learn to use basic Spanish words and phrases.

Part 1: "Making Connections to the Earth within the Local Community"
This lesson will take advantage of our land conservancy property, Maple Bay. In the fall and spring sixth grade students visit this location to help them learn more about ecosystems and how humans are connected to the earth on a global level. My goal is to build on students' experiences at Maple Bay with their science classes and to help them begin to appreciate the land around them on a personal level. (Other teachers will have areas where their students can find a tree to call their own. Students could even find a place to plant a seedling. )

Background on Maple Bay

Spanish students will learn vocabulary associated with trees including animal life connected to trees, photosynthesis, and expressing feelings.

The following segment of this lesson is adapted from a post on TES Connect by Andrew Pothecary

The book The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein is a student favorite. I will use a Spanish version of this already familiar story to help students connect with the value of trees (and the earth's resources) in our environment, learn/identify basic vocabulary needed for the unit and practice reading strategies.

There’s a lot to learn from this story. Basic ideas for students:
  • Giving and caring allows us to feel good about ourselves.
  • We ultimately suffer when all we do is take from others.
  • If we just take from nature, we will lose the life-giving forces that it provides us with.
  • If we give back to nature, we will increase the abundance of natural resources and develop happier and healthier societies.
(Students will use basic target language vocabulary and create drawings or prepare skits to help them communicate these types of ideas.)

Student Project for the Lesson:
On their fall trip to Maple Bay students will find a tree:
  • Take a photo or make a short video of your giving tree.
  • Give your tree a name.
(Perhaps this activity will encourage students to visit their tree from time to time outside of school and cultivate a new appreciation for nature. Students also will visit the tree during their spring trip to Maple Bay.)

  • Complete the investigation handout. (an activity in Spanish from Aprendamos Sobre un Estilo de Vida Sostenable) handout
  • Send a picture of your tree to your ePal and tell him or her about it. (in Spanish)Register your giving tree in ForestNation’s tree register. (Optional)

Differentiation and Followup Activities:
  • For advanced students: Write a short poem in Spanish that expresses feelings or details about the tree.
  • For lower functioning students: 1. Create a drawing of the tree and the animals that might utilize it. Label target language vocabulary related objects
  • For any level: Create a map that illustrates where the tree is located and include labels for target language vocabulary related objects.

Part 2: "Making Connections to the Earth Outside the Local Community"
The Cloud Forest Classroom: Students will work together to make a cloud forest mural/artistic creation as a way to connect to earth outside their community. Understanding the cloud forest will provide essential background information that will help them later in the unit better understand the value of sustainable living.

Learning centers to help students learn about a cloud forest.
  1. Sounds of the Cloud Forest: students will listen to the sounds and will draw a pictures of the living creatures that they think are making the sounds. Link
  2. Plants and Flowers of the Cloud Forest: A matching card game made with pictures of cloud forest vegetation
  3. Cloud Forest Creatures and their Homes: Go Fish card game made with pictures of the creatures of the cloud forest
  4. Monte Verde Now: The Guide - Activity Video Link
  5. El Arbol Viviendo (a poem by Dorothy Pinto about trees in the cloud forest) - A reading activity Poem Link
  6. Google Earth: Where is Costa Rica?

Students will re-create a cloud forest in the classroom using various crafting materials. I will provide them with resources from my trip as well as research links to help them learn more about a Cloud Forest.

During this activity students will learn the words for paper, pencils, markers, tape, glue crayons, stapler and simple sentences to help them utilize these words as they create their project. They will review vocabulary taught in the previous lesson.
Supplemental resources to consider:

  • Keister, Douglas. (1995). Fernando's gift/El regalo de Fernando. SanFrancisco: Sierra Club. (Américas Commended)
  • El Aullido De Los Monos: (When the Monkeys Came Back) (Libros Colibri) by Kristineb
  • Fábulas del Bosque Tropical. By Sonia Rojas. A coloring book that describes the flora and fauna of Costa Rica’s tropical forests. This book is part of a bioliteracy program carried out by INBio and the University of Oviendo, Spain.
  • Insectos Tropicales. Carolina Godoy, Sonia Rojas. Contains interesting and accessible information about insects, the most diverse and numerous group of animals in the tropical regions
  • Biodiversión. Amy Moe-Hoffman Learn the animals of Costa Rica in Both English and Spanish
  • Make a blue morpho butterfly:

  • Make a rainforest liana vine:

Lesson Plan Two: Learning about Sustainability
Once students realize that they are connected to the earth, it is important for them to begin to comprehend the abstract idea of sustainable development. This is not an easy task. It requires that students consider their lifestyle, determine their values, evaluate their experiences and environment as well as reflect on the need for change. This lesson includes insight and activities that will help students move through the process and understand that improvement takes place on an individual level as it leads to collaborative efforts in making change.

Goal: Students will understand that values and principals are important because they shape human behavior.
Goal: Students will understand that what is good for everyone is also good for each of us individually.
Goal: Students will understand that each person is responsible for doing his/her part to protect the world’s resources.
Goal: Students will be able to talk about sustainability using target language vocabulary and simple phrases and sentences.

The foundation for this lesson is Nearpod presentation. To review it on an iOS device: launch the Nearpod App and enter the PIN: QMDCX in the student box. The Nearpod App can be downloaded for free on the App Store.

The following accompanying activities serve to reinforce the ideas/concepts in the presentation:
  • Students will create short skits using the target language that illustrate a value that is important to them.
Sustainable Development:
  • Students will find examples in their own communities (take pictures) of sustainable or unsustainable development.
Personal Connections with Sustainable Lifestyle:
  • Activity: Water in the world: Learning Goal: Students will understand how human behavior impacts water usage:
Students will be divided in a manner that represents water distribution on the earth: 97% represents salt water, 3% fresh water, (part of the three percent will be divided into frozen fresh water 3/5, ground water 1/5 and water available for human consumption.1/3)
Students will be directed to consider how much water is available for humans and make the connection between the amount of water available, how water is used in our region, and care for the water.
  • Students will evaluate their own use of water using a copy of the chart in the Nearpod presentation.
Sustainable Development within the local community:
  • Students will brainstorm ideas that will help their community care for the environment.

Lesson Plan Three:
“We are not on the Earth; we are in the Earth. We are inextricably actors in Earth’s systems and flows, constantly affecting and being affected by everything natural and human, in dynamic relation” (Metzner 1995).

Through the first two lessons in this unit, students begin to develop and understanding of their relationship with the Earth as well as their responsibility to live a lifestyle that promotes sustainability. However, without action these concepts will likely have little impact on their lives; they will not become effective global citizens without internalizing/owning the values and principals presented.

Project-based and service-based education serve as vehicles for changes in attitudes than basic classroom instruction. In the article “Going Global in Arlington, Virginia” from the Journal for Sustainable Development, Edgar Miranda points out that "Applying the service-learning approach to environmental education, James McDonald and Lynn Dominguez (2005) find that students who take ownership of knowledge through connections between classroom and real world remain involved in environmental issues after they have left the classroom: “Effective citizenship requires active participation in real-life meaningful experiences”" (p. 221).

With that insight, this lesson centers on a service-learning project which requires students to work with the local land conservancy (or other organization within the community) to realize and address an environmental issue. Students are also required to document their efforts in the target language using media of their choice and then share the documentation with their peers outside the community. This project along with written dialogue with peers outside the community serves as the unit’s summative assessment and will include evaluation on level- appropriate visual, writing and speaking skills in the target language using the rubrics required by the International Baccalaureate (IB)program. Students will also be evaluated using the science rubric for environmental education from IB. Rubrics Link

  • Goal: Students will understand that natural resources must be cared for.
  • Goal: Students will understand that they, too, are must take action.
  • Goal: Students will develop the understanding and connection between our well being and the nature’s well being.
  • Goal: Students will use the target language in the forms of visual, oral and written to communicate their insight.
  • Goal: Students will understand that care for the environment is also necessary outside their own community – it is a global issue.

Resources for teachers – Environmental Education:

Miranda, E. (2010). Going global in Arlington, Virginia. Education for Sustainable Development, 4(2), 219-226. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/097340821000400209

Sterling, S. (2010). Living in the earth: Towards an education for our times. Education for Sustainable Development, 4(2), 213-218. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/097340821000400208

You Can Make a Difference:
This section is designed to help students see that they can affect change. It begins with individuals with ideas who inspire others with their vision.

  • Reading Activity: Students will explore the Children’s Eternal Rainforest website (Spanish Version) to practice reading strategies and familiarize themselves with the project. This will be conducted in the form of a small group activity focused on establishing an understanding of the project. Each group will be required to create a brief 5 Phrase Skit (based on the concept presented in the link) in the target language that explains the idea of the Children’s Eternal Rainforest.
  • Listening Activity: Students will listen to a video from the Monteverde Now,website: The Educator with the objective of listening for words in Spanish that they can identify. They will listen to the video a couple of times. When they have completed the activity, students will watch the video again with English subtitles. This activity will have a follow up formative assessment the next day.

Further Inspiration: While the following two resources are not in Spanish, they do present a cultural component as well allow students to understand the accomplishments of other youth: The Tech Guy and Dream the Forest Wild: How Children Saved a Rainforest .

The Project: “Pursuing sustainable development through education requires educators and learners to reflect critically on their own communities” (Clugston, p. 163).
Students will work with local community members to learn more about environmental issues. In my case, since this unit parallels the environment unit, student are scheduled to spend a day with representative from the land conservancy to learn more about Maple Bay as well as explore possible projects to support the land conservancy efforts for this property. After spending time investigating, student will decide on and implement a service project. Areas of interest may include, native flora and the threats against them, influence of non-native species of plants and water life, and environmental education designed to protect the property. These are just a few ideas. Students will document all stages of their efforts through a presentation using a medium of their choice.

  • Students will share their presentation with all students in the school as well as peers outside the community.
  • Students will compare and contrast their projects with their peers outside the community, using Venn diagrams and the target language.