Wednesday, October 13, 2010

How Success Works

How Success Works is an ideal lesson to teach what EcoTipping points are and how they work within the context of science, social studies, or English classes at any grade level. This lesson is based on six flagship cases. While each case deals with a different environmental topic, all the cases display the same basic ingredients for success. Students watch a short video about one of the cases to introduce the idea of decline and restoration. They read a short narrative for each case, identify ingredients for success in that story, and review the ingredients with a teacher-led PowerPoint. The same case can be used to understand the vicious cycles driving decline, and what it takes for an EcoTipping Point lever to overcome the vicious cycles. Then students see how vicious cycles are transformed into virtuous cycles that drive restoration.
All of the materials are easy to modify for the needs of your classroom. Below is one way to approach this multi-faceted lesson! Most instructional materials include the following:
  • Suggested Procedure (Lesson Plan)
  • Narrative Handouts
  • Ingredients for Success Handouts
  • Feedback Diagrams (Vicious Cycles)
  • Student Worksheets
  • Teacher Keys
  • PowerPoint Presentations
  • Short Video
The cases can be used individually or as a group, depending on teaching goals. Once students have been introduced to the main ideas, they can also explore the cases independently through Student-Centered How Success Works PowerPoints.

Instructional Materials

Apo Island: Saving a Fishery

A marine sanctuary at Apo Island in the Philippines set in motion community fisheries management that reversed a vicious cycle of destructive fishing and depletion of fish stocks, restoring the island’s coral reef ecosystem and rescuing a fishing village’s livelihood and wellbeing. Apo Island’s success has inspired 700 other fishing villages to establish marine sanctuaries.

New York City Community Gardens: Reversing Urban Decay

Community gardens in New York City reversed a vicious cycle of urban decay, crime-ridden empty lots, neglect, and population flight, while producing food, flowers, and wildlife habitat. These gardens nourished the bodies and souls of 800 neighborhoods, and inspired urban community gardening across the nation.

Reversing Tropical Deforestation - Thailand

Agroforestry and community forest management in Thailand reversed a vicious cycle of deforestation, watershed degradation, expensive agricultural inputs, debt, and population exodus. Community action simultaneously restored the local forests and ecological health of the watershed, securing people’s livelihoods with sustainable agriculture and reducing carbon dioxide emissions due to deforestation.

Replenishing Aquifers - India

Traditional rainwater catchment dams in India reversed a vicious cycle of depleted aquifers, dried-up wells and rivers, fuel wood depletion, agricultural decline, and population exodus in an area the size of Delaware. This traditional technology was replicated in 800 villages and brought back water, trees, wildlife, family breadwinners who had sought income elsewhere, and a healthier life for the people.

Escaping the Pesticide Trap - India

"Non-Pesticide Management" by cotton farmers in India employed ecological pest control methods to reverse a vicious cycle of pesticide resistance, heavier pesticide use, human pesticide poisoning, debt, and the highest suicide rate in India. This ecological technology has spread throughout Andhra Pradesh state, restoring household budgets and human health along with birds and insects that provide natural pest control.

Additional Flagship Stories

Restoring Coastal Wetlands - Arcata (USA)

A constructed wetland at Arcata, California, provided low-cost municipal sewage processing along with first-class wildlife habitat and nature recreation in a setting where rapid urban sprawl was threatening to seriously damage their bay. Expansion of constructed wetlands to surrounding towns has changed urban development in a way that helps contain urban sprawl.

Rescuing Coastal Mangrove Forests - Thailand

Community mangrove management in Thailand reversed a vicious cycle of mangrove destruction, coastal fisheries depletion, and local inhabitants forced into destructive economic practices as resources deteriorated – restoring mangrove habitat, coral reefs, coastal fisheries, and economic opportunities.

Sustainable Eradication of Mosquito-borne Disease - Vietnam

Biological control with tiny crustaceans called "cyclops" has eradicated the dengue mosquito in a thousand Vietnamese villages, turning around the spread of dengue hemorrhagic fever, a disease that has hospitalized hundreds of thousands of children every year.

Suggested Procedure for “How Success Works”

The lesson plan below suggests how to teach one success story at a time. However, the lesson can be easily modified to teach the stories collectively. For instance, small groups could be designated to identify the ingredients for success in different stories and then teach the ingredients for success PowerPoint for their story to the class. Or students could jigsaw the stories. Or each story could be used as an opener to units on new environmental concerns.
Step 1: Have students write a journal responding to the following prompt:
“Think of a time when something you or your family cared about was falling apart (you can give examples: friendships, a project, a class, a job…). What did you do to try to turn things around? Did it work? How or how not? Do you think doing something else might have worked better?”
Step 2: After students have written their journals and shared back with the class, introduce the idea of communities being in decline, or falling apart, because of their relationship with their environment. Explain how these communities must change in order to sustain themselves, but knowing what to change is rarely clear or simple. Tell students that you will use the experience of a community that turned things around to understand the ‘key ingredients’ for success that are at work in cases where a community successfully turns decline into sustainability.
Step 3: Show a short video on one of the success stories to quickly introduce students to the basic concept of EcoTipping Points. The Apo Island case is a good choice to start. It is a compelling story with a simplicity that clearly reveals the basic concept. After the video, tell students now that they understand what an EcoTipping Point is, they will look closely at a success story – perhaps the same as the video or perhaps another story – to identify the ingredients for success in that story and determine how decline was reversed. The video for the selected story can be shown at this time, or it can be shown at the end of the lesson to pull the lesson together.
Step 4: Pass out a copy of the “Ingredients for Success” handout and review the meaning of each ingredient. There are two levels available: a short version and an extended version, depending on the level of your course. The short version comes with frontloaded vocabulary for student comprehension. It may be useful, as you go over each ingredient, to ask students to share real life examples of what that ingredient might look like. This will help them, later, when they try to identify those ingredients in the case studies!
Step 5: Pass out the narrative handout for the selected story and the Ingredients for Success student worksheet for that story. There are two levels of the narrative available: a short version and an extended version, depending on the level of your course. The student worksheet comes with frontloaded vocabulary. Review the vocabulary with them to improve student comprehension and introduce key concepts of human ecology. It may be useful for students to underline those words when they read them. The vocabulary is also useful for assessment.
Step 6: Either individually, or in groups, have students read the story and write bullet points onto their worksheet, listing examples of events, actions, or conditions in the story that they associate with each ingredient for success.
Step 7: When students have completed their work, it can be reviewed as a whole class with the teacher-led How Success Works PowerPoint presentation. The PowerPoint presentation has comprehensive bullet-point notes that can be used as is or modified to meet your needs. On each slide there are also several photographs to help illustrate the information. There are also additional background notes for the instructor on the notes section of each slide, or on the Teacher Key for Ingredients. If you prefer to use a PowerPoint without any pre-written notes on the slides as your point of departure, an editable slide show (with photo captions in the notes section but no text on the slides themselves) is available for your use. If you want to go on to teach diagramming of feedback loops (i.e., vicious cycles and “virtuous cycles”), proceed to steps 8 and 9. The feedback loops look difficult at first, but students of all ages catch on very quickly!
Step 8: After students have seen success in action, pass out a blank feedback diagram of the vicious and virtuous cycles for this success story. Explain the following ideas:
  • Negative tip – The downward spiral of decline
  • Negative tipping point – The action or event that sets a negative tip in motion
  • Positive tip – The upward spiral of restoration and sustainability
  • Positive tipping point (also called EcoTipping Point) – The action that sets a positive tip in motion by leveraging the reversal of decline
Ask the students to go back to their stories and mark the negative tipping point and positive tipping point. If they watched the short video, they will already have previewed this idea.
Step 9: Use the blank feedback diagrams for the students to map out the vicious cycles driving the negative tip in the story, and the virtuous cycles driving the positive tip. There is also a Teacher Key for feedback diagrams with notes for teachers. Fill out the negative-tip diagram together, drawing arrows between boxes and writing the direction of change (increasing or decreasing) in each box. Then let the students try the positive-tip diagram on their own. When students compare their “negative tip” and “positive tip” diagrams, they will discover that:
  • one portion of the “positive tip” diagram is identical to the “negative tip” diagram,” except change is in the opposite direction (i.e., transformation of vicious cycles to virtuous cycles); and
  • the rest of the “positive tip” diagram is new virtuous cycles created by the positive tipping point. Those virtuous cycles help to lock in the gains.
The diagrams look complicated at first glance, because most of us are less accustomed to looking at cause and effect cyclically. But after you have gone through one together, most students find it no more difficult to understand than the basic cause and effect diagrams they already know. This diagram is just cyclical instead of linear! Students should also understand that they are not expected to come up with diagrams identical to the Teacher Key. While most of the arrows showing what affects what are obvious, others are a matter of interpretation.
Step 10: Follow the same procedure with other How Success Works flagship cases, individually or as a jigsaw, or use the Student Centered How Success Works PowerPoints to have students explore the cases independently. For each of the How Success Works flagship cases there is an editable PowerPoint slide show containing photos about the story. These “story photos” PowerPoint files contain no bullet points or other text information on the slides themselves, but in the notes section of each slide there is a caption that briefly describes the photo and its role in the story. Students can use “story photos” PowerPoint files to build their own presentations for (a) teaching other students about the case, (b) using the photos as background for a creative retelling of the community’s experience, or (c) another task that suits the specificity of your classroom. The notes already in the slides can serve as a guide for students to research additional information from that case’s video, “Ingredients for Success” handout and PowerPoint, system diagrams, and short, extended, and in-depth narratives. The “story photos” slide shows can be used for any level of K-12 and beyond as a base for students to explore and teach a success story within the parameters of their grade level, and the teacher’s content focus and desired outcome.