该项目的驱动性问题设置为“如果你是模联代表团成员，你们将怎样为全球 ‘清洁海洋’倡导活动提供一份‘减塑’行动清单？”，该问题指向的本质问题是“如何在了解科学概念和技术原理的基础上，考虑 人类可持续发展需求，作出行动决策？”，这一项目涉及“科技之光到环保灾难”“太平洋垃圾岛”“最严限塑令”等一系列社会热点问题，与小学语文、综合实践等科目的课标有重要联系，希望能在学习过程中训练学生批判质疑、社会责任、国际理解、沟通能力的核心素养，培养学生对“科学的运用经常会对伦理、社会、经济和政治产生影响”科学大概念的理解，最终达到四点学习目标，并进行相应的学习评价。
At the beginning of this new semester, the elementary school group of Beijing Normal University’s SSI-L project team held an online seminar on TencentMeeting on March 10, 2021. Cao Chunhao, the head of the national elementary partner school section and the special-rank teacher of the Experimental School of Beijing Tongzhou District Teacher Training Center, Peng Menghua, the special-rank teacher of the Second High School Attached to Beijing Normal University, Yu Xiaoya, the director of Maker Education Research Center of Information and Technology Academy, Beijing Institute of Education, Lin Jing, the head of the SSI-L project and other subject experts attended this meeting to give their instructions. More than 40 other teachers from partner schools also attended this meeting.
Bao Zhenyi, the teacher from Wenzhou Dalton Elementary School, introduced the course “Plastic Pollution in the Ocean” which is under design and implementation. She mainly focused on four points to introduced this course: background, framework, implementation, and encountered difficulties.
Based on Prof. Lin Jing’s suggestions for the issue “Wild Yellow Croaker” last semester, this school’s backbone teachers brainstormed on the ocean-related topics and come up with several issues to be chosen. Considering students’ cognitive ability and interests, the school project team finally decided to work on the issue of marine plastic pollution. Now, plastic pollution in the ocean has seriously threatened the environmental safety and human life, receiving great attention from international organizations, major countries, with Chinese government included. So this issue has the potential to become a social scientific issue. By combining the form of Model United Nations, this project can better cultivate students’ high-level abilities.
The driving question of the project is set as “If you are a member of the MUN delegation, how will you provide an action list of ‘plastic reduction’ for the global ‘clean ocean’ advocacy?” This question is essentially pointed to “how, based on understanding scientific concepts and technical principles and considering the needs of sustainable development for human beings, will we make decisions in action?” This project involves a series of social hot spots like “environment-friendly materials, from hope to disaster”, “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” and “the strictest plastic limit order”, which are closely related to the curriculum standards of such subjects as Chinese and comprehensive practice. It is hoped that during the learning process, we can cultivate students’ core competencies including critical thinking, social responsibility, global view, and communication ability. We also hope to strengthen their understanding of the big idea of science that “The use of science often has an impact on ethics, society, economy, and politics”. In the end, we can reach the four-points learning goals, and make relevant learning assessments.
This course has ten lessons and sections for results presentation and project summary. Now, as the course has started two weeks, the learning tasks of the first three lessons have been completed. Before the start of the project, students were asked to collect the garbage they produced in one day. And then in the next day’s class, students weighed, sorted, and counted them, finding that most of the garbage was snack bags. By playing certain videos, this issue was effectively introduced to students, arousing echoes in their hearts. They got to know the possibility and detriment of plastic flowing into the ocean. In the second lesson, some specialized teachers with relevant experience were invited to teach about the United Nations and Model United Nations so that students can know their goals. In the third lesson, with the help of teachers, students refined their question list written in the first lesson and made their own task plans. In general, the project is going well. But Ms. Bao Zhenyi also pointed out that there are still two problems in the course design and conduction. She said, “It is difficult for fourth-grade students to understand the chemical nature of plastic materials. Will the simplified teaching content affect students’ understanding of this issue? For them, is there any better way to carry out activities of scientific modeling?”
He Yinghong, the teacher from Harbin Jihong Primary School commented as follows. She thought that it’s quite good to give students new identities by MUN and make them think from an international perspective with high intentions. During the process, students showed both the spirit of scientific research and the autonomy of self-directed learning. She said the possible controversy behind this issue is: since plastic material is a double-edged sword, how could we in the future make the most of it while avoiding its harm. From this aspect, we can specially add another lesson to discuss the ethical issues involved here. She also suggested that the research results might be formally submitted to the UN after improvement.
Mr. Peng Menghua, an expert of the subject guidance group, put forward many ideas for improvement: 1. There is still a certain distance between the real plastic pollution in the ocean and students’ personal experience gained from their daily garbage. It’s hoped that the school could come up with some ways to let students directly experience what it looks like. 2. The whole project only emphasizes the harm of plastics, rather than also show the value of plastics to human society. In case that students might bear extreme detest to plastics, we should power them with comprehensive knowledge about plastics. 3. Plastic pollution can appear in multiple processes. Besides the production part emphasized in the project, there are also problems in the subsequent disposal process, which is also worth mentioning. 4. In the project, we don’t have much hands-on research, with only one investigation and one experiment. There can be more to be added to let the students get more personal experience of the nature of plastic. 5. The term “marine plastic waste” in the project title is accurate, however, the simplified version of “marine plastic” often appears in the manuscripts, which is not clear and should be changed to “marine plastic waste”. Besides, Mr. Peng also gave his suggestions in terms of formatting, wording, and descriptions. Miao Xuchun, the teacher from Wenzhou Dalton Primary School made some responses to Mr. Peng’s advice. For instance, 1. the “communication ability” pointed in the project comes from the 4C framework of the United States. It emphasizes more the ability to express oneself in a standard way and the ability to respond to others’ speeches. Since it’s not easy to describe it in the curriculum standards, further study is needed. 2. The big idea of science in the project comes from the book about working with big ideas in science education. 3. Although this project is targeted at higher-grade students in primary school, the content of ecosystem that appears only in the curriculum standards of middle and high school can still be written into the parts of “relation between the project and the curriculum standards”, in order to clarify the project direction of simulation game, which is also better for students’ development.
Cao Chunhao, an expert from the subject guidance group also shared his ideas. 1. Let students investigate how the local plastic waste is processed, so they can better understand how the plastic waste goes into the ocean. About this point, Mr. Peng thought that China does a good job in controlling plastic waste, so it might not be possible for students to do the investigation. He suggested using other countries as an example. 2. Let students make a personal action list to reduce plastic pollution, put them into practice, and finally give a self-evaluation on the practical significance of their action lists. About this point, Ms. Miao Xuchun added that this can also be used as part of students’ assessment. 3. Currently, we have developed the technology of biodegradable plastic. This can be operated in the class. Mr. Cao also suggested, the learning assessment should be changed to descriptive terms for evaluation and its operational definition should be clarified.
Ms. Yu Xiaoya, an expert of the subject guidance group, proposed that the knowledge of plastic particles can be presented from the perspective of material circulation, and each part of the material circulation should be addressed in the final action list. We can also make experiments on this issue. CCTV has a set of English materials, with all kinds of relevant experiments included, which can be used as a reference in the class.
Project leader Lin Jing proposed her ideas as follows. 1. The project should emphasize the aspects of ethics and science, such as playing videos of marine animals being harmed by plastics, doing simplified simulation experiments on how animals and plants are being threatened by marine pollution, and taking students to visit the local oceanic bureau to know the situation. 2. The policy part in the star-shaped scheme needs to be further refined and implemented, like emphasizing the specific issues of economy and security, rather than just stop at emotional levels. 3. The UN affairs are far away from our daily life, so MUN is hard for students to handle from their personal experience. In order to avoid a mere formality, it is recommended to start from the locals, and consider the MUN activity only after a few rounds when students have accumulated enough knowledge and abilities. 4. Wenzhou Dalton Primary School uses “ocean” as the education topic of its SSI-L project. Actually, in addition to the background of ocean, the core literacy pointed by the last issue “Wild Yellow Croaker” can also be continued in this activity, so we can form an organic relationship between different activities. Meanwhile, there’s no need for the series of theme activities to cultivate various kinds of core literacy at one time.
Ms. Lin Jing suggested to all partner schools that in designing and developing SSI-L activities, the following three points should be paid attention to that the multiple activities of various themes should be organized by one issue and its goal should be operable and evaluable. The activity should be based on the existing knowledge of students, that is, start from their cognition start. What’s more, Ms. Lin Jing also reminded the backbone teachers of each partner school to pay attention to class recording, observation, and reflection, integrating theories and practices.