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Libby, Montana

Raise Awareness About Potentially Dangerous Attic Insulation

Elementary, Secondary

Description

The residents in a one industry town, Libby, Montana, relied on mining an asbestos - like material called vermiculite. Hundreds of residents who worked with vermiculite over many years died from a lung disease. The same fate affected those who unwittingly came into contact with the hazardous material in the community.

Students are asked to view and analyze short, 'on- line' videos documenting the plight of the residents of Libby. The videos depict the tragedies of individual workers and other residents. They effectively raise issues of environmental protection, occupational standards and corporate legal and social responsibility.

Students are subsequently informed that  35 million Americans have potentially hazardous vermiculite insulation in their homes and attics. They are asked to work in groups and prepare community outreach campaigns, using a choice of various media (podcast, editorial, press release, visual display, fact sheet, etc.) and EPA data to inform residents of the dangers and how to manage the problem. Teachers are provided with assessment rubrics to enable them to score each group's contribution in the use of specific media.

In addition, there are various extension activities that really speak to the issues of polluted communities and sites, corporate power and social responsibility. Teachers should consider these activities as essential learning components of the resource rather than as extensions.

General Assessment

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

How to develop a community outreach campaign related to health and environment hazards especially vermiculite attic insulation.

Strengths

  • This resource offers many effective exercises for providing students with insight how to mitigate hazardous industrial, contaminated land use and public health impacts
  • Libby, Montana offers good learning activities on the themes of environment, corporate power and accountability as well as responsible investigative journalism
  • The resource enables the student to connect the life cycle of vermiculite, a toxic material, from mine to home insulation application
  • The procedure for introducing the tragic Libby case history and the public outreach campaign to educate citizens about  their potentially hazardous home insulation, is made clear, step by step, for the teacher
  • Teachers are provided with resources to assess the media (podcasts, editorials, news stories, press releases etc.) that students use to develop their outreach campaigns
  • The resource facilitates interdisciplinary and fairly open ended and discovery learning opportunities
  • This learning package is relatively up-to-date and addresses multiple dimensions.

Weaknesses

  • Similar websites that are used by teachers to assess the quality of students' podcasts, editorials, news stories, displays, should also be available to students as resources to help develop skills in public outreach media
  • Role playing exercises about jobs versus environment would help the students clarify the issues at play in Libby, Montana in terms of their own values positions
  • The wonderful extension activities on the themes of mitigating public health impacts, corporate social responsibility and responsible investigative environmental journalism should be utilized to enable students to develop a positive vision for the future
  • Teacher support is only in the form of  web resources for assessing the public outreach media
  • The central purpose of this learning resource is not made clear and explicit
  • Accommodations for people with learning difficulties and different learning styles could be considered.

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Themes Addressed

  • Economics (1)

    • Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Human Health & Environment (1)

    • Environmental Contaminants & Health Hazards
  • Land Use & Natural Resources (1)

    • Rural Issues
  • Waste Management (1)

    • Hazardous Waste

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Satisfactory

Libby, Montana as a case study, could provide more varied viewpoints besides those of the president of the mining company and the workers and their families i.e. health care workers, lawyers, social workers.

The case study raises all kinds of issues around health hazards and public health contamination i.e corporate social responsibility, power, superfund sites, investigative journalistc responsibility etc..  However, these issues and varied points of are explored in the extension exercises.

Consideration of Alternative Perspectives:
  • Satisfactory: absence of bias towards any one point of view
  • Good: students consider different points of view regarding issues, problems discussed
  • Very good: based on the consideration of different views, students form opinions and  take an informed position
Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions Good
Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions:

Effectively addresses the environmental, economic and social dimensions of the issue(s) being explored.

  • Satisfactory: resource supports the examination of  these dimensions
  • Good:  resource explicitly examines the interplay of these dimensions
  • Very Good:  a systems-thinking approach is encouraged to examine these three dimensions
Respects Complexity Satisfactory

The complexity of problems is respected but there is no explicit attempt to encourage a systems thinking approach.

Respects Complexity:

The complexity of the problems/issues being discussed is respected.

Acting on Learning Good
Acting on Learning:

Learning moves from understanding  issues  to working towards positive change — in personal lifestyle, in school, in the community,  or for the planet

  • Satisfactory: action opportunities are included as extensions 
  • Good: action opportunities are core components of the resource
  • Very Good: action opportunities for students are well supported and intended to result in observable, positive change
Values Education Poor/Not considered

Poor/Not Considered

Values Education:

Students are explicitly provided with opportunities to identify, clarify and express their own beliefs/values.

Empathy & Respect for Humans Good

The films that are presented do achieve empathy and respect for the poisoned workers and other players in this sad story of health and environment contamination.

Empathy & Respect for Humans: Empathy and respect are fostered for diverse groups of humans (including different genders, ethnic groups, sexual preferences, etc.).
Personal Affinity with Earth Poor/Not considered

Not considered.

Personal Affinity with Earth:

Encourages a personal affinity with -the natural world.  

  • Satisfactory: connection is made to the natural world
  • Good: fosters appreciation/concern for the natural world
  • Very Good: fosters stewardship though practical and respectful experiences out-of-doors 
Locally-Focused Learning Good
Locally-Focused Learning:

Includes learning experiences that take advantage of issues/elements within the local community. 

  • Satisfactory: learning is made relevant to the lives of the learners
  • Good: learning is made relevant and has a local focus
  • Very Good: learning is made relevant, local and takes place ‘outside’ , in the community 
Past, Present & Future Good

This resource promotes a good understanding of the past and sense of the present. However, a positive vision of the future is lacking. Only by including extension activities as core ones can the students acquire a positive vision for the future.

Past, Present & Future: Promotes an understanding of the past, a sense of the present, and a positive vision for the future.

Pedagogical Approaches

Principle Rating Explanation
Open-Ended Instruction Good
Open-Ended Instruction :

Lessons are structured so that multiple/complex answers are possible; students are not steered toward one 'right' answer.

Integrated Learning Very Good
Integrated Learning:

Learning brings together content and skills  from more than one  subject area

  • Satisfactory: content from a number of different  subject areas is readily identifiable
  • Good:  resource is appropriate for use in more than one subject area
  • Very Good:  the lines between subjects are blurred 
Inquiry Learning Good
Inquiry Learning:

Learning is directed by questions, problems, or challenges that students work to address.   

  • Satisfactory: Students are provided with questions/problems to solve and some direction on how to arrive at solutions.
  • Good: students, assisted by the teacher clarify the question(s) to ask and the process to follow to arrive at solutions.  Sometimes referred to as Guided Inquiry
  • Very Good:  students generate the questions and assume much of the responsibility for how to solve them.  . Sometimes referred to as self-directed learning.

 

Differentiated Instruction Satisfactory

The films and outreach projects teach to both cognitive and affective domains. There is only one central activity,  a community outreach project, that is the same for all. There are no accomodations for people with learning difficulties.

Differentiated Instruction:

Activities address a range of student learning styles, abilities and readiness.

  • Satisfactory:  includes a variety of instructional approaches
  • Good: addresses  the needs of visual, auditory &  kinesthetic learners
  • Very Good: also includes strategies for learners with difficulties
Experiential Learning Satisfactory

Experiential learning is largely limited to the media project.

Experiential Learning:

Authentic learning experiences are provided

  • Satisfactory: learning takes place through ‘hands-on’ experience or simulation
  • Good: learning involves direct experience in a ‘real world context’
  • Very good: learning involves ‘real world experiences’ taking place’ beyond the school walls.
Cooperative Learning Satisfactory
Cooperative Learning:

Group and cooperative learning strategies are a priority.

  • Satisfactory:  students work in groups
  • Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught and practiced
  • Very Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught, practiced and assessed
Assessment & Evaluation Satisfactory

There are summative assessment tools (rubrics for scoring purposes) for teachers to use.

Assessment & Evaluation: Tools are provided that help students and teachers to capture formative and summative information about students' learning and performance. These tools may include reflection questions, checklists, rubrics, etc.
Peer Teaching Satisfactory
Peer Teaching:

Provides opportunities for students to actively present their knowledge and skills to peers and/or act as teachers and mentors.

  • Satisfactory: incidental teaching that arises from cooperative learning, presentations, etc.
  • Good or Very Good: an opportunity is intentionally created to empower students to teach other students/community members. The audience is somehow reliant on the students' teaching (students are not simply ‘presenting')
Case Studies Good
Case Studies:

Relevant case studies are included.  Case studies are thorough descriptions of real events from real situations that students use to explore  concepts in an authentic context.

Locus of Control Good

Students can choose the medium in which they wish to work and some program content. There is an opportunity to go deeper into issues by only exploring the extension activities.

Locus of Control: Meaningful opportunities are provided for students to choose elements of program content, the medium in which they wish to work, and/or to go deeper into a chosen issue.