Constructivist learning encourages students to develop their critical thinking skills by initiating their own inquiries of the topic to be learned based on their own prior knowledge. This is achieved through supportive guidance and hands-on problem solving that challenges them to construct their research and communication (oral and written) experiences in order to make logical and critical connections to the topic.
Arts lessons focus on how the print
media communicated the problem to the citizens of Tucson. The print
media is a major source of information bout our world. It is a
vehicle not just to learn about the state of our world, or country,
or neighborhood, but to empower individuals and communities to
take action in the face of threatening situations. TCE contamination
of the water and soil in South Tucson is one example of how individuals
were able to make meaningful connections through the media to solve
an environmental health problem.
Studies lessons focus on the local history of the problem
and on the people involved. Any change made to the environment
for the betterment of society can have unintended consequences.
While the addition of various aviation and defense businesses brought
a boom to the economy of Tucson after WWII, the unrestrained growth
led to an environmental disaster warranting Superfund cleanup status
that only came into being after the community affected by the TCE
contamination banded together to hold those responsible for the
Government lessons focus on the story of the people and the EPA
working together with the responsible parties. Concerns about the
environment include protection of air and water quality, the location
of new industries and waste management facilities and the remediation
of contaminated property. A grassroots movement initiated by residents
in a community exposed to TCE issued a call for environmental justice
by pressuring local government officials and agencies to deal with
the problem of contaminated water in their community.
Science lessons focus on the interaction between soil and
water in our environment. Elements/chemicals/compounds enter
our water from different sources. These substances can potentially
affect our health. We monitor our water to assess the quality
of our water. There is no “away”. Energy cannot be created
or destroyed - only changed or transferred - TCE in Tucson - two
issues – soil and water contamination and cleanup.
Chemistry lessons are divided into three units. The first discusses
the nature of TCE as an organic solvent, which has properties that
make them useful for particular applications and necessitate their
special handling. The second addresses the nature of risk and how
people make some choices about chemical exposure and some exposure
is controlled at a governmental level. Collective groups of people,
such as communities and governments, seek to control chemical exposure
on a community or global level. The third addresses how trichloroethylene
can be removed from the groundwater.