-by Greg Neil, Grade 7 Math/Science Teacher
In the Spring of 2014, I was looking for an engaging question that would connect to the Grade 7 Science Unit Ecosystems and Interactions. At the time, I was hearing a lot in the news about the Northern Gateway Pipeline and I had just secured a grant from ESRI to get training and support with their ArcGIS platform. This quickly developed into an ambitious idea for a major inquiry. I wanted my students to take the lead role in a comprehensive study of the Northern Gateway Pipeline (NGP)—a proposed project to transport oil and condensate along a 1,177 km route between Bruderheim, Alberta and Kitimat, British Columbia.
I adopted a student-led, inquiry-based approach to studying the pipeline, by simply asking students whether they thought it should be built. This quickly led to a huge list of questions that we would need to address in order to back up our opinions with sound reasoning. It was very important that my class develop informed opinions about the internationally publicized NGP and to understand the perspectives of as many stakeholders involved as possible. It was also important that my own opinions remain hidden in order to ensure my students were not influenced in any way.
My Grade 7 students drove the project themselves, formulating their own questions, mapping the planned pipeline route using ArcGIS, and researching its potential environmental and social impacts. We brought in guest speakers from Energy companies, Pipeline Companies and from Environmental Organizations. We even built a large scale model of the pipeline, to accompany our story map, which became the culmination of the students work, complete with a summary of their final decisions. Students even experimented on plants in order to learn about the potential impacts of chemicals entering the environment.
We presented our finished project at the Mayor's Environmental Expo, held every June in Calgary, where our students received an award for their hard work. The video below provides a visual tour of this project and click here for access to our Story Map.