Integrated Project Week (IPW)
Given the key role of ecology in sustainable development, we are committed to educating K-12 Teachers, a critical cohort who carry forward the work of sustainable development. The wellbeing of youth and the wellbeing of our planet are intrinsically connected.
During the 21st century, today’s youth will become adults who face some of the greatest environmental challenges: adapting to climate change; conserving remaining biodiversity; protecting and accessing clean water, developing innovations in renewable energy; restoring the urban infrastructure and the natural systems upon which the built environment rests; preventing emergent infectious diseases while simultaneously engineering better medicines; and finding the balance of the requirement to feed the planet, while maintaining healthy ecosystems.
Thus, today’s secondary school students need a robust education to help them address these multifaceted and complex challenges that have critical environmental, socio-economic and political impacts. Their eventual quality of life and economic wellbeing is directly linked to their academic success, and this success is deeply connected to excellent education in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
At Columbia University, Earth Institute’s current K-12 Programs include three National Science Foundation (NSF) funded initiatives: The Technology, Research, Ecology and Exchange for Students (TREES) Program, the Learning through Ecology and Environmental Field Studies (LEEFS) Program, and the School-based Ecology and Environmental Discoveries (SEEDS). One additional program is the Earth Institute Professional Development Program in Environmental Sustainability.
IPW is a designated week of the school year where groups of students are assigned to an IPW course to explore a topic or theme in depth, in a project-based format. A teachers’ curriculum for IPW week could be a combination of classroom work, field trips, guest speakers and workshops that culminate in a showcase event. This program was developed in an effort to improve the design and delivery of Earth Institute’s programs related to the ecology, biodiversity and environmental sustainability of urban ecosystems. EI’s IPW training model utilizes the development of hands-on, inquiry-based experiential learning curricula. Teachers from all disciplines use this approach to create meaning and context for their students.
Middle School Partnership (MSP)
Through MSP, EI works with NYC Title I middle schools, training teachers to develop hands-on, inquiry-based, ecology-driven curriculum units with an accompanying teacher resource plan and assessment rubric to promote student-centered teaching and learning. Project-based learning is used for more effective student-centered teaching (and learning). It enhances the acquisition of skills in science, math, literacy, analysis and cognition, and it encourages students to engage in creative interdisciplinary thinking, problem solving, and team work.