Physical Science Students Become Agents of Change

Physical Science Students Become Agents of Change
Posted on 05/29/2018
Grant Presentation

In hopes of teaching students that they can effectively change problems that are seen on a day to day basis, Physical Science Instructors, Will Dible, Anne Johnson and John Doely, launched a project to simulate the grant writing process. Through the collaborative effort, students incorporated environmental science ideas and solution thinking to solve real problems found in the Midwest.

The goal of the grant is to fund solutions to local problems which improve both the environment and quality of life of the people in the community.  According to Mrs. Johnson, students conducted research to generate ideas about environmental concerns, and in doing so, they reached out to parents, grandparents, city officials, Spencer Municipal Utilities and others in the community for information.  Over 30 concerns were addressed, including run off, composting, recycling, solar panels and global warming, to name a few.  Once topics were selected, the groups created a company or non-profit organization, and studied many aspects of the problem to ensure their grants had adequate information. Students were encouraged to think about the problem itself, pondering why it is a problem, who and what it affects, what sort of actions/solutions they can develop to solve it, the cost and any foreseen problems or barriers, among other things.

After several weeks of collaboration, research and critical thinking, the students presented their grant proposals to a panel of experts in the fields of politics, finance, engineering, environment and business.  Following their presentations, the panel asked questions and then conferred briefly about the grant, determining whether or not it should be funded.  “We want to make it as real for the kids as possible, so we brought in local experts in the field for their presentations.  In essence, we want them to get a taste of how to be an agent of change using skills and knowledge they gain in school,” explained Mr. Dible.

Tree Huggers Incorporated, an organization formed by Alyssa, Lexi, Ana and Joshua, studied deforestation and how planting trees can affect the environment.  When asked about the experience, Lexi shared, “It was a big deal because it was an actual grant, and deforestation is affecting our community and the people within it.  It is an environmental issue that affects not only this community, but the whole world, and now that we have researched deforestation and learned more about it, I feel strongly that it is a really big deal that affects us.”  Ana and Joshua emphasized the importance of really knowing what they were talking about, especially when presenting to the panel of experts deciding whether or not to fund their grant. 

Learning more about the impact of global warming, Derek, Jagaar, Makenna and CheyLee created Pollution Solution, with the goal of requiring manufacturers to install solar panels.  According to CheyLee, “Global warming affects us all, so decreasing energy usage could improve it.  Climate change, and how it is changing our agriculture and our crops in the Midwest, was our main focus.  Makenna said their solution is to decrease the percentage of greenhouse gases emitted by 35%, through advertising and changing laws to gain followers and get the public opinion on their side.  To help, the students garnered the support of Senators Charles Grassley and Joni Ersnt, and Derek added that while the current budget is $250,000, he anticipates it would grow, saying, “Proposing the laws and getting the government on our side to help with this would probably get us more funding.” 

When discussing what the teachers hoped the students would gain from this experience, Mrs. Johnson said, “I hope they learn the process of how to write grants because there are so many opportunities to get money allocated, and it is a real-life experience.  No matter what area students pursue, they will need these skills for employment or even volunteer commitments.”  Mr. Dible also mentioned the benefits, including that there aren’t many jobs or volunteer organizations out there that won’t require asking for money, and Alyssa from Tree Huggers Incorporated summed it up well by saying the process showed them what the real world is going to be like when they grow up!