Fourth Grade Environment as an Integrating Context (EIC) Units

The fourth-grade curriculum revolves around the EIC curricular framework. Three project-based units use the local environment and community as an integrating context for learning. These hands-on, integrated community investigations engage us in real-world explorations of natural and social systems. Fourth-grade students study the relationship between a community’s resources and its impacts on the waste stream, types of energy and alternative energy sources, and pest management practices.

Follow the Waste Stream
Students learn about the different types of waste streams and follow these waste streams in the community to determine the systems involved in the processing and disposal and possible reuse of liquid and solid waste. Students visit local landfills, waste disposal, and recycling centers and wastewater treatment plants to investigate waste streams and disposal practices firsthand. The unit also focuses on energy use throughout the waste stream, comparing the inputs and the outputs. Students will develop an understanding of sustainable waste stream management and how their personal actions lead to energy use and/or conservation. Students create action plans to increase community awareness of the waste stream and reduce the overall contributions to the waste stream through various practices.

In this investigation, students will gain an understanding that all energy comes from the sun. Students will investigate the fact that if not for the sun, all-natural systems, ecosystems, life cycles, and natural processes would cease to exist. Students will investigate the fact that there are natural energy sources available that are renewable, but that even those leave a significant carbon footprint. How sustainable are these various types of energy use? How sustainable are we? What information do we have, and how aware are we about our energy use? Students will analyze data and current issues to identify a community to problem-solve, which will present itself in the form of service-learning. 

Who’s the Pest?
This investigation begins with defining habitat and niche and identifying local natural habitats that occur within a mile of our school campus. Students then identify human activities that impact organisms and what causes a human to classify something as a pest. Students identify pests in our local community, both plant and animal, and learn about methods of pest management, both chemical and best management practices (BMP), as methods to decrease pests in various environments. Students create a plan to promote BMP in the local community.