Middle School Students Investigate Local Environmental Issues

MSUWIPRO picture of ChrissyChrissy Garcia is inspiring her middle school students to stand up. Investigate. Inquire. And make a difference.

A sense of activism and global responsibility are being instilled in her students. How? Well, they are starting within their own community of South Deering, located on Chicago’s far southeast side. The class is currently in the inquiry phase of their learning adventure.  Kids are asking big questions like…Who decided to put Petroleum Coke here? Why is our school located near a landfill?  When will the Lake Calumet ecosystem be restored?  They are showing their many wonders through blogging, debating, creating and tweeting!  Ms Garcia is so pleased with the level of engagement and critical thinking skills being shown.  She encourages them to ask questions, make connections and provide evidence of their claims as they develop their scientific literacy. These actions are all part of Garcia’s DreamIT Plan, which is a year long project implementing STEM based instruction.

Chrissy Garcia created a catchy video using “Explain it to Me” to reel her students in. Check it out!


Factory pollution, Petroleum Coke, gangs, graffiti, and violence are all issues surrounding their community.  The class has teamed up with the Southeast Environmental Task Force (SETF). The students were provided with maps, pamphlets, and contacts of local organizations for future research.  SETF also proposed the idea of hosting a “Toxic to Treasures” tour. Students are hoping in the spring, SETF will guide them through prairies and wetlands located near current and former industrial sites around South Deering. Students will develop a better understanding as they visually experience the impact of industrialization on the ecosystem.

The class also made another powerful connection with a professor from MIT.  Chris Walley is a former southeast side resident, and has a kickstarter for a film about the post industrialization era of the southeast side.  Her mission relates closely to the work being done by Garcia’s students.  The class is looking forward to skyping with Chris Walley in the spring to learn more!

Follow the excitement on Twitter! @MsGsClass1

MSUWIPRO Chrissy Garcia