Constructivist learning encourages students to develop their critical thinking skills by initiating their own inquiries of the topic to be learned based on their own prior knowledge. This is achieved through supportive guidance and hands-on problem solving that challenges them to construct their research and communication (oral and written) experiences in order to make logical and critical connections to the topic.
Language Arts lessons focus on how the print media communicated the problem to the citizens of Tucson. The print media is a major source of information bout our world. It is a vehicle not just to learn about the state of our world, or country, or neighborhood, but to empower individuals and communities to take action in the face of threatening situations. TCE contamination of the water and soil in South Tucson is one example of how individuals were able to make meaningful connections through the media to solve an environmental health problem.
Social Studies lessons focus on the local history of the problem and on the people involved. Any change made to the environment for the betterment of society can have unintended consequences. While the addition of various aviation and defense businesses brought a boom to the economy of Tucson after WWII, the unrestrained growth led to an environmental disaster warranting Superfund cleanup status that only came into being after the community affected by the TCE contamination banded together to hold those responsible for the cause.
Government lessons focus on the story of the people and the EPA working together with the responsible parties. Concerns about the environment include protection of air and water quality, the location of new industries and waste management facilities and the remediation of contaminated property. A grassroots movement initiated by residents in a community exposed to TCE issued a call for environmental justice by pressuring local government officials and agencies to deal with the problem of contaminated water in their community.
Integrated Science lessons focus on the interaction between soil and water in our environment. Elements/chemicals/compounds enter our water from different sources. These substances can potentially affect our health. We monitor our water to assess the quality of our water. There is no “away”. Energy cannot be created or destroyed - only changed or transferred - TCE in Tucson - two issues – soil and water contamination and cleanup.
Chemistry lessons are divided into three units. The first discusses the nature of TCE as an organic solvent, which has properties that make them useful for particular applications and necessitate their special handling. The second addresses the nature of risk and how people make some choices about chemical exposure and some exposure is controlled at a governmental level. Collective groups of people, such as communities and governments, seek to control chemical exposure on a community or global level. The third addresses how trichloroethylene can be removed from the groundwater.