Problem Based Learning Units
One of the most important skills we can develop in students is the capacity to deal with problems in a constructive and systematic manner. It is a skill that equips them for dealing with our uncertain and rapidly evolving world. Problem Based Learning (PBL) can be an inclusive teaching tool that engages and challenges students with a broad range of skills and capabilities.
Scenarios set in natural environments open up a broad skill set allowing field work and firsthand data collection as well as more broadly available secondary sources. Many of the big issues of our time have their basis in natural systems such as climate change, carbon pricing, urban subdivision and food and water security. Students need to be engaged and active contributors in the real-world issues that will shape their future experiences.
Royal Botanic Gardens Cranbourne (RBGC) currently offer two PBL programs:
• Global Carbon Markets
• Future Cities
Global Carbon Markets
There are two components to this program:
- a field trip to RBG Cranbourne
- a PBL project where students research and present a country’s position on climate change.
RBG Cranbourne Field Trip
The carbon economy has arrived in Australia. Carbon now has a value that can be bought and sold so a whole new industry has arrived creating sustainable employment into the future. This program actively immerses students in the new Carbon Market. It takes them from an understanding of what carbon is, how it cycles through the atmosphere, through to trading carbon offsets on international markets. Activities include demonstrating the characteristics of carbon, measuring carbon in trees and fieldwork assessment tasks on the levels of carbon in forests.
Problem Based Learning Project: Climate Change around the Planet
(This project should be done as a student group research project back at school)
Australia has one of the highest per person emissions for greenhouse gases in the world. Developing countries such as East Timor and the Maldives have among the lowest per person emissions.
Unfortunately, the impacts of climate change caused by greenhouse gases will be felt more seriously by developing countries.
In your group, choose one of the following countries: Australia, China, Timor Leste, Maldives, New Zealand, South Korea, Sweden or the USA.
Find out some basic facts about your country: area of land, population, average annual income in US$ and major exports.
Research the emissions from your selected country and its attitude to emissions control. What are the anticipated impacts of climate change for the people of your country? What are the anticipated economic impacts from reducing greenhouse emissions?
Represent your country’s current carbon policy in a United Nations style debate on climate change.
Write up a report that outlines and contrasts the differences in the countries your class’s research has revealed.
With One Seed
The third and final part to this unit of work directly links students in Victoria with students in Timor Leste through the WithOneSeed website. Students will be able to compare and contrast their own personal carbon footprints, standards of living and other cultural differences against those of students in Timor Leste. This will allow students to assess social justice issues, such as the UN Millennium Goals for Environmental Sustainability, Universal Education, Ending Poverty and Hunger and Global Relationships and what these mean for a civil society.
A key component of the WithOneSeed project is to raise awareness of the impact that technology use has on contribution to Global carbon emissions. In 2011 emissions from technology use was not far behind the contribution that the aviation industry has which is around 4% of global emissions.
Students and their school communities will be encouraged to take responsibility for the carbon emissions of the use of their personal technology devices like smartphone, laptops, tablets and desktops. Different levels of participation can be accommodated from personal non-compulsory technology emission offset of $5 a year, to school and community wide fund raising drives and the Young Ambassador Program (YAP).
The funds will be used to pay the Community Tree Trusts in Timor Leste to plant and maintain native forests, end poverty and hunger, deliver universal education and develop regional partnerships.
These activities amount to immersion in global carbon markets and students work will be paralleled by corporate voluntary emissions offsets and potential compulsory corporate carbon offsets. This involvement is a real-world opportunity for students in a new and rapidly developing carbon market.
There are three components to this program, which examines issues of urban growth and amenity in cities:
- growth and amenity in the suburbs an hour-long session either at the RBGC or at your school
- environmental assessment fieldwork at RBGC
- a PBL project where students research and present a stakeholder’s position on growth and amenity in Botanic Ridge, RBGC’s neighbouring suburb.
Most people in Australia live in cities. Melbourne is among the most liveable cities in the world, but is facing challenges as it grows. We now live in a carbon constrained economy and the impact of climate change is already being felt and will continue to be felt into the future. RBGC sits in an urban growth corridor and is actively involved in the planning process that will shape its developing surroundings.
Growth and amenity in the suburbs
New housing subdivisions are much more than the houses, roads and fences that dominate the view. Cities have many needs: provision of food, infrastructure for transport, space for recreation, water, waste and energy services, flood protection and the like. Our world is a changing one so it needs to be able to stand the test of time including some challenging environmental, social and economic problems. See how these have played out in developing plans for the Botanic Ridge suburb and the Settlers Run subdivision bordering RBGC.
Environmental Assessment Fieldwork
This program is conducted in the RBGC bushland, which is one of Victoria’s most precious areas of native bushland and is home to an amazing range of plant and animal life, including several rare and endangered species. Untouched heathy woodland and wetland cover two-thirds of the 363-hectare site and provide students with a unique opportunity to learn in a pristine environment.
Water and open green space are two of the most crucial issues in planning future cities. Australia is the driest inhabited continent and we are nearing the limit of supply through established infrastructure. Can changes to the management of stormwater and other waste water help solve supply problems? Could these changes also assist with recreation, biodiversity and climate amelioration? How do we monitor bodies of water for their chemical and physical condition, bio-indicators, habitat and other amenity potential?
Problem Based Learning Project: Growth and Amenity in Botanic Ridge
Botanic Ridge (3977) has been approved as one of Melbourne’s newest suburbs. Did the State government get it right?
Form your class into groups with each group selecting a stakeholder to represent from the stakeholder groups nominated below. From what you have learned from the growth and amenity in suburbs presentation, fieldwork and your own group research, represent your stakeholder at a notional meeting with the Minister for Planning.
Town Planner from the City of Casey
The Council is committed to reducing our carbon emissions and creating a sustainable, liveable, attractive city. We have obligations to plan for climate change. Council is responsible for ensuring that it serves the local community in regard to waste disposal, stormwater, bicycle paths, safe road access, school crossings and facilities for families with young children through to facilities for older people. Will they have happy ratepayers out at Botanic Ridge?
South East Water Board
There are limited potable (drinking) water supplies and storm water issues need to be carefully managed. Perhaps not all water supplies need to be potable water and a parallel system of Class A (recycled) water from the South East Water Treatment Plant could be installed. Perhaps some of the rain water collected on site might be stored and made available. Did we make the most of opportunities to construct wetland areas to help mitigate the effects of flooding and retain wildlife on site?
The Jones Family
The family has bought a house ’off the plan’ in the development and they want to live in a modern estate that addresses the future. They want their estate to be successful so that their investment in the house increases in value over time. They want to live in the outer suburbs because the air is clean and there are still native animals around for their children. They will need access to kindergartens, schools and work in the city. Have they invested wisely?
Transport Users’ Group
This is a public lobby group made up of people seeking better public transport infrastructure. Outer suburbs are notoriously poorly served by public transport and the group is seeking regular bus services and eventually a train to the city. One of the keys to successful public transport routes is higher population densities and lower car ownership. Casey Council has also been very good at supporting bicycle infrastructure. How will people get to work if there is an increase in fuel prices?
Typically, developers spend as little as possible in order to achieve maximum profits, but this developer needs this long-term development, which runs over many stages, for its economic survival. It wishes to avoid problems like Brookland Green had with a former tip site, so it tried hard to make Botanic Ridge a model development. Will it make a profit on its investment?
Royal Botanic Gardens Cranbourne
This is a conservation organisation with a large investment on the border of the Botanic Ridge estate. With a plant list of over 400 indigenous species and animal and fungi species, many of which are endangered, they have much to protect. They want the people that are living next to them to help by keeping control of their pets, not providing a source of weeds and keeping the view from the gardens attractive. Every now and then they set fire to patches of their bushland. Will they be able to maintain their biodiversity levels or perhaps even increase them in the surrounding suburbs?
Last updated 22 Aug 2012