by Marsha Rakestraw

What are the biggest killers of people in the U.S. today? What is the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico? How can these two seemingly disparate problems possibly be connected?

We at IHE are proud to launch our first solutionary unit: What Do the Primary Causes of Death in the US Have to Do With the Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico?

This unit is designed as a case study, presenting students with authentic problems. These problems are a doorway for students to explore the connection between a major issue in the U.S. (diet-related diseases) and a recurring ecological disaster: the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. Through hands-on, experiential learning, students explore these contrasting questions as they engage in uncovering various causes and solutions.

Created for students in grades 9 and older to unfold over a series of weeks, the unit helps students think critically, creatively, and strategically to address societal systems that currently contribute to personal, social, and environmental problems. When completed, students will have a greater understanding of interconnected systems and will have collaborated to identify viable solutions to interrelated problems.

IHE president Zoe Weil notes that helping students become solutionaries means encouraging them to grapple with complex, interconnected problems and to create meaningful solutions that do the most good and least harm for all. In her forthcoming book, The World Becomes What We Teach: Educating a Generation of Solutionaries, she says,

“When students are offered opportunities to analyze their own and society‚Äôs choices and creatively and collaboratively develop systemic solutions to problems they uncover in their investigations, they gain a deep understanding that we are all inextricably connected, ecologically and societally; they realize that their everyday choices have impacts on others; they gain real-life experiences worthwhile for their futures; they are rewarded with the joy that comes from purposeful contribution;, and they deepen their sense of responsibility for our collective future. And all this happens while they develop foundational literacy, numeracy, scientific, and critical thinking skills.”

Download the complete unit.