This unit includes four lessons that culminate in students crafting a letter, video or article expressing their viewpoint on a business’s responsibilities towards the citizens and the environment.
Using inquiry-focused reading, students will explore an anchor text, additional resources, then develop their own essential and supporting questions to guide their research.
Over the course of the unit, students will explore a variety of texts and grow in their knowledge of governmental and small business economic practices, the legal rights of citizens, the interdependencies within an ecosystem and the uses of renewable and nonrenewable energy sources.
Physical Science
Middle School
Grade 7
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Lesson Plan
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Graphics/Photos, Text/HTML


Sabrina Kirwan on Oct 21, 01:56pm

I like this local issue as a topic because it is connected to the students. Some of the accommodations for special education students were great to make sure the activity is accessible to all students. Text to speech is an effective tool for students with reading or comprehension disabilities. Providing the special educators with the material ahead of time and keeping them up to date with notes is a great way to communicate.

Jessica Eakin on Oct 12, 09:50am

I liked that the student writing was persuasive writing, based in fact and that the example was connected to the area community. I didn't see any student samples yet, so I'll have to check back and see how the final product turned out.

Sarah Hale on Oct 10, 10:00pm

I was drawn to this lesson because I see enormous potential to use it as a template for any corporate vs environmental issues locally, nationally, and internationally. I think it is valuable to take students through the process of objectively analyzing an issue to form an opinion. That informed opinion equips them to participate as citizens in a democratic society, and as we have seen so many times with controversial projects, citizens have a crucial role to play in keeping corporate interests in check.

Perhaps the biggest challenge I see in teaching this as a STEM unit is keeping it focused on STEM. While the unit description includes exploration of the social implications of the project, the scientific inquiry task could get sidetracked by discussion of the legal rights of both corporate and public entities, the property rights of landowners, the concept of eminent domain, the political influences at play, and economic pressures (corporate and public).

I think the anchor text and other resources were very informative and effective; I even watched the entire 45-minute video! I think it would be helpful to list these resources somewhere in the plan for easy access.

I think this is a particularly good unit to address the CCSS standard (included in this lesson): CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.8: Distinguish among facts, reasoned judgment based on research findings, and speculation in a text. Students may be pretty familiar with the differences between informative, argument, and persuasive writing. Checking in with key teachers (LA and SS, perhaps) may help assess students’ skills in this regard coming into this lesson.

One picky note: The Unit Description and the Student Learning Objectives state that the students will create a presentation, video, OR letter to the editor. The Summative Assessment states that students will create a video or presentation AND a letter or letter to the editor.

This is a lesson that, I feel, will have a significant impact on students, one that will come to mind when they encounter other controversial environmental topics in the news.

Lisa Petrie on Sep 28, 02:37pm

UNIT DESCRIPTION & TOPIC: Your unit description is focused and clear, and this topic is so relevant to your community. It's also easy to imagine how this unit could be adapted by teachers who want to address similar issues in their particular region of the country.

STANDARDS: I like that you focus on fewer standards, rather than more. Since students may be creating presentations and/or writing letters, though, I wonder if you should include speaking/listening standards, as well. I believe there are NextGen Science Standards that address communication. There are also CCSS for ELA that address research, writing and speaking/listening. Might you include a couple of those?

ESSENTIAL QUESTION: Sometimes when an EQ starts with the word “What…”, I am preparing myself for a specific right/wrong answer to that question, or a list of answers. Our EQ starts with “What”, too! Is there a better way for both of us to phrase our questions? This might be something to consider.


SUMMATIVE ASSESSMENT DESCRIPTION & RUBRICS: Each SKILL identified in your rubric begins with a verb except for the last one. Perhaps you could change, “Appropriate use of grammatical practices and spelling” to, “Uses grammatical practices and spelling appropriately.” Additionally, as a student, I’m not sure I would understand what you mean in some cases when you say, “with a few mistakes.” Could you be more specific about what those mistakes might be? Also, I would recommend that you include some presentation or speaking criteria on your rubric (or create an additional presentation rubric?), specifically for those students who choose to make a video, or present their findings in class. Regarding citing sources, it’s interesting to note that you recommend APA. I know most of us school librarians recommend MLA across all disciplines, but I don’t think that’s appropriate for most science classes. (For our Physics unit, I believe students should be using AIP.) I’d love to have a conversation about this with the other STEM cohorts! If our students are going off to college to study a STEM discipline, perhaps we should give them practice with other citation formats…?

PRIOR KNOWLEDGE NEEDED: Have these items been assessed by the teacher/LMS, or is it assumed that students will come to you with prior knowledge in the areas you’ve identified here? If you know that the kids are proficient in these areas, I think this list is appropriate.

STUDENT LEARNING OBJECTIVES: Joanna suggested that we write our SLO's using the language, "Students will be able to...by...". Do you need to be more specific in stating exactly how your students will achieve each objective? In other words, do you need to tack a phrase onto the end of each SLO that begins with the with the word, "by"...? Otherwise, these are very clear.

TEXT SET: Your anchor text presents a balanced look at a complex issue. It’s a bit dated, as the Kinder Morgan Pipeline Proposal has been tabled, I believe. But I think that’s okay…? Surely this issue remains relevant for those of us living in New England. Considering the fact that the article comes from the New York Times, though, I wonder if this text will always be freely available in the future. My group was in a similar situation. We also wanted to use a copyrighted text, so we had to obtain permission from the publisher of our anchor text to include it in OER Commons in perpetuity as part of a “remixable” educational unit. I wonder if your anchor text will disappear behind a firewall if you don’t do the same thing…? Regarding the the clip from a BBC documentary, that’s a nice touch. Video is sure to be an engaging part of this unit. Will the librarian’s lesson on bias and the use of character cards help students properly evaluate the video and other sources of information students use as part of their research? Perhaps you could include links to character cards, evaluation guidelines, etc., in your lesson. I would love to see the character cards, as I don’t know what they are! :-) Regarding supporting text #1, it reinforces some of the same issues uncovered in the anchor text, but it feels like the action in that text is happening so far away. Will students at this age struggle with a “transfer of knowledge” here? Perhaps you could find a similarly objective article that relates to pipeline issues in New England, and/or some charts & graphs that address the seasonal demands of energy in our region of the country.

VOCABULARY: Will you develop a list of Tier 2 and Tier 3 vocabulary that will help students better understand the anchor text? Tier 2 vocabulary might include words such as: rift, conservation, pipeline, infrastructure, hub, mammoth, transmission, etc. I also see complex vocabulary like: insatiable, tract, intrusive, etc. You can use the Academic Word Finder at achievethecore.org to identify Tier 2 vocabulary in your text. There's also a section on their website that includes a nice description of Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 vocabulary. Ultimately, I think it is up to your team to decide which vocabulary you should teach.

TEXT-DEPENDENT QUESTIONS: Have you considered reading your anchor text aloud in class? Your anchor text includes some proper nouns that are a mouthful, and a bit of background knowledge is required in order to make proper meaning of the text. You might be able to check for understanding more appropriately if you read aloud to the class, and stop to ask text-dependent questions along the way. The TDQs listed on the student handout are quite broad. In addition to asking questions about theses “big ideas”, I wonder if you could ask some questions about specific facts in the text, and about text structure.

SUGGESTED LESSON BREAKDOWN/PACING: You identify the fifth/sixth block as the point at which you will outline the project requirements. Will you also give a brief outline of the project at the beginning of the unit so that students know where they’re headed? I don’t think you have to go into a tremendous amount of detail initially, but knowing where they’re going from Day 1 might help students make better connections to information they find along the way.

Thank you for sharing your work! I look forward to seeing your student work examples! :-)

Lisa Petrie, Library Media Specialist
Souhegan High School

Kelley Joseph on Sep 20, 03:43pm

What a well-developed and thorough lesson. I really liked how the learning was scaffolded throughout. For the students who struggle with comprehension I wondered how the text to speech feature offered help with understanding? I realize this is a fantastic feature that provides support in the areas of decoding and vocabulary, but I wanted to ask how students who struggle with scientific texts were able to monitor their comprehension. The rubric was great and I really enjoyed the project ideas. Did students get to give feedback to each other during the presentations? Thank you!


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