Middle School Engineering Students Explore Impact of Climate Change Through Future Cities Project

Middle School Engineering Students Explore Impact of Climate Change Through Future Cities Project

How might an oyster reef help when the effects of climate change force us to adapt our cities? Just ask our 7th-grade CEL students.

This year, Introduction to Engineering students have been working in small teams to imagine, design, and build cities of the future, answering the question: How can future cities adapt to climate change? Using the engineering design process and project management skills, 7th graders research a real-world problem and incorporate adaptation and mitigation strategies into their future cities that will help citizens live happier and healthier lives. Models made of recycled and found materials are then presented at the end of the trimester to their classmates and a panel of judges, including teachers. 

Teams have researched, designed, and built scale models of their city according to their chosen climate issue and a real-life place that might be impacted by that issue. And after months of work, they’ve built, among others: a floating city with an aquaponic system, communal pods, and an oyster reef; a city that uses carbon sequestration and wind turbines; and one that focuses on biophilic design. 

Gerren, Lila, and Gray’s chosen sustainability issue was air pollution. Together they problem-solved and decided to place a plastic bubble over their future city. “We've learned (through this project) just how important it is to keep the Earth clean for the future, not just now, but for the generations ahead,” they said.

biophilia future cities 7th grade engineering

Adapting the curriculum to incorporate this project into this course was an easy choice, says Eileen Larkin, Middle School science and CEL teacher, who put it into practice this past fall. The CEL faculty members recognized the need for a hands-on approach to environmental science prior to Upper School when students might be interested in starting ecologically-minded ventures. 

In true CEL (and engineering) fashion, this 7th-grade project knows no bounds. Their “future cities” are teaching them not just about climate change but also scale modeling, city infrastructure, sociology, ecology, geography, real-world math, and important research skills. 

“This trimester-long project has been all about innovation and trying new things in STEM,” says Larkin. “This is a unique opportunity for our students to imagine, create, and think deeply about sustainability issues.”


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