South Orangetown Central School District

Students in TZHS science teacher Nicole Lai’s Environmental Science class are planning sustainable communities that they will ultimately turn into interactive digital maps.

To create a sustainable community, students need to meet to ensure it is environmentally friendly including renewable energy, eco-friendly waste management, support for pollinators and clean transportation to avoid air pollution. As students worked in groups to figure out what their community needed, Lai also explained that they would need to fulfill the social needs of the community that would match a regular community by including education, medical care, law enforcement, the postal service and job opportunities to support the local economy.

Students first created a rough draft of what they wanted their community to feature and how it would look before drawing a larger map—complete with streets, buildings, gardens and energy sources. Students collaborated to decide how their community would be sustainable including using alternative energy sources including solar panels and windmills, bike lanes on each street to encourage people to cut back on driving fuel-powered cars and composting.

“My goal for this course is to make the students more informed about the world around them including the food they eat, the items they buy and the modes of transportation they use,” said Lai. “It can be eye-opening to see what impact their everyday decisions may have on the environment. This class helps students learn how they have a chance to make changes to help the environment and reduce some of the negative impacts.”

Students create map of sustainable community