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IMGALTTAG Volume VI: Pittsburgh's Environmental History


Colors of Change Pittsburgh Past to Present
Christin F. Callis
Fort Pitt Elementary School

As a transplant into Pittsburgh, I view the city much as a third grade child would look at it. The city is big and hilly, many kinds of people live here, and people tell stories about its past. Yet Pittsburgh’s history can be abstract and appear to be far off and unrelated to current living. How did this city become what it is today? Why do some of the buildings look black and dirty? What’s the importance of the three rivers and the point? What happened and who worked in those steel mills I used to see along the rivers? Pittsburgh leaves a legacy of environmental issues and how they were solved. These questions and other issues will be addressed in a semester study of Pittsburgh that encompasses a more concrete look at this "Gateway To The West." Third grade students will study the history of the city of Pittsburgh as a system, focusing on: the interdependence among people and the environment, and how the environment affects the way people live and work. Given an awareness of the past, students will develop projects that will allow them to become a catalyst for environmental change in the future.


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The Use and Abuse of Pittsburgh's Environment
by Amy B. Davies

This unit enhances the ninth grade civics curriculum. It provides an introduction to environmental awareness using Pittsburgh as a case study. Students will study the founding of Pittsburgh and the vast resources readily available to those who settled in Pennsylvania. The unit examines these resources and their role in the economic development of our region. Students will study the chronological development of various industries along with their impact on our land, air and water. The economic growth of Pennsylvania will be analyzed along with the environmental impact of this growth. The curriculum unit also discusses Pittsburgh's renaissance and attempts to clean up the environment. Students are introduced to wise environmental choices and the revitalization efforts encompassed by our city. Throughout the unit, various civics skills are reinforced as students learn about Pittsburgh's environmental history.


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Pittsburgh Environmental History: Nineteen Year Cycle
Jeremiah Dugan
Frick International Studies Academy

The following unit description is designed as a supplemental unit for an eighth grade U.S. History course.  As a whole the unit strives to develop higher level thinking and consensus building skills in the students as they develop an understanding for the complex issues surrounding Pittsburgh's environmental history and how they as an individual influence their world.  The unit examines the production of iron and steel, the impact of the those industries on the environment, working peoples' reaction to those industries, the Pittsburgh Renaissance of the 1940's-1950's, and an applied learning project that has students examine school waste and its environmental impact and then create a plan to reduce it.  Overall the unit utilizes simulation and applied learning actives, while stressing literacy and communication through oral and written forms that are essential in today's workplace.


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Pittsburgh: Things That Aren't There Anymore and Why They Are Gone.
By Virginia Hill

Ecology is often focused toward the rain forest, coral reefs, or some distant wetland.  This unit would offer students a meaningful glance at Pittsburgh's environmental history and a vehicle to become a part of Pittsburgh's environmental future.   Students will begin their ecological study by examining the link between ecology and natural history and then develop a definition of ecology (Biology 52). A primary focus will be the use of Pittsburgh’s waterways and Pittsburgh’s water treatment facilities and the various locations of the water pumping facilities, and why they were moved to their present location on the Allegheny River. In this time frame, students will also perform in class experiments on plants to look at various outcomes that are provided in the text. Students will be examining the biotic components to Pittsburgh’s environmental status and the non-living things as biotic components, examine life in the Pittsburgh area after the closing of the steel mills, and create their own urban garden space in order to spark a sense of ownership in beautifying their neighborhoods. Through this Unit students may come to realize that land is an important resource that should serve the needs of plants and animals as well as humans (Biology 53).


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We Can Clean Up Our Acts
by Sally Martin
Allderdice High School

This unit is designed for a 10th grade chemistry class. By taking a historical view of the smoke pollution in Pittsburgh and the long struggle to solve the problem, students will be able to better understand the issues involved and the timing and compromises which are necessary for the successful resolution of any problem. The students will become citizens of Pittsburgh in the year 1900. They will represent different constituent groups – mill workers, families of the workers, mill owners, society women and politicians. In these roles they will develop an understanding of the problem from different perspectives. As we trace the history of resolution they will identify each group’s response or resistance to suggestions. The purpose is to inspire the students that change can be effected if there is commitment and a willingness to share point of views. In conclusion the students will examine a current environmental problem and determine what role they might play in a local solution.


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The Chemical Reaction; It's a Burgh Thing
By Linda Kay Neumann

This high school chemistry unit is designed to teach the traditional topic, chemical reactions, through an integrated approach to the study of chemistry that is longitudinal time, historical in content, and ethical in emphasis. The symbolic nature of the chemical equation, the balancing of the equation, and the classification of reactions as to type are taught with examples drawn from chemical reactions used throughout Pittsburgh's history. This very same history is used to study the "effects" of these reactions on the Pittsburgh environment and on the lifestyle of its people; with an eye toward reflection upon the views of Nature that guided the decisions to use such reactions or their resultant technologies, even when these had adverse effects on the area and its population.

The unit can be used in its entirety, or any part of it can be used as enrichment material. Though designed for the chemistry classroom, it is relevant to earth science, environmental science, and also general science. It crosses the curriculum into the social sciences and philosophy, emphasizing ethics, the values which govern decision making.


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Chatham University
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IMGALTTAG Pittsburgh Teachers Institute
Jointly sponsored by Carnegie Mellon University, Chatham University and the Pittsburgh Public Schools.
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