Phenomenon Project Based Learning Series: Environmental Justice

Phenomenon Based Learning (PhBL) is a multi-disciplinary form of learning that approaches a topic (phenomenon) initially from a bird's eye view. PhBL was developed as a means to address the growing need for learning experiences which encounter and solve real-world issues while being aligned to 21st century skills. The topic or concept is deconstructed into distinct yet interdependent aspects. The learning then spirals full circle to encompass the topic or concept holistically.

PhBL SPOTLIGHT: Environmental Justice

We are SO thrilled to share this PhBL concept that emerged from a design team collaboration here in Washington State as we support the opening of Cascade Charter School. Our design team developed multiple concepts for PhBL experiences before involving students and community members in selecting the most relevant concepts and contributing to their continued development for what will become the 9th grade PhBL curriculum.

We hope these concepts will seed some ideas with you!

Phenomenon: Environmental Justice-Restoration

Complimentary Phenomenon:

Puget Sound Superfund

Environmental Justice

Guiding Question(s):

Who owns the water?

How do we balance people, industry, recreation, wildlife, environment?

Context Anchors:

Elwha & Duwamish River case studies

River ecosystems (salmon, orca,

Tribal rights (treaty, recognition)


Water transportation/industry

Local J pod Orcas information/lifecycles

Flint, MI

China’s current dam building projects

“Little Miss Flint” Mari Copery

Chief Seattle’s Speech

Examples of environmental restoration from around the world & case studies

Loess plateu, China

Colorado River Delta, Mexico

Nashua/Cayahoga rivers in NE

Clean Air & Water acts of 1970’s

Superfund & Brownfield laws

Conservation laws

Formation of the EPA by Richard Nixon

Science Friday profile of Navajo scientist & river clean up/monitoring in Arizona (“Bitter Waters”)


Environmental impact assesment

Clean up proposals & actions

Letters to legislators (river or tribal rights)

Oral history


Models of river flows with and w/o dams & construciton

Water, Air, Habitat Quality Analysis


SSLC3 & Environmental Science:



Civic process/action

Trophic web

Keystone Species




Carrying Capacity

Adult World Connections:

Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition/Technical Advisory Group

Duwamish Tribe (Longhorse)

Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe

Dam visit

Committee who brought the Elwha dam down

Case study: California failed and no longer has salmon populations (big bummer)

Orcafest concerts San Juan Islands