Interdisciplinary Study of the Local Power Plant: Cultivating Ecological Citizens
Mark T. Kissling
Penn State University
Angela Calabrese Barton
Michigan State University
People rely on power plants to generate the electricity needed to run much of their lives. Power plants, though, are typically not the domain of the average citizen. Even if they stand near homes, schools, and other important places, the operations inside, not to mention the many social and environmental impacts outside, largely lack the scrutiny of most citizens. Is this a problem, especially when some governmental oversight already regulates the plants’ operations? The National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) defines the main purpose of social studies education as creating effective citizens. This article describes an interdisciplinary unit of study by middle-grades youth about a proposed power plant in their city of Lansing, Michigan. It shows students scrutinizing the complex power plant issue through a variety of experiences and from different angles. While supporting NCSS’ stance on the teaching of citizenship, we call for a conception of citizenship extending beyond human communities and structures to the community of the earth and all living beings. We also encourage social studies teachers to take up the work of teaching for ecological citizenship.