Essential Questions of Sustainability (EQS)
SEEQS strives to create a seamless connection between academic content and real-world application through project-based learning. As a fundamental part of the SEEQS experience, students participate in an interdisciplinary, project-based, year-long course designed around examining an Essential Question of Sustainability (EQS).
Each year-long Essential Question of Sustainability course:
As an example, the Essential Question "How does water sustain us?" might lead to projects involving
Consistent with SEEQS’s belief that students learn best when they take ownership of their learning, the “curriculum” for EQS courses is flexible and fluctuating. EQS course offerings are guided by the interests and desires of students and teachers, the disciplinary and pedagogical expertise of the EQS teachers, and the availability of community partnerships.
The kickoff of each EQS Course is a days-long “EQS camp” (see sidebar) which serves as an intensive introduction to the key elements of the essential questions through field trips, interviews of experts, and question-storming.
Daily two-hour EQS blocks provide students with the opportunity to collaborate with other students, faculty and community partners to apply content knowledge from the core curriculum in the context of their EQS projects. EQS groups work as interdisciplinary teams of teachers (4-6 teachers with collective expertise in Science, English, Mathematics, History, and Art) and students (40-60 students) in two-hour blocks of time. These blocks can be used in various and varying ways, including student-directed projects, teacher-led tutorials and mini-lessons, community outings, guest visits, and, in later years, formal internships for upperclassmen. Students develop individual and/or small group work plans each day to chart their progress towards meeting objectives.
The year-long EQS course includes three phases. In Phase One, students are introduced to one “priority” skill of each disciplinary content area, through a cycle of discipline-focused two-day mini projects. In Phase Two, teachers lead students through a project that they have collaboratively designed to incorporate the highlighted skills of each disciplinary content area and to model project management for students. Then, in Phase Three, students build off of the experience and skills they learned during their Phase Two projects and apply them to their own student-driven projects. Each EQS semester culminates with exhibitions to an authentic audience that includes SEEQS students, parents, teachers, community members, and experts.
EQS Camp is a days-to week-long series of field trips to local community partners whose work relates to the Essential Question. Through this experience and their own personal interests, students refine the broad Essential Question into a project of their own design, exploring their interests and learning in a real-world context.
What is an Essential Question?
Based on Understanding By Design by McTighe and Wiggins, an Essential Question is relevant, timeless, and broad in scope. An Essential Question has no simple answer, but opens up new avenues of inquiry in which students can explore and apply knowledge from all content areas.
2019-2020 Essential Questions
This school year, SEEQers will explore one of three questions:
EQS ChoiceMakers: "How do my choices affect my health, my community, and the planet?"
EQS Grow: "How can I contribute to food independence?"
EQS Ho'okahe Wai: "How can we live aloha 'āina?"
Share Your Expertise
We invite community members and organizations involved in related issues to contact us if you'd like to work with our EQS courses or talk with our students!
The EQS is only one element of what makes SEEQS special. If you haven't already, be sure to check out our "Why SEEQS?" page to read about how we have designed a whole school to help develop "whole" students.