9th Grade Changing Earth Curriculum

Photo was taken on Penikese Island trip.

Photo was taken on Penikese Island trip.

Karly Shifrin, Staff Writer

This year the Class of 2025 is doing something special in their first year of Upper School, bringing a new focus to more traditional studies of literature, science, and ancient civilizations. Ninth graders are spending the year learning about climate change and global change and what they can do to positively impact the environment. This interdisciplinary curriculum is called “Changing Earth,” and it centers around the core classes of science, history, and English.

The Changing Earth curriculum is meant to teach students about climate change and its impacts on our planet. From humans burning fossil fuels to the Earth naturally warming. everything plays a part. Ninth graders are being taught about this through field trips, projects, and hands-on activities.

Each trimester has a theme. The first trimester was spent understanding how Earth is changing. In the second trimester, students will learn about adapting to change, and in the third trimester, the students themselves will be making change.

The field trips associated with this curriculum have already begun. In just the first two weeks of school, ninth graders took three field trips: one to Woodwell Climate Research Center in Falmouth, one to Penkiese Island, one of the Elizabeth Islands, and one to Bay End Farm in Bourne, MA. 

During the field trip to Woodwell Climate Research Center, students learned about how trees and plants impact carbon output. Students learned that trees absorb carbon before it can enter the atmosphere and the importance of the Amazon Rainforest. Students discovered that the Amazon Rainforest has so many trees that it helps absorb a large amount of carbon dioxide before it can enter the atmosphere. If the forest disappeared it would have a massive impact on the climate of the Earth. Ninth-grade students also looked at maps that the Woodwell Research Center creates to help better understand climate.

On the second field trip to Penikese Island, students learned about the history and the nature of the island. Penikese was used as a leper colony in the 1900s and later as a wildlife sanctuary. The island also had a variety of flowers and insects that the students enjoyed observing.

The most recent field trip that the ninth grade has taken so far was to Bay End Farm. At the farm, students learned about organic and sustainable farming. Students also learned about weeding and efficiently growing crops.

Many students thought that these field trips were a great way to begin the school year.  A few felt like it was a little bit of a chaotic start that made adjusting to the new schedule difficult but still found the trips fun. Penikese Island was most favored among the freshmen. 

Penikese Island was a lot more inclusive than the other trips,” said Charlie Rickard ’25, the ninth-grade class president.

You may be wondering, “What led the wonderful teachers who teach ninth grade to create a curriculum like this?” Ninth grade Changing Earth: Science teacher, Mrs. Liz Klein, said that at the end of last year when teachers were brainstorming for the next year, she and Mrs. Monica Hough, the ninth grade Changing Earth: English teacher, came up with the idea. As a result, they worked together to transform their core class curricula. Mr. Matt Barnes, the new ninth-grade Changing Earth: History teacher, wanted to teach students big picture themes instead of chronological events so they worked well together. 

The Changing Earth curriculum works together to form one united theme. In science, students will examine practical and local problems like the environmental impact of FA. In English, students will learn how to use their voices to make a change and how the lessons about nature, power, adaptability, resiliency, and the power of the written word in both classic and modern literature offer lessons for the present and the future. In history, students will learn how humans have impacted the Earth in the past in order to better understand current global and climate change. 

Teachers hope that students will take away many things from the curriculum. 

“I hope students will learn how much power they have to impact the world around them,” said Mrs. Klein.

“Changing Earth embraces the multiple meanings of the phrase. We are encouraging students not only to investigate the complex ways in which the planet and human society have been shaped by change but also to implement actions to change the Earth they will inherit,” Mrs. Hough said.

 “I hope students will learn that everything in life is connected and will develop a more broad and global way of thinking,”  Mr. Barnes said.

Students also have high hopes for the curriculum. So far, Dillon Fondren ’25, ninth-grade class Vice President, said he likes how the classes fit together.  

I really like focusing on something that feels relevant to me,” said Apex Heywood ’25.

Climate change is a very difficult and timely issue in the world, but Falmouth Academy’s Class of 2025 won’t shy away from the challenge. With the help of their teachers, they will end ninth grade with an understanding of their world’s past, awareness of current climate change issues, and the power and confidence to change the future of the world as we know it.