STEAM Challenge

(Crossover with History)

Technology Vs. The Environment: You Choose

Submission Due Date: March 26, 2021 

Designed for Middle and High School Students 

Table of Contents

  • The Challenge
  • Assumptions and Logistics
  • Process
  • Media Support Resources
  • Presentation of Learning
  • Evaluation Rubric
  • Essential Questions
  • Student Proficiencies
  • Curricular Correlations – Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and C3 Framework
Range of Activities

  • Research Issues Shaping the Dialogue around the Environment
  • Research Issues Shaping the Dialogue around the Continued Rise of Technology
  • Decision Sciences – The Key Factors to making a Decision
  • Topic Analysis
  • Character and Scene Creation
  • Scriptwriting
  • Digital Literacy Skills – Video – Pre-production, Production and Post-production
  • 21st Century Skills: Creativity, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, Presentational Skills

The Challenge

This is a Challenge that asks you to think deeply about two of the most dominant forces in our lives today: technology and the environment. Here we go:

It’s five years from now, BUT …conditions are exactly as they are right now: threatened.

EXCEPT…the global community and its economy have simplified. There are only two pathways for employment and problem-solving: technology and the environment. And you need to choose one.

AND there’s more. There are three teams of people trying to save the world. From what? Remember while it’s five years from now, the conditions are exactly as they are now. So, save the world from …cyber warfare, hacking and surveillance, climate change and climate justice, technology addiction. You name it.  One team has chosen the environment and one third of the world is going to work with them. The second team has chosen technology and one third of the world is going to work with them. You are the third team. Whichever side you choose, the balance goes in that direction, as your team will take the remaining third with you. At stake: saving the world.

This is a consequential decision. Let’s unpack the choices a little.

Technology has social media, tv and music streaming, smart phones, smart home devices, gaming and, coming down the pike: driverless cars. Technology produces big data in a way unprecedented in the history of humanity, allowing us to see solutions like never before. But there are a slew of potentially sinister ramifications that go along with the delights and knowledge that it delivers, including the loss of privacy, super-surveillance, rampant misinformation campaigns and technology addiction. Additionally, the notion of a global ‘digital divide’ is poised to create a vast intellectual gulf between cultures with high speed Internet and those without. What are the ramifications of that?

The environment encompasses the diversity of our ecosystems and wildlife; the healthy soil that grows our food; and the air and water that are the fundaments of life on earth. Those sustenance essentials mixed in with the sounds of birds or lapping water; the beauty of the first snow or the vibrant colors of the coral reef, render the state of the environment paramount. But our planet is facing the global crisis of climate change. Declining water supplies, increased heat, rising oceans, increased numbers of wildfires and forced migrations are just some of the consequences of our evolving anthropogenic environment.

Technology innovation vs. protecting, preserving and enabling the environment. These aren’t just ways of life: they are mindsets.

  • Do you want smart speakers to become your best friend and make decisions on your behalf? On the other hand, they can stave off loneliness and depression, and save lives.
  • Urban centers are the driving force of most economies, cultural evolutions and sports. We can live without the occasional hike in the woods, right?
  • Technology can solve the food supply problem. GMOS are a start. This can be improved. Or, here’s a different angle: desalinization has made the vast desert that is the United Arab Emirates, habitable. Bring on Dubai. Bring on Abu Dhabi. Is this bad?
  • Climate change is bringing on the potential of mass migrations. Can technology solve the mass movement of people to places…where they may not be welcome?

In which world, do you want to live?

We have these two dominant forces shaping our daily lives in positive and negative ways. One we are building and the other we are trying not to tear down: re-building, as it were. You have one decision to make: to which area will you devote your life …and one third of humanity’s?

To help you make that decision, we are employing a decision-making rubric from a team of Decision Scientists who believe that it’s “through our choices that we become who we want to be.” And if that is the case – and Meridian Stories fully believes this to be a self-evident truth – then understanding the science of how to make the most informed choices, is a critical skill set for all students.

Specifically, this Challenge asks you to address the decision above in the following three steps. 

  • Frame the Choice: What are you really deciding?
  • Clarify What Matters: What are your Objectives? What really matters to you?
  • Weigh Trade-Offs: What’s best, all thing considered?

Visually, this challenge is set up with three component parts: one is the decision-maker, and the other two, acting like a traditional Greek Chorus, are the voices in the decision-maker’s mind, that lay out the options in each of the three steps. How you want to represent this debate and dialogue is up to you. It could be animated; Zoom-like grids; a series of asides in the style of Modern Family; or dramatized, like a short three-character scene in a play.

Deliverables include:

  • Digital Story (this is the only Meridian Stories deliverable)
  • Issues Statement I (at the teacher’s discretion)
  • Issues Statement II (at the teacher’s discretion)
  • First Draft Script (at the teacher’s discretion)

Assumptions and Logistics

Time Frame – We recommend that this digital storytelling project takes place inside of a three to four-week time frame.

Length – All Meridian Stories submissions should be under 4 minutes in length, unless otherwise specified.

Slate – All digital storytelling projects must begin with a slate that provides:

  1. the title of the piece;
  2. the name of the school submitting;
  3. the wording ‘Permission Granted’ which gives Meridian Stories the right to a) publicly display the submission in question on, as linked from, related to or in support of Meridian Stories digital media; and b) use or reference it for educational purposes only, in any and all media; and
  4. We strongly recommend that students do not put their last names on the piece either at the start or finish, during the credits.

Submissions – Keep in mind that each school can only submit three submissions per Competition (so while the entire class can participate in the Challenge, only three can be submitted to Meridian Stories for Mentor review and scoring).

Teacher Reviews – All reviews by the teacher are at the discretion of the teacher and all suggested paper deliverables are due only to the teacher. The only deliverable to Meridian Stories is the digital storytelling project.

Teacher’s Role and Technology Integrator – While it is helpful to have a Technology Integrator involved, they are not usually necessary: the students already know how to produce the digital storytelling project. And if they don’t, part of their challenge is to figure it out. They will! The teacher’s primary function in these Challenges is to guide the students as they engage with the content.  You don’t need to know editing, sound design, shooting or storyboarding: you just need to know your content area, while assisting them with time management issues.

Digital Rules/Literacy – We strongly recommend that all students follow the rules of Digital Citizenry in their proper usage and/or citation of images, music and text taken from other sources. This recommendation includes producing a citations page at the end of your entry, if applicable. See the Digital Rules area in the Meridian Resources Center section of the site for guidance.

Location – Try not to shoot in a classroom at your school. The classroom, no matter how you dress it up, looks like a classroom and can negatively impact the digital story you are trying to tell.

Collaboration – We strongly recommend that students work in teams of 3-4: part of the educational value is around building collaborative skill sets. But students may work individually.

COVID-19 does not mean that students can’t collaborate. This unusual societal circumstance allows students to, paradoxically, focus on their collaborative skills even more through a clear delegation of responsibilities; and tight communication in order to insure that everyone is clear on the scripting and blocking of individual scenes that need to tell a cohesive story, even though the scenes may be shot in isolation. Digital storytelling projects in general move the essential communication about content and learning away from the educator and toward the students themselves. That is part of their educational strength. But in COVID-19, this quality is expanded. With the teacher more ‘unavailable’ than normal, the students must rely on their collaborative skills more than ever. It’s like playing a team sport with less input from the coach. They have to rise the occasion …and they will.

The Process

Below is a suggested breakdown for the students’ work.

During Phase I, student teams will:

  • Research: Gather information from both realms: technological and environmental. But here’s the thing: this Challenge is asking you NOT to make a decision until the very end. An analogy: this is akin to choosing a major in college. You won’t know if you want to be, say, a Media Studies major, or an Environmental Studies major until you have taken some courses in each. At the start of this Challenge, you want to dabble in both worlds and to actively, not choose; to keep an ‘open mind’.
“To be open-minded is to be endlessly curious and open to new ideas. It’s a wider way of looking at the world. It calls on you to welcome new perspectives and try them on – to see the world through eyes of others. It prompts you to ask genuine questions and listen to the answers, even if they make you uncomfortable; to seek out disconfirming evidence and counter-intuitive ideas; to be ready to change your mind when given good reasons. It involves reflecting on and analyzing your prior knowledge and experience. The open mind digs into the why of things.” [1]
  •  Step 1: Frame the Choice: What are you really deciding? Here are three questions to get you thinking and researching this first step.
    1. Which area of focus should be prioritized at this moment in time; needs the most attention?
    2. Which area of focus is more vital for the benefit of humanity?
    3. Which area of focus has the potential to do the most harm for humanity?

If you are working on a team, you may want to split your team in half, with half researching the technology side and the second half researching the environmental side.

  • As a result of these investigations, write a statement that clearly identifies the nature of the choice here, as you see and understand it. This statement should identify two or three reasons or issues that argue in favor of one side and the other. And if possible, conclude with an answer to: what are you really deciding?

    And keep in mind: these are topics that are so dense, vast and complicated that you can’t summarize the issues driving their societal impact in a few sentences.

    To help, look for the topline ideas. To get you started, think …Privacy. Surveillance. Plastics. Food Sources. Brain Development. Globalization. You can’t include all of the issues that stem from these two concepts, so prioritize.

    • Teacher’s Option: Issues Statement I – Teachers may require that teams hand in their Issues Statement, with full citations.
  • Step 2: Clarify What Matters: What are your Values? What really matters to you? This asks you to move from the objective to the subjective. Take the information – the research above – and apply it to your own value system. What do you and your team really care about?
  • How do you figure that out? Try creating a values chart. Here’s one approach.
    • Each member of your team writes five or ten of your most important values. Things like ‘honesty,’ ‘loyalty’, ‘compassion,’ or ‘fairness’. Play loose with this list. For example, some might call ‘sense of humor’ a quality and not a value. But if ‘sense of humor’ is something you prize – you value – above many other qualities, throw it onto your ‘values list.’ It’s your team’s list. No judgment.
    • Now make a single list of values out of all the members’ words. Include them all and make a note of values that are shared (like if two or three of you listed ‘honesty’).
    • Then with this new list of values, decide together which values can be deleted so that you end up with a list of ten. Then prioritize them: 1, 2, 3, 4, …etc., and put your numbers in a shared chart or document, like below:
  Name #1 Name #2 Name #4 Name #4 TOTAL
Value A 3 8 1 6 18
Value B 5 10 7 8 30
Value C 2 5 5 1 13

The four values with the lowest total score are your team’s most important values.

  • Take a look at your Issues Statement. Take a look at your values. Discuss and debate amongst yourselves. One way of framing this discussion: given the results about personal team values, which issues about technology and the environment are most relevant to you and your team? Create a new Issues Statement. This time you are applying what’s important to you to the issues that you have identified in each realm: technology and the environment. All the issues you have previously identified are no longer of equal importance. Some issues your team may honestly not care about while others rise to the top.
    • Teacher’s Option: Issues Statement II – Teachers may require that teams hand in their second Issues Statement for review and feedback.
  • Step 3: Weigh Trade-Offs: What’s best, all thing considered? – At this point it’s time to go back to the very first thing we said: try not to make a decision yet! Keep your mind open. You have a lot of information now. You have discussed these ideas and written them up. Perhaps half of your team is leaning one way and the other half, the other. It’s time to weigh the trade-offs and make a decision. A trade-off is “when you have to give up something you care about to gain something else you care about.”[2] For example, short-term vs. long-term may be one of the framing devices for weighing your trade-offs.
  • Make a decision and write up the reasons that support this decision: one that will, in this scenario, tip the balance of humanity in one direction or the other! In doing so, begin to point to initiatives and solutions that your team will instigate in your select area. In other words, your decision should create some HOPE for the world; the world will want to know why you are tipping the world in favor of throwing resources toward the one or the other. Articulate that hope.

During Phase II, student teams will:

  • It’s time to turn that decision-making process into a story. It’s a simple format. There is a central character – the ‘third’ decision maker that will tip the world one or the other. There is one character arguing for technology. There is one character arguing for the environment. Take us through the process that you just experienced in a story form. This will include:
    • The set-up (the importance of the decision of this third character)
    • The character her/himself: who are they and what do they believe in?
    • The dilemma: the two sides of the decision.
    • The Climax: the actual decision, as based on information and personal values.
    • The Resolution – If you want, predict one or two consequences of this decision.
  • How are you going to visualize this story? Puppets? Stop Motion? Dramatic Scenes shot on location? On stage like a Greek Tragedy (except it’s not a tragedy!)? Like a Ted Talk? A news conference? Make the choice based on what kind of story you want to tell, and which visualization choice is going to be the most fun for you and your team.
  • Write the script. As you are doing this, a few thoughts to consider.
    • The scenario that sets this all up is this: there is a character who controls one third of the world’s population! Who is this person??? How do you want to portray them? Two options to get your mind working: Dumbledore or Snape?
    • How about the two voices representing each side? Do they have personalities or are they neutral mouthpieces?
    • Where is your story taking place? It’s the future, …but it’s not. But it is. Does the world look any different? Has, for example, clothing changed? Have some fun with the look of this slightly futuristic world you are creating.
      • Teacher’s Option: First Draft Script – Teachers may require that teams hand in a first draft script of their story for review and feedback.
    • Pre-produce your story. This means gathering all the materials you need to visualize your story. This might include scouting locations; gathering props; researching and collecting photos and footage; making costumes; casting characters; and checking on your video and sound recording devices.
      • If you are shooting scenes in one or more locations, creating a storyboard may be the most organized way to approach the logistics of shooting. Check out the Create a Storyboard, Framing a Shot document for assistance.
    • Rehearse your script. Finalize your script.
    • Produce your story.

During Phase III, student teams will:

  • Record the voice-over or narration, as necessary.
  • Edit the video, adding stills and graphics as desired.
  • Post-produce the video, adding music and sound effects as desired.

Meridian Support: The Digital Storytelling Resource Center

Meridian Stories provides two forms of support for the student teams:

1.    Meridian Innovators and Artists – This is a series of three to four-minute videos featuring artists and innovative professionals who offer important advice, specifically for Meridian Stories, in the areas of creativity and production.

2.    Media Resource Collection – These are short documents that offer student teams key tips in the areas of creativity, production, game design and digital citizenry.

Recommended review, as a team, for this Challenge include:

Meridian Innovators and Artists Media Resource Collection
Lily King on Fiction Writing

Scott Nash on the Importance of Characters in Storytelling

Tom Pierce on Producing

Mary Hunter on Music in Film

Scene Work: Camera Angles and Movement

Building Characters

Producing: Tips for the Shoot

Video Editing Basics

Presentation of Learning

Meridian Stories is a proud partner of the non-profit Share Your Learning, which is spearheading the movement of over five million students to publicly share their work as a meaningful part of their educational experience.

The workforce considers Presentational Skills to be a key asset and we encourage you to allow students to practice this skill set as often as possible. These digital storytelling projects provide a great opportunity for kids to practice their public presentational skills. This can be achieved in a remote learning environment by inviting parents to a Zoom/Google/Skype screening of the student’s digital stories.

According to Share Your Learning, Presentations of Learning (POL) promote…

  • Student Ownership, Responsibility & Engagement. POLs can serve as a powerful rite of passage at the end of [a project]. By reflecting on their growth over time in relation to academic and character goals, grounded in evidence from their work, students are encouraged to take ownership of their learning. Just as an artist wants their portfolio to represent their best work, POLs encourage students to care deeply about the work they will share.
  • Community Pride & Involvement. When peers, teachers and community members come together to engage with student work and provide authentic feedback, they become invested in students’ growth and serve as active contributors to the school community.
  • Equity. POLs ensure that all students are seen and provide insight into what learning experiences students find most meaningful and relevant to their lives.

Meridian Stories’ own research indicates this to be a really useful exercise for one additional reason:  Students actually learn from their peers’ presentations – it is useful to hear a perspective that is not just the teacher’s.

It is with this in mind that we you encourage you to plan an event – it could be just an end-of-the-week class or an event where parents, teachers and student peers are invited – to allow the students to showcase their Meridian Stories’ digital storytelling projects. For more free resources that will support this planning, visit Share Your Learning.

Evaluation Rubric – Technology Vs. The Environment: You Choose


Criteria 1-10
Key Issues – The Environment The Key issues you have identified driving the debate around the environment are insightful, relevant and critical to your decision-making process
Key Issues – Technology The Key issues you have identified driving the debate around technology are insightful, relevant and critical to your decision-making process
Decision-Making The three stages of the decision-making process are rendered convincingly and authentically


Criteria 1-10
Narrative Clarity The digital story has a clear and consistent tone that is well organized and delivers an engaging narrative
Plot The use of the decision-making stages to dramatize your story is seamless; your scripting of the three opposing characters is compelling
Character Creation The characters – through their words, actions and emotions – are well developed and deeply engaging


Criteria 1-10
Visualization The choice of how to present the story and the quality of the visual mode reflect a thoughtful professionalism
Editing The digital story is edited cleanly and effectively, resulting in an engaging viewing experience
Sound and Music Sound effects and music enhance the audience’s engagement with the scene

21st CENTURY SKILLS COMMAND (teachers only)

Criteria 1-10
Collaborative Thinking The group demonstrated flexibility in making compromises and valued the contributions of each group member
Creativity and Innovation The group brainstormed many inventive ideas and was able to evaluate, refine and implement them effectively
Initiative and Self-Direction The group set attainable goals, worked independently and managed their time effectively, demonstrating a disciplined commitment to the project

Essential Questions

  1. What is the nature and essence, as well as the opportunities and threats, to the continued rise of technology in the world?
  2. What are the opportunities and threats that the current state of the environment offers the world?
  3. What are the key factors that go into the process of decision-making and why is this important to know?
  4. How can storytelling be used to more deeply understand complex educational ideas?
  5. How has immersion in the creation of original content and the production of digital media – exercising one’s creativity, critical thinking and digital literacy skills – deepened the overall educational experience?
  6. How has working on a team – practicing one’s collaborative skills – changed the learning experience?

Student Proficiencies

  1. The student will begin to understand the depth and range of influence that technology is having on our global society and what can be done about it.
  2. The student will begin to understand the depth and range of influence that climate change is having on our global society and what can be done about it.
  3. The student will understand the basic process of how to make a good decision and its relevance to their own lives.
  4. The student will learn to utilize storytelling to communicate complex educational ideas in a more engaging and immersive way.
  5. The student will utilize key 21st century skills, with a focus on creativity, critical thinking and digital literacy, in their process of translating STEAM and sociological content into a new narrative format.
  6. The student will have an increased awareness of the challenges and rewards of team collaboration. Collaboration – the ability to work with others – is considered one of the most important 21st century skills to develop in students as they prepare for life after secondary school.

Curricular Correlations 

The Technology Vs. The Environment: You Choose Challenge addresses a range of curricular objectives that have been articulated by two nationally recognized sources:

  1. The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS); and
  2. The C3 Framework published by the National Council for Social Studies

Below please find the standards that are being addressed, either wholly or in part.

Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

Middle School

MS-ESS3 Earth and Human Activity


Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment.


Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth’s systems.

MS-LS2 Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics


Develop a model to describe the cycling of matter and flow of energy among living and nonliving parts of an ecosystem.

High School

HS-ESS3 Earth and Human Activity


Create a computational simulation to illustrate the relationships among management of natural resources, the sustainability of human populations, and biodiversity.

HS-LS2 Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics


Design, evaluate, and refine a solution for reducing the impacts of human activities on the environment and biodiversity.

C3 Framework – NCSS

D1.1.6-8. Explain how a question represents key ideas in the field. D1.1.9-12. Explain how a question reflects an enduring issue in the field.
D1.2.6-8. Explain points of agreement experts have about interpretations and ap- plications of disciplinary concepts and ideas associated with a compelling question. D1.2.9-12. Explain points of agreement and disagreement experts have about interpretations and applications of disciplinary concepts and ideas associated with a compelling question.
D1.5.6-8. Determine the kinds of sources that will be helpful in answering compelling and supporting questions, taking into consideration multiple points of views represented in the sources. D1.5.9-12. Determine the kinds of sources that will be helpful in answering compelling and supporting questions, taking into consideration multiple points of view represented in the sources, the types of sources available, and the potential uses of the sources.
D2.Civ.6.6-8. Describe the roles of political, civil, and economic organizations in shaping people’s lives. D2.Civ.6.9-12. Critique relationships among governments, civil societies, and economic markets.
D2.Civ.14.6-8. Compare historical and contemporary means of changing societies, and promoting the common good. D2.Civ.14.9-12. Analyze historical, contemporary, and emerging means of changing societies, promoting the common good, and protecting rights.
D2.Eco.1.6-8. Explain how economic decisions affect the well-being of individuals, businesses, and society. D2.Eco.1.9-12. Analyze how incentives influence choices that may result in policies with a range of costs and benefits for different groups.
D2.Geo.4.6-8. Explain

how cultural patterns and economic decisions influence environments and the daily lives of people in both nearby and distant places.

D2.Geo.4.9-12. Analyze relationships and interactions within and between human and physical systems to explain reciprocal influences that occur among them.
D2.Geo.7.6-8. Explain how changes in transportation and communication technology influence the spatial connections among human settlements and affect the diffusion of ideas and cultural practices. D2.Geo.7.9-12. Analyze the reciprocal nature of how historical events and the spatial diffusion of ideas, technologies, and cultural practices have influenced migration patterns and the distribution of human population.
D2.Geo.8.6-8. Analyze how relationships between humans and environments extend or contract spatial patterns of settlement and movement. D2.Geo.8.9-12. Evaluate the impact of economic activities and political decisions on spatial patterns within and among urban, suburban, and rural regions.
D3.1.6-8. Gather relevant information from multiple sources while using the origin,

authority, structure, context, and corroborative value of the sources to guide the selection.

D3.1.9-12. Gather relevant information from multiple

sources representing a wide range of views while using the origin, authority, structure, context, and corroborative value of the sources to guide the selection.

D4.1.6-8. Construct arguments using claims and evidence from multiple sources, while acknowledging the strengths and limitations of

the arguments.

D4.1.9-12. Construct arguments using precise

and knowledgeable claims, with evidence from multiple

sources, while acknowledging counterclaims and evidentiary weaknesses.


[1] Failing, Lee; Gregory, Robin; Long, Graham; Moore, Brooke, The Decision Playbook: Making Thoughtful Choices in a Complex World, Teacher’s Edition (Vancouver, CANADA: GutsNHeads Projecy, 2019), P. 17

[2] Failing, Lee; Gregory, Robin; Long, Graham; Moore, Brooke. P. 42