STEAM Challenge

The Graphic Tale of an Environmental Law

Submission Due Date: March 27, 2020

Designed for Middle and High School Students


Table of Contents

  • The Challenge
  • Assumptions and Logistics
  • Process
  • Presentation of Learning
  • Media Support Resources
  • Evaluation Rubric
  • Essential Questions
  • Student Proficiencies
  • Curricular Standards –
  • NGSS:(MS–ESS3-1, 3,4; MS – LS2-3; HS–ESS3-3, LS2- 7)
    Common Core: (W3, W4, W5, RI1 RST7, RST8)

Range of Activities 

  • Environmental Law Research
  • Create Own Environmental Law
  • Create Partial Graphic Novel Around Environmental Issue
    • Use of words and images to tell science-based narrative
  • Digital Literacy Skills – Video – Pre-production, Production and Post-production
  • 21st Century Skills: Creativity, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, Presentational Skills

The Challenge

Graphic novels are a unique genre of literature. They are distinguished by the use of both words and images to convey meaning. In fact, in many graphic novels, it’s the image that conveys more information than the words. No other literary genre works in this way. Secondarily, the images in question, generally speaking, are drawn very simply. This stems from the simple figures that adorned comic strips, from which this literary genre is derived. It’s also a matter of economy: there is not a whole lot of space in a frame to put much detail. Simplicity becomes the driver of complex storytelling in this genre. Finally, graphic novels can be about …anything! Society, silliness, politics, teen angst, superheroes, science fiction…even, the environment! 

In this Challenge, you will create a chapter of a graphic novel in which you feature a new environmental law and a character’s adventures around that law. This chapter should run no more than 20 frames. With this limitation in mind, this challenge is asking you to present just a scene or two from a larger story. Your graphic novel chapter can be in color, or black and white: it’s up to you.  Your final deliverable is a frame by frame presentation with voice over and sound effects, including music if desired. But here is a small catch: the image of a bicycle must appear in every other frame of your chapter in some way! It can be obvious or partially hidden, but it must be there. Be creative and have fun with this!

Deliverables include:

  • Graphic Novel Digital Story (this is the only Meridian Stories deliverable)
  • New Environmental Law Outline(at teacher’s discretion)
  • Story Outline (at teacher’s discretion)
  • Rough Storyboard (at teacher’s discretion)

Assumptions and Logistics

Time Frame– We recommend that this Meridian Stories Competition 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 media work 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 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 media work.

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 media. 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 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.


Below is a suggested breakdown for the students’ work.

During Phase I, student teams will: 

  • Decide what your team is passionate about in terms of the environment (recycling, oceans, plastics, carbon sequestration, freshwater, etc.).
  • Debate, as a team, the most important environmental laws (state or federal) that already exist within the environmental area your team has chosen, and then jot some notes down on these laws and why they are so important. Remember: the laws are defined by what they permit or don’t permit. So, be sure to look for these elements and ask the question: what’s not being addressed? Or, what has come up environmentally with which the laws have not caught up?
  • Create a new environmental law – keep it simple: statement of purpose along with three supporting points or directives – around which your team is passionate and about which you want to create your environmental graphic novel.
    • Teacher’s OptionNew Environmental Law Outline – The teacher may require teams to hand in a full articulation of their proposed environmental legislation.This can include the proposed law, as well as the scientific research (with citations) the team did to support the need for this proposed law.
  • Lastly, decide whether the regulation will be a state or federal law, and do the proper research needed in order to understand the difference between the two. This will allow you to make the most informed decision.
  • Finalize the details of your environmental law before moving on to the second phase.

During Phase II, student teams will:

  • Create a brief statement about what your law is intended to do, along with two or three supporting points about how this law will be enforced or the science behind the law. This ‘statement of the law’ will introduce your digital story. It can look or sound like anything. Could be just text on screen with a voiceover …or not.
  • Brainstorm your story. You have your law: what story about this new law do you want to tell? Is it focused on the formation of this law? The successful or failed implementation of this law? The consequences of this law …in the future? Or the repeal of this law …also in the future?
    • Outline the story that you want to tell. Remember, the full articulation of this law does not have to be included in this story – that will be detailed in your introduction to this Chapter referenced above.
    • Teacher’s OptionStory Outline – The Teacher may require teams to hand in a two-page outline of their basic story for review and feedback.
  • Once you have figured out the main story, focus on characters. Who is telling this story? Humans …or fish? Air molecules …or kids? This is a graphic novel. This is fiction. You can do anything you want!
  • As your creative evolves, here are some questions to consider:
    • What will the characters look like? Talk like? Dress like?
    • Where will your narrative take place? By the ocean? In the city?
    • What is the graphic style of this narrative? Are you using existing digital apps to create the visuals, or your own hand-crafted art?
  • Once you have a secure grasp of story, character and setting, you will want to storyboard your chapter: what happens in each frame?  The storyboard should focus on both image and words.
    • Teacher’s OptionRough Storyboard – The Teacher may require teams to hand in a rough storyboard that brings words and imagery together, for review and feedback.
  • Identify key visuals, props, images and location details that you will want to include in each frame. Your narrative is going to be highly dependent on your visuals, so the things you choose for us to see are important.
    • Keep in mind: You are trying to get an important message across to the reader. How do you want to portray your character and the scenes in the graphic novel to get this message across?
    • Also …keep in mind that twist about the bicycle! Have fun with that.
  • Finalize the art work on your frames and the language that helps to drive the story forward. Remember that this Environmental Graphic Novel is primarily visual. So, the words that do make the cut, need to be impactful and move the story along efficiently.
  • Make a decision about whether your ‘chapter’ needs a preamble (in addition to your ‘statement of your law’) that brings the viewer to the start of your story. If so, decide how you want to communicate that. This portion can be produced in any way that you see fit.
  • Once the frame by frame design is complete, decide how you want to present your Environmental Graphic Novel. Will each frame be the same size? How will you transition from one frame to the next in your final digital presentation?
  • Discuss as a team what all this is going to sound like. Whose voice will we be hearing, if anyone’s? Will you add special sound effects? Or is there a role that music can play to bring your scenes to life?
  • By the end of Phase II, you have a clear sense of the look and details of your frames; you know how you will move your audience to and from these frames; and you know the words that you will use – most likely in voiceover – to narrate this graphic novel.

During Phase III, student teams will:

  • Produce the introductory section, introducing us to the new environmental law.
  • Create a video that takes us through your graphic novel, frame by frame.
  • Add voice over narration
  • Add music and sound effects to enhance the overall final product.

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 short videos provide a great opportunity for kids to practice their public presentational skills.

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 projects. For more free resources that will support this planning, visit 

Meridian Support Resources

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
On the Importance of Character in Storytelling – Scott Nash

Fiction Writing – Lily King

Character Design – Scott Nash

Sound Design – Chris Watkinson

“Creating Storyboards, Framing a Shot”

“Creative Brainstorming Techniques”

“Building Characters”

“Rendering and Animation Programs”

Evaluation Rubric – The Graphic Tale of an Environmental Law

Criteria 1-10
Environmental Context The digital story reflects a clear understanding of the causes of the select environmental problem and its impact on earth and society
Environmental Law – I The new law addresses the problem appropriately and intelligently
Environmental Law – II The details of the law, as presented in the Introduction, are thorough and shaped in the language of a law that is designed to regulate human behavior


Criteria  1 – 10
Clear Narrative  The overall narrative is clear and easy to understand. It has a powerful message that is evident in your storytelling
Frame Visuals The visual depictions of your frames are compelling, thought provoking and reflect a solid understanding of the graphic novel genre
Frame Descriptors Your accompanying text is insightful and enhances our understanding of the scene and the science
The Bike Addition The ‘bike’ aspect of this Challenge is imaginatively conceived and executed


Criteria 1 – 10
Voice and/or Perspective The narrative perspective is brought to life in a visually and aurally compelling manner
Sound Design The selective use of music and sound creates an atmosphere that enhances and enriches our understanding of your narrative
Overall Visual Cohesion The visual flow and presentation of the frames, from set up to conclusion, is clear and fluid


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. How does looking at the environment through the eyes of the law change or alter your previous conceptions of the environment?
  2. What is the value of creating your own environmental law based on what we know about the environment and our society?
  3. What are some existing environmental laws and what is their impact?
  4. What is the value of telling the story about the environment in a graphic novel format, where images, not words, are the leading narrative device?
  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 understand that environmental laws greatly impact our society and that they have the power to change our world for the better.
  2. The student will understand what we, as the earth’s caretakers, can and cannot do to change our environmental trajectory.
  3. The student will understand the value of the environmental laws already in place and how they contribute to making meaningful environmental change.
  4. The student will gain an understanding of the challenges and rewards of communicating primarily through imagery and not words.
  5. The student will utilize key 21stcentury skills, with a focus on creativity, critical thinking and digital literacy, in their process of translating scientific content into a graphic novel.
  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 21stcentury skills to develop in students as they prepare for life after secondary school.

Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core Curricular Correlations 

The Graphic Tale of an Environmental Law Challenge addresses a range of curricular objectives that have been articulated by the new Next Generation Science Standards and the Common Core. Below please find the standards that are addressed, either in whole or in part.

Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

Middle School

MS-ESS3 Earth and Human Activity


Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence for how the uneven distributions of Earth’s mineral, energy, and groundwater resources are the result of past and current geoscience processes.


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.

Common Core Curricular Standards – Language Arts and Science and Technical Literacy

Standards 8th 9th/10th 11th/12th




Text Types and Purposes

Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences. Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences. Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.




Production and Distribution of Writing

Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.




Production and Distribution of Writing

With some guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on how well purpose and audience have been addressed. Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience. Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience.
RI 1




Key Ideas and Details

Cite the textual evidence that most strongly supports an analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.


Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.


Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.








Integration of Knowledge and Ideas 

Integrate quantitative or technical information expressed in words in a text with a version of that information expressed visually (e.g., in a flowchart, diagram, model, graph, or table). Translate quantitative or technical information expressed in words in a text into visual form (e.g., a table or chart) and translate information expressed visually or mathematically (e.g., in an equation) into words. Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., quantitative data, video, multimedia) in order to address a question or solve a problem.








Integration of Knowledge and Ideas 

Distinguish among facts, reasoned judgment based on research findings, and speculation in a text. Assess the extent to which the reasoning and evidence in a text support the author’s claim or a recommendation for solving a scientific or technical problem. Evaluate the hypotheses, data, analysis, and conclusions in a science or technical text, verifying the data when possible and corroborating or challenging conclusions with other sources of information.