WWW Site for John Lawrence Bencze, Associate Professor, Science Education, OISE/University of Toronto
Québec City Dust Pollution Issue
- A graphic novel & pedagogy

This page describes a graphic novel - Ban the Dust! - about citizens' efforts to eliminate dust pollution that they believe is coming from open ore piles at the port of Québec City. Accompanying this novel is a set of pedagogical suggestions for engaging  students with this novel. This novel can be used for most stages of the STEPWISE pedagogical schema. However, because of many complex ideas that could be learned through reading the novel, it may be best - as described below - to use as an application activity after the teacher has ensured that all students have learned some very important general concepts about STSE issues, research and civic actions. Along with other lessons and activities, reading this novel - which is, of course, only one way (perhaps an engaging way) - can help students to learn about STSE issues, research and actions and can provide students with motivation for eventually self-directing RiNA projects dealing with issues or problems of their concern. If you have any questions, suggestions, etc. about this book, please send messages to me at: larry.bencze@utoronto.ca.

Québec City Dust Pollution
In Oct.  2012, citizens in Québec City noticed unusually high amounts of dust collecting - as shown at left - on items on their properties and in the local environment. Two citizens, Veronique Lalande and her partner, Louis Duchesne, were very concerned about this dust and, after not being satisfied by answers to their questions they received from their city government, carefully collected dust samples and paid to have it tested at an independent laboratory. Results suggested to them that: the dust: a) came from open nickel ore piles at city docklands; and, b) contained toxic heavy metals, like lead, arsenic, cobalt, etc. - which they also learned was worse in their city than in many other cities around the world. Such results spurred them on to further action.
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Québec Civic Actions
'Armed' with data and what they believed to be trustworthy conclusions about the dust, Lalande & Duchesne (L&D) stimulated many actions that were aimed at eliminating the dust from their city, including: i) a comprehensive website with photographs, a blog, research papers, etc., ii) public meetings, iii) two class action law suits, and iv) a public march to demand action to eliminate the dust deposits. In a sense, actions of L&D led to formation of a dispositif; that is, a web of living, nonliving and symbolic entities that, together, mostly acted to oppose actions at the city port that they believed were causing the dust pollution.
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Battle of the 'Bands'
As L&D and other citizens acted to eliminate dust deposits from their city, it became clear to them their conclusions about the composition of the dust, its source and actions to eliminate it differed from that of people and groups who, generally, supported increased industrial growth (and related jobs). The resulting conflict could be called a battle of the bands, with growth promoters opposing ecojustice activists (a 'heavy metal band'). In terms of the schema at lower left, members of the two 'bands' (dispositifs) disagreed about conclusions from 'research' (World --> Sign) (e.g., 'toxic dust' vs. 'rust') and about actions (Sign --> World) (e.g., 'Cover the ore piles' vs. 'Spray the ore piles'). Members of the two bands cause, in other words, different ideological gaps; that is, (in)efficiencies in how well they translate (as in languages) between World and Sign.
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Ban the Dust Novel
The controversy described above is an excellent example of an 'STSE Issue'; that is, a controversy in relationships among fields of science and technology and societies and environments. Such issues are given much priority in Ontario science (and technology) curricula. So, as a 'real-life' (and ongoing relatively local) STSE issue, students could benefit from learning about it and making decisions about actions they may take to address similar (or different) issues. Our research and publication team felt that a graphic novel may be an excellent way to interest students in such issues, research and actions. So, we produced the graphic novel, Ban the Dust, linked at right. Although teachers have freedom to use this novel in whatever ways seem appropriate in their situations, we have developed a short pedagogical document to accompany the novel, also linked at right. That document has suggestions for using the novel for each of the phases of the STEPWISE pedagogy - although I believe that it may best be used as a case method after the teacher has taught important ideas, etc.
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