Sustainability in Action

Sustainability in Action

April 20, 2017
By
Caitlin Harris, teacher, Crofton House Junior School

For the last seven months, the grade 7 students have been working on a year-long inquiry-based sustainability project. As teachers, there is a lot of preparation that goes into planning this project, but the work the students put forward over the course of the year is always astounding. Though not finished yet, they did reach an important part of the project earlier this month – the Falcon’s Nest, our version of the Canadian TV show Dragon’s Den.
 
The first four months of the project were all about research. We started by breaking up our 60 students into three groups based on their interests: water, waste, and wellness. Within their group, they chose a sustainability problem that affects the world and spent a couple of months researching websites, documentaries, and books in order to learn all they could about their topic. They presented this learning at the end of the first term in the form of a puzzle piece (using the shape of a puzzle piece is meant to represent that all of our sustainability problems are connected).
 
In term 2, the students’ research project topics were used as a means of organizing them into groups of four. They inquired as to how these issues were affecting people in our own communities, whether any organizations are already doing something, and what they could do themselves. By creating their own organization, they developed a mission, vision, and five-year plan, and planned out an action piece that they could feasibly accomplish before the end of the year. This part of the project culminated in the Falcon’s Nest, where the groups presented their organization and action plan to a panel of Falcon’s – a mixture of teachers and administrators from the school, and “change-makers” from the community. Through prompting questions and constructive feedback, the students will hopefully take the advice of the Falcons to improve their action plans.
 
Term 3 will have the students putting their action plans into action, and then reflecting on their successes and failures through a symposium at the end of the year.
 
The presentations at this year’s Falcon’s Nest were amazing. I am always surprised at the creativity and courage of these 12 and 13 year-olds. The changemakers we had from the community were definitely impressed, and they too imparted some fantastic wisdom and advice on our students.

One group was concerned with the overuse of plastic bags and where they end up after being used. They decided to use old plastic bags, cut them into strips and knit them into reusable shopping bags – ones that could be easily washed out after use.
 
Another group wanted to organize a beach cleanup and then hold a workshop where younger students could make upcycled art projects using the waste collected. They saw this as a great way to raise awareness about the amount of waste in our oceans.
 
Yet another group was appalled at the chemicals and microplastics present in many hygiene products and decided to make their own all-natural products.
 
They wanted to hold an all-school assembly about the dangers of microplastics and then hold a lunch-time session where students could learn to make their own face scrubs and lip balms.
 
The ideas that came out of this project were inspiring and I cannot wait to see the culmination of their projects over the next three months. Parents will see them putting these ideas into action at the April symposium.