Sustainability in Action

For the last 7 months, my grade 7 students have been working on a year-long inquiry-based sustainability project. Though not finished yet, they did reach an important part of the project this past week – 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 start by breaking up our 60 students into three groups based on their interests: water, waste, and wellness. Within their group, they choose a sustainability problem that affects the world and spend a couple of months researching websites, documentaries, and books in order to learn all they can about their topic. They present 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 fit together).

In term 2, the students’ research project topics are used as a means of grouping the students into groups of 4. They now inquire as to how these issues are 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 develop a mission, vision, and five-year plan, and plan out an action piece that they could feasibly accomplish before the end of the year. This part of the project culminates in the Falcon’s Nest, where the groups present their organization and action plan to a panel of Falcon’s – a mixture of teachers from the school, administrators, and “change-makers” from the community. Through prompting questions and constructive feedback, the students take the advice of the Falcon’s to improve their action plans.

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Reusable shopping bag knitted out of plastic bags

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.

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Creatures made with upcycled styrofoam

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 determined to make their own all natural products.

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All-natural lip balm and lip scrub

They wanted to hold an all-school assembly about the dangers of microplastics and then hold an after-school session where students could learn to make their own face scrubs and lip balms.

The ideas that came out of this project were unbelievable and I cannot wait to see the culmination of their projects in the next three months.

Featured photo is of a t-shirt made by the plastic knitting student group

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