Whether you passively watch it or actively work to mitigate it, we have entered into a state of global environmental emergency. We cannot go on as if it were business as usual. Unsustainable environmental practices are systemic and impact every aspect of our daily lives. Violent storms, drought, and species extinction are significant consequences to widespread pesticide use, pollutants, and harmful resource extraction practices such as Canada’s tar sands. Widespread unemployment and poverty are also consequences. April is a great time to think about how we are preparing our students to be good environmental stewards and to highlight environmental issues. Here are some ideas for your classroom.
Celebrate Earth Month. Don’t let Earth Month go by without lots of recognition. Make it a big event, like an environmental film festival, or several smaller events like inviting a First Nations storyteller into your classroom, participating in Meatless Mondays and Trashless Tuesdays or running no-trace camping skills workshops.
Freebie: The Ontario Teachers’ Federation and Planet in Focus provide a guide to organizing an Environmental Film Festival. tiny.cc/FilmFestGuide
Teach sustainability–explicitly. Knowledge is power, and when people understand the issues, they are better equipped to tackle them. Each year students should be strengthening their understanding of the complexity of sustainability. The World Commission on Environment and Development’s definition is “Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” What does sustainability look like?
Freebie: Use the Story of Stuff, a 20-minute movie about the way we make, use, and throw away stuff. tiny.cc/StoryOfStuff
Get outdoors. Education writer David Sobel says, “If we want children to flourish, to become truly empowered, then let us allow them to love the Earth before we ask them to save it.” Give students the opportunity to develop a relationship with the Earth. Have students adopt a tree in their schoolyard or community to use for art (draw the tree in each season) or to use as writing prompts (“Day in the Life of My Tree”).
Freebie: The Back 2 Nature Network offers the ultimate kindergarten to grade 8 guide for teaching all subjects outdoors, developed by and for teachers. Available in both English and French, an essential addition to your resources! tiny.cc/IntoNature
Bring the outdoors in. Start a worm bin! Composting has endless connections to the curriculum and can help foster conversations regarding consumption, food waste, food sources and security, agriculture, life cycles, among many other important topics. The resulting rich humus will restore nutrients in your garden – a great way to start preparing for or extending a learning garden.
Freebie: A great ten-page how-to guide for the novice vermiculturalist written in student- friendly language. Another must-have resource accessible to students; comes with a free compost- log template! tiny.cc/WormBin
Get in touch with your waste. Don’t make this a bigger task than you can handle! Start by estimating your classroom’s weekly number of garbage bags, and your electricity and water usage. Learn together as a school and have school-wide estimations. Divide the responsibility and have different classes check to see the reality and announce their findings. Then make a plan to reduce your waste. Simply monitoring and bringing awareness usually makes a huge difference!
Freebie: Even if you aren’t registered as an EcoSchool, the program offers a wealth of resources from waste audit instructions to lights-off tally charts, school ground greening to curriculum links, for both elementary and secondary schools. tiny.cc/EcoSchools
Connect with your community. Take a deep breath and exhale. A year from now, the billions of atoms in your breath will have circulated around the entire planet, and a small few of them will have made their way back to you to be breathed in again. We are all connected, and not just virtually. Start more community engagement projects, make schools a shining hub of community. Display proudly the events happening in the area on a large calendar, organize bike and walk-to-school parades, farmers’ markets, etc. Make a concerted effort to connect and engage the communities you’re involved in, and celebrate! The answer to solving our unsustainability isn’t isolating ourselves; the answer is creating alternatives together and coming together as a community.
Activism can take many forms, and it doesn’t suit everyone to march on the streets. But every individual can affect their communities and the people around them through their conversations and the choices they make. Contacting your councillor, mayor, MPP and MP, political party leader, or prime minister also cultivates good citizenship.
Freebie: Check these child activists out online: Rachel Parent, Kelvin Doe, Kid President, and Birke Baehr. They are working to make a difference.
Make a change. Take a pledge and commit yourself to at least one lifestyle change, because we cannot continue on the path that we’re on. Look for opportunities to make a difference. We need to re-evaluate our values and consumption patterns, and transform our attitudes and behaviours. It will take courage and strength. Nelson Mandela said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
Make time to participate. No one person is going to solve this for us. The most important thing you can do this Earth Month is make time to participate. Feeling the Earth’s pain is natural, necessary, and is the first step in healing. This isn’t how the world has always been, it’s how it has become. The future can be shaped by you. Stay aware, engage your students, and be present.
April is a great time to put some of these ideas into practice. Engage in some fun, practical, and empowering activities to facilitate environmental stewardship among your students
Sarah Lowes is a member of The Halton Teacher Local. Connect with her at about.me/sarlowes.
Archive for the ‘Thinking Critically’
My, my it’s been far too long since I’ve shared my thoughts with the awesome Rookie Team and it’s readers. Almost a full year in fact, my apologies. But nonetheless what an amazing public forum for discussion that I’m super grateful to be part of!
In the last year I’ve finished my Master of Education, enjoyed a beautiful summer in Toronto, and landed a permanent position at a school with an awesome staff! Evidently my days as of late are spent planning furiously and resting!
My M.Ed (in Curriculum Studies and Teacher Development) is one of the best decisions I made. I think I gained the most valuable, transformative experiences of my life (too early to say?) collaborating and discussing with professors, teachers and peers at large. Every course (I had 10 over 2 years) engaged me in a new way and pushed me to think critically about the world and my role within it. I certainly miss being challenged the way that I was so regularly during my time at OISE, it has truly shone as a leader in educational thinking. My time there has made me a stronger teacher and person without a doubt. Thank you to all who supported me throughout that chapter completing 7 years of formal Education Studies (I completed a 4 year Honours at Brock in Education as my undergrad as well).
The courses I took at OISE for my M.Ed (and I wouldn’t trade ANY in!) are:
- Foundations of Curriculum
- Teaching and Learning About Science and Technology: Beyond Schools
- The Holistic Curriculum
- Transformative Education
- Cooperative Learning Research and Practice
- Poststructuralism and Education
- Media, Education and Popular Culture
- Special Topics in Adult Education: The Pedagogy of Food
- Environmental Decision Making
- Environmental Finance
Okay, maybe the title is a bit ambitious haha. But I would very much appreciate you taking the time to listen to a radio program I made in my Popular Culture, Media & Education course this term at OISE.
The course examined what messages are embedded in our media that maintain power structures and marginalize the voices of many. Our assignment was to create a 10 minute radio segment voicing a story that isn’t covered in mainstream media. We must ensure that definitions of cultures are being defined by themselves and not a dominant narrative, often times the privileged white male.
This is a great exercise to bring into the classroom. Let your students tell their stories and create alternative media, whether a magazine, a video, a website, music or radio. Radio has an interesting way of telling stories allowing many people to hear it at the same time and teaming up with a community radio station is a great learning experience for students. Help them examine the messages that are being sent, why they are being sent in that way and empower them through highlighting choice. We are active recipients of media and if we don’t voice our opinions the capitalist-agenda will continue to manipulate and distort our reality.
Audacity is a great free program available for download that you can use but I made this program with Garage Band.
Please don’t hestiate to ask questions if you have any!
“Can a stable, fair, and peaceful world be created in practice — and in time? Can people change their thinking and behavior from today’s selfish and self-centered material-gain and power-oriented wats to cooperative and sustainable ways? The answer is yes: through conscious change by a critical mass. But can conscious change be embraced by a critical mass before current trends and problems become intractable? The answer is still yes: by accelerating the spread of the consciousness that’s already emerging at society’s creative edge. The rapid spread of an evolved consciousness is a basic precondition of moving toward and effective and timely WorldShift.”
Ervin Laszlo, WorldShift 2012, p.71
“A handbook for conscious change that could transform the current world crisis into planetary renewal.”
”I know the whole world is watching now. And I wish the world could see what I can see. Sometimes you have to go up really high to understand how small you are.” Felix Baumgartner
Dear Teachers of the World,
Have you taken advantage of this major feat in scientfic and human history in your classroom? Why not use it to discuss how the planet is interconnected and to ground and unify your students with the rest of the world?
I’m working on a radio program about consciousness transformation and recently I interviewed Velcrow Ripper (Canadian documentarian and visionary) prior to his Toronto debut of the film Occupy Love. The film is a powerful visual representation that uses the universal concept of love to appeal to everyone. From the Arab Spring, European Summer and Occupy movement there have been millions protesting against economic, environmental and social injustices. Nelson Mandela said “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” I hope the teachers of the world recognize the vital role they play during this critical time in human history and teach accordingly.
Many astronauts return with an understanding of the world as a global village as Felix did. We are all children of the earth. There is enough food in the world to feed all 7 billion of us. There is enough money for us all to live.
Global military expenditure stands at over $1.7 trillion (Canada’s is over 22 billion).
Rising sea levels, retreating snow cover and glaciers, extreme rainfall and flooding, long-term drought, economic decline, high unemployment and debt, resource depletion and contamination, overpopulation, over consumption. We are experiencing the crisis you may often say ‘will come’. The life EACH one of us are living is likely UNSUSTAINABLE. A total cultural paradigm transformation is necessary. What you buy does not bring more meaning to your life. “Activism and creating change in the world shouldn’t be a burden, it should be a great sense of joy” (Velcrow Ripper) Activism can take shape in many forms and is doesn’t suit everyone to march on the streets. But each individual can affect their communities and the people around them.2012 is a turning point. Future generations, your children and if not already, your students WILL ask you what you were doing during this time. What will you say?
”One of the great liabilities of history is that all too many people fail to remain awake through great periods of social change. Every society has its protectors of status quo and its fraternities of the indifferent who are notorious for sleeping through revolutions. Today, our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Please take the time out of your busy days to have a discussion with the children of the earth about the state the world. Empower and support them to be the change.
So this is my final course term in the M.Ed program at OISE and it’s probably my busiest! This semester all my courses are exceptionally interesting while aso challenging (though I could probably argue that for the other semesters). I’m taking Education and Media/Popular Culture which discusses gender, race, identity power, and media. Transformative Learning which has a similar atmosphere as my previous Holistic Education course where 20 of us sit in a circle discussing world issues, collective consciousness and a shifting global worldview. And finally I’m taking Environmental Finance at the Rotman Business school at U of T, where I am the only education student amongst a crowd of MBA’s who can talk circles around me. That being said I am able to stay afloat through my environmental motivation and willingness to learn. I attended the PRI-CBERN Academic Network Conference today in fact, as suggested by our instructor, which gave me a fascinating insight into the business side of things. If there’s one theme that prevails it’s the need for members of civil society to become active and engaged in the realities of the world. It will take each one of our best efforts to inspire, empower and change a dominant ideology that engrosses the world marginalizing and distracting many from what’s important. I look forward to writing more specifically about each course but have many projects on the go this month. At the very least I’m going to try to update with quotes from some of my reading material in what I’ll call “Bits from Books.”
“The crucial task of the educator will be to develop an awareness that sees through the logic of destructive globalization and to combine this with critical skills to resist the rhetoric that now saturates us.”
Edmund O’Sullivan, Transformative Learning: Educational Vision for the 21st Century, 1999, p. 33
For my group’s presentation in Holistic Education we discussed “Integrating a Food Culture in the Classroom”. The groups for the class were formed by sharing in a circle our interests followed by a mingling period. At first I thought it lacked too much structure as many of us couldn’t commit to one idea. In the end I ended up with 2 other like minded ladies. Our interests and work ethic matched well and our ideas flowed harmoniously. We broke our 90 minutes into 2 main activities. We introduced our project through a visualization asking everyone to close their eyes and imagine a basket of lemons (a descriptive script was read aloud to assist in the visualization). After our introduction we moved into our first activity what I’ve been calling “World Cafe” where the class is broken into small groups (in our case by naming Ontario fruits in season) and one student is appointed in each group as the facilitataor. The facilitators are the leaders and stay at each given ‘cafe’ while the rest of the groups rotate at a given time. Evidently our group were the facilitators for each of our stations. We also had one unguided station that had resources, herbs, and a brainstorm board addressing how to overcome barriers of our topic. The second activity was a whole group circle sharing of a food memory. We laughed and connected as various stories were told by people regarding food.
My café specifically addressed introducing and integrating vermiculture (or composting with worms) in the classroom. In 10 minutes we created a worm bin as a group and I discussed how to care, maintain and learn with the worms.
I also brought in my worm bin to demonstrate how it looks, how easy it is and how it DOES NOT SMELL. All my peers were amazed at how it smelt earthy but there was no odour. Odour is a sign that your worm bin is out of balance but it won’t take long before everyone learns the right balance of air, moisture and food. Worm composting helps foster important conversations about our consumption and food waste habits, food production, life cycles, food security and many others. There are many Ontario Curriculum connections that can be made in Science and in Health. Not to mention it’s a great experiment of trial and error until you have your own balanced ecosystem. Depending on age level, space and interest, there are a variety of ways you can integrate a worm bin. Primary students may need more guidance as you introduce a class compost, but Junior and Senior students will have no problem taking on this responsibility. You may have 4 smaller bins per group that allows for greater involvement. It’s also a great project to get gifted students or early finishers started on, let them figure out how to make it! From my experience this is a project that students are very interested in at all levels! It is a great way to begin conversations about learning gardens at schools or the next step if your school already has a garden. The soil your worms will make is extremely rich and you will certainly notice a difference in the quality of your plant life.
Vermi-composting is educational, responsible, interesting and FUN! There is tons of information online but I’ve attached my own Composting in the Classroom Brochure or check out Shedd Aquarium’s 10 page How-to Guide for the Novice Vermiculturalist (written in fun student friendly language — an essential resource in the class).
A Canadian study has revealed that summer learning loss is not an equal opportunity issue. According to the research, kids from high income families experience increased reading levels while kids from low income families experience decreased reading levels over the summer months.
I strongly encourage you to check out the entire article: Summer Widens Rich/Poor Learning Gap
These results may seem obvious at first, but the research is valuable because it raises the questions WHAT ARE WE DOING ABOUT IT? and WHAT CAN WE DO DIFFERENTLY IN SEPTEMBER TO EVEN OUT THE PLAYING FIELD?
Considerations: summer program availability/ cost, support for parents, school/school board/community/private initiatives, neighbourhood demographics.
The Toronto Star article cites summer literacy camps as an effective way to reduce the summer loss of children from low income families. Unfortunately it seems as though access to these programs is limited and inequitable. For example, in the Halton region I have not heard of any free/low cost summer literacy programs for students; even after a bit of digging I came up with nothing. It is very possible that such programs do exist, but if they are not widely known or easy to find then I would suggest that they are ineffective. Other regions have excellent programs. The Brantford Public Library has been running a 100% free math and literacy program for over 20 years. The library hires university students to provide 1:1 summer tutoring. Each region has it’s own programs; what is available for students in your area?
The Rookie Teacher would love to hear from you. Please join the discussion by adding your comment. Let us know – What will you be doing in the 2012/2013 school year to overcome summer learning loss? How can teachers support low income families to increase literacy skills in our students? What programs are available in your school/school board/community?Pin It
For July and August I am taking a highly recommended course in Holistic Curriculum with Jack Miller at OISE. Halfway through and I can already say it’s been a transformative experience. With every class starting in an unobstructed circle, our group of 24 eager graduate students share experiences and learn from each other. From kindergarten to young adult language teachers, middle eastern to South American natives, rookies to veterans, we’ve all been given the opportunity to discuss and collaborate in a safe, respectful environment. Finally you can feel what it’s like to be a part of a holistic classroom that values the people in the room and not just brains on sticks. As we begin our small group presentations I am excited to see the contributions from my peers and to share them.
“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
I am taking the AQ Reading Part 1 over the summer and have decided to blog some of my ideas and the discussion questions being addressed in the course. Our first discussion question was: Define literacy. Comment on how literacy has changed in the 21st Century and what we as teachers need to consider to be effective literacy instructors due to that change.
Here’s what I think…
I strongly believe that in the traditional sense, literacy can be defined within the realm of reading and writing. However, I believe in the 21st Century we must adopt a more generalized sense of the term, as the mode of literacy changes. I believe in a definition that encompasses the interpretation and creation of communication. We hear of Media Literacy, Critical Literacy, and Technological Literacy. It is the ability to absorb and internalize a message someone is creating (reading) and it is then interpreting that message and creating a response in a variety of forms (writing, oral communication, texting, slogans, etc). In that sense we see Literacy as the ability to infer and interpret images as well as text. In fact Literacy in the broadest sense could be defined as the intake of information, images, signals and then the production of more or new information to be passed on to others.
When we were sitting at my staff meeting yesterday and examining our strategic goal we spent a lot of time discussing a general goal we could apply to JKs to Grade 8s and the connection between image and text as all literacy comes from an image.
One change in the mode of communication in the 21st Century is the accessibility to a variety of modes of writing. The Internet and other technology has allowed millions of ideas to be published on a second by second basis with little to supervision or accountability. Even 30 years ago if I had an idea I wanted to write down and show other people I would have to go through the publishing process with countless edits, re-writes and the potential for rejection. In 2012, I can, in less than 10 minutes, share my ideas with the world regardless of validity, quality and restraint. I am by no means criticizing the ability for people to publish their creative, genuine ideas which are truly incredible when you think of all of the things we see on YouTube, Blogs, Facebook on a daily basis. I applaud the accessibility to publish information. However, the concern can exist that we as educators need to teach our students the ability to think critically when looking for information and asking themselves questions like who wrote this, what is their message, which voices are heard or not being heard. We have to teach on the basic level the ability to distinguish fact and opinion in order to ensure our students are able to successfully navigate the massive resources at their digital fingertips. We have to teach children to read for the deeper meaning, which is a daunting task at best.Pin It