When I had my first conversation with Kauthar Mohamed, the student leadership and service learning coordinator at Aga Khan Academy Mombasa in Kenya, I knew I needed to interview her and share her story on my blog.
Many schools may have some embedded curricular service learning, or aspire to build genuine and purposeful service learning programs that align with the mission and vision of the school. It can be challenging, though, to design a whole school model that meets the needs of learners, supports and engages teachers, and honours community partnerships as collaborative, reciprocal relationships.
At Aga Khan Academy Mombasa, Kauthar and her team have built a robust model that equips students to understand and apply all five stages of the service learning cycle through grade-level experiences (rooted in the timetable and in a detailed plan for lessons and community engagement) and curricular experiences in a variety of subject areas.
The service learning program involves the key aspects outlined in the infographic (above); she stresses that having dedicated time in the school timetable each week is key to success. Some additional components of the Aga Khan Academy's grade 6-10 program are:
* a Service Learning coordinator
* a Service as Action coordinator (who aligns unit objectives and curricular planning with service partnerships & service learning blocks in the timetable)
* grade-level fellows (recent university graduates who are trained in service learning and coordinate work with grade level homerooms)
* teachers who are engaged with professional development about service learning and who embed service learning experiences in the curriculum to align with grade-level work with community partners
* options for students in grades 6-10 to stay with one community partner for four years or to experience a range of community partners (a different partner each year)
* a new mentorship program for students in grades 6-8 where they will work with “experts” in a variety of civil society organizations, in thematic areas that align with the Aga Khan Development Network pillars and service learning
* a Service Learning handbook that guides all teachers, students, parents and community partners
Primary school students (up to and including grade 5) engage with service learning through the PYP curriculum and the PYP Exhibition, and grade 11 and 12 students engage with the IB CAS (Creativity, Activity and Service) program. Kauthar and her team focus on grades 6-10, equipping students to listen to community partners, identify community assets and create action plans that are collaborative and co-created with the community partners.
Check out the video below to learn more about how Kauthar has designed her service learning program. Some of her ideas might work for your school, too! And you may want to look at one of her student's Reflection Sites to see how students document their service learning experiences, as well.
And if you're looking for more examples of purposeful and thoughtful all-school models, check out these additional stories from schools that partner with Inspire Citizens:
* Whole school global citizenship at the International School Nido de Aguilas in Santiago, Chile
* Personalized learning through innovative scheduling & systems at Frankfurt International School, Germany
* Whole school service learning at the American Embassy School of New Delhi
* K-12 service learning at COJOWA School in Cartagena, Colombia
Photo above: the Carbon Neutral Alliance team at the International School of Kenya.
Responding to the climate crisis with purpose and a sense of hope and action is key for educators who want to equip students to think critically and creatively about the future.
At the International School of Kenya (ISK), this approach has led to the creation of a collaborative and action-oriented network called the Carbon Neutral Alliance, and the students in this network have spearheaded a mission to make their school carbon neutral this year.
The growth of the Carbon Neutral Alliance is an exciting story that features student agency and leadership, student voice and choice, responsive and open-minded school leaders, and community awareness and commitment to sustainability.
Teacher Tom Wallbridge is the teacher advisor for the Carbon Neutral Alliance and explains what ISK has done to work towards its carbon neutral status. In the video below, Tom shares many ideas and details of the ISK story, and these can be applied to other schools keen to improve their environmental footprint.
In terms of a template for action, here are some of the key steps that the ISK team took to create a campus-wide initiative with tangible impact:
1) Student leaders from one club (Students for the Environment) liaised with several other clubs to create a student coalition to take action in response to climate change.
2) The student coalition (Carbon Neutral Alliance) drafted a proposal for the campus to become carbon neutral by 2030.
3) Students made a presentation to the board and their proposal was accepted.
4) After updated climate change data was released, the student leaders revised the timeline for their proposal and made a second proposal to the board; this proposal was also accepted.
5) Students met with experts about carbon mapping and did research.
6) The school contracted an outside company to conduct a full external audit of the campus to evaluate its environmental practices and footprint; students raised money to pay for this audit.
7) After the audit was completed, leaders defined what "carbon neutral" would mean at ISK and what parameters would be applied to their data.
8) Two community partners were established to direct carbon offsets to local settings in Kenya and allow students to develop meaningful partnerships for learning and intercultural understanding.
9) A plan for annual, ongoing assessment of day-to-day school practices and sustainability was created. Students have also connected with peers from other international and local schools to share ideas and resources.
10) The Carbon Neutral Alliance experience won an Association of International Schools in Africa (AISA) award as an "Outstanding Service Project" for 2022.
If your school community is interested in becoming more sustainable and decreasing its environmental footprint in the world, listen to the video below and also check out the following links for tools that may help you begin this work.
Thanks to ISK for leading in this way, and for serving as an example to other schools of what is possible!
Inspire Citizens: Global Citizenship Self-Discovery Tool for Schools
Green Schools Initiative: Multiple Calculators and Tools for School Sustainability
Earth Gen:Carbon Calculator for Schools
Sustainability in Schools:Calculator Tools to Get Started
Compass Education: Assessing and Designing Innovation and Sustainability in Schools
10/24/2022 0 Comments
Two weeks ago I had the privilege of running a workshop for AISA (Association of International Schools in Africa) educators about mindfulness.
Since that experience, I have been thinking non-stop about good health and well-being and the nature of our busy schools. Perhaps if you're like me, your typical teaching day is a whirlwind of activity, conversation and tasks, and there never seems to be enough time to get everything done. Planning, grading, meetings, co-curricular responsibilities... sometimes you finish the week and it feels like you've just completed an Ironman race. Right?
Yet Sustainable Development Goal #3 highlights the importance of good health and well-being, and the Inner Development Goals show us that only by attending mindfully to our own mindsets and sense of being can we care for others and the world. Many of our schools have created important SEL (Social and Emotional Learning) programs in the past few years, and mental health and well-being has been brought to the fore as a result of Covid-19. All of these important signals suggest that a school week like the one I just described is unhealthy and unsustainable.
I listened to a podcast this morning where someone mentioned the obsession we have (culturally) with growth, and the pervasive mindset that growth needs to be continuous and rapid, as if we're driving with our foot continuously jamming the gas pedal to the floor. Yet, to sustain growth (personal, economic, intellectual or innovative growth), there needs to be a balance with reflection, rest, consolidation and healing.
The best example of this might be how we build muscles at the gym. When we lift weights, we create tiny tears in our muscle fibers. But this isn't what makes our muscles stronger. Strength is built during the rest period that follows the workout. During rest, the body repairs the muscle fibers and actually fuses fibers together to create stronger strands, and more of these strands. Hence, your muscles increase in size and capacity. Without a rest period, your body wouldn't be able to build stronger, bigger muscles.
If this is true of our physical bodies, and a growth cycle is dependent on rest and repair, it makes sense that other types of growth would benefit from similar periods of purposeful rest.
I wonder how we might create classroom and school cultures where this is possible for teachers and students. Instead of running frantically from one class to the next, and inhaling your lunch while working at your computer, what if the school day was calm and peaceful, allowing for mindful eating, walking and learning? How might this impact the way teachers and students learn, communicate and connect?
This may seem like a pie-in-the-sky idea, but I think schools would benefit from creating conversations and ideation sessions where teachers and students could discuss the value of slowing down and the importance of personal and collective health and well-being.
As a starting point, individual teachers might want to consider their own classroom space and how they might invite students to co-create opportunities to rest and repair as they learn. I can imagine solutions like extended (and creative) reflection time, quiet reading time and meditation or stretching to start a class or create a break during longer class periods. I'm sure students would have innovative ideas about how to create more mindful experiences and settings for their learning, as well as valuable insights to share about what they need to grow (intellectually, emotionally and socially) in purposeful ways.
Teacher self-care is also a vital ingredient in this recipe. In what ways are you carving out time and space for your own cycles of rest and repair? Are you caring for yourself with exercise, meditation/reflection, time in nature and creative endeavours? How might you design your days and weeks to include elements that allow you to pause, rest and heal so you can grow personally and professionally?
In the AISA workshop I mentioned in the first paragraph, we began with deep breathing and a conversation about wellness and mindfulness in our schools; we then engaged in a guided meditation and a quiet partner conversation to reflect on what we had experienced. In one hour, we were able to create a space where it felt like time slowed down a little bit and where we could all could exhale slowly and let our shoulders relax. If we can create that space in a one-hour workshop, what might happen if we build mindful moments regularly into our days?
Here are some resources to help you create a more mindful classroom and school:
Learning for Justice
(Important considerations of mindfulness that advances equity and acknowledges student trauma and systemic failure)
Source of image above
Last week, our family experienced a beautiful miracle.
Our oldest daughter gave birth to our second granddaughter, a perfect little 5-pound human named Clara, and the world shifted on its axis. Our hearts divided and replicated like active cells, encompassing a universe of love for this new little one who has captivated us with her tiny fingers and her alert, bright eyes.
When I look at this precious new baby, and at my energetic and wonderful 3-year-old granddaughter (Clara's older sister), I am overcome with many emotions. Love and gratitude, of course. Joy and contentment and wonder. And also worry, a sense of urgency around the grave issues facing our planet and its future.
It's one thing to imagine a future for myself where climate change and other factors have made life challenging and/or untenable. It's quite another to imagine that future for my grandchildren; I want them to experience life in its fullest, most rich and beautiful iteration, not life that is compromised, broken and painful.
So I have been pondering futures thinking this week, a dynamic way of thinking about a desired future and using design thinking skills to design strategic solutions that support that vision. The idea is that our thoughts lead to action, and if we imagine a more sustainable, just and stable future, we can create ways of making that future come to life.
I have been an ardent fan of design thinking since I attended an introductory workshop at the Stanford d.school back in February of 2018. Since then, I have participated in several d.school training events, and served as a facilitator for two d.school workshops at Concordia International School Shanghai. I have seen the power of design thinking in opening up thought patterns, encouraging creative and critical thinking, and in fostering action that is positive and generative. I have participated in design thinking sessions with colleagues, and also with students. It's pretty amazing and if you haven't experienced design thinking, you can learn more here.
Futures thinking uses the principles of design thinking to inspire people, young and old, to shape the future of our world. Given the state of many things in 2022, this can be a powerful way to create change, and also to generate hope and a sense of agency and ownership for how the future may unfold. Often we can feel removed from many factors (governmental and otherwise) that shape policy and communal ways of being; futures thinking allows us to tap into the power of who we are, as individuals, to shape what we can control, and then to amplify the ripple effects into local and global communities.
While this might sound rather pie-in-the-sky in terms of realistic action, evidence suggests quite the opposite. Where we focus our attention is where our energy and efforts are concentrated. Reflecting on the future helps us understand what is happening now, and allows us to change behaviours that aren't positive or that don't support the kind of future we envision. And engaging in this kind of dialogue fosters the type of creative and critical thinking that is the basis for radical innovation, the kind of innovation we need to solve some of our pressing problems.
So this post is all about hope, and I encourage you to check out these resources about how to use futures thinking in your classroom. Equipping your students to believe they have a role to play in creating the future of our world is a way to empower all students, PK-12, to engage in positive and sustainable work in this world.
Some sites that include excellent resources about futures thinking include:
1) Teach the Future
2) Encounter Edu
4) Futures Thinking Course for Teachers on Coursera (free)
And I can't close this post without including some photos of little Clara and her big sister Eden. These two little humans (along with all the little humans you know and love) make it imperative for all of us to engage in futures thinking and in sustainable, purposeful action for our planet and its people.
Please share these resources about futures thinking with any colleagues who would be interested.
I have been obsessed with Monarch butterflies for a long time, perhaps since I was old enough to first see them in my yard in rural Ontario.
I love Monarchs so much that I have one tattooed on my left shoulder.
When I read Four Wings and a Prayer: Caught in the Mystery of the Monarch Migration in 2000 (when it was first published), I couldn't put it down and devoured it in a matter of hours.
When our daughters were young, every year we sought out Monarch caterpillars on neighborhood milkweed and brought them home to our glass aquarium so we could watch them go through the magical cycle of metamorphosis.
I remember one particular morning in 1997 when we woke up to a clear chrysalis, which meant the Monarch would emerge sometime that day; our girls were heading off to school and day care, so we carefully placed the aquarium into our van and took it along. The butterfly hatched out of its chrysalis during nap time for our then-3-year-old daughter Hannah. Later that day, we heard she remained awake the entire time, lying quietly next to the rectangle of glass, completely absorbed in the butterfly's birth. She watched it pump its wings full of fluid and then sit quietly in the sun, drying its new wings until it was ready to fly. When we arrived at day care, she ran over and the details came excitedly spilling out, her eyes sparkling with wonder.
On another memorable day a few years later, I was lucky enough to catch a caterpillar in the act of transforming into its chrysalis (a challenging feat because this happens so fast!). I had placed the aquarium beside my laptop so I could keep one eye on the caterpillar; it had been hanging in its "J" formation for several hours and I knew the transition would happen soon (many times, prior to this day, I had turned my back for what seemed like a few minutes, only to miss the transformation!). When it began, the caterpillar straightened and began to undulate as a sliver of what looked like mint green silk emerged from its bottom (closest to the anchor point at the aquarium's mesh top). The green chrysalis seemed to grow from the body of the caterpillar itself, unfurling and spreading like the mirror that absorbs Neo's arm in The Matrix (remember that scene right before he takes the red pill?). Within minutes, the chrysalis, with its shining gold rim and dots, was complete and the caterpillar was no more, not so much contained within the chrysalis as having disrobed and stepped into something entirely new.
Can you tell how much I love these butterflies?
Thus, it was with great sadness that I learned a few weeks ago that Monarchs have been added to the official list of endangered species. Habitat loss and climate change, both the result of human behaviour, are listed as the causes for the sharp decline in Monarch populations over the last few decades.
While I was absorbing this terrible news and ruminating over the way our species has ravaged our planet, my daughter sent me a text to say a friend who lives in the countryside was bringing her some Monarch caterpillars from a large milkweed patch on her property. She asked if I would like some, as her friend was bringing her several; she was setting up a mesh insect tent (much like our old glass aquarium) so her daughter could watch the magical metamorphosis occur.
I confess my breath caught in my throat as I read this text. Imagining my wonderful granddaughter (who is now 3) bearing witness to the Monarch miracle made me so happy and sad all at the same time. Happy because she, too, will become enthralled with nature and its cycles by observing this incredible transformation. Sad because she may be part of the last generation to have the privilege of honouring the Monarch with such attention.
"Of course!" I immediately wrote back. "I would love some caterpillars, yes!"
Since then, I have been watching my Monarchs every day, attentively observing the caterpillars eat voluminous quantities of fresh milkweed leaves and grow rapidly, their rings of white, yellow and black expanding by the hour. Just as the caterpillars seem full-grown, they are already climbing up the sides of the mesh tent, hunting for the right place to pause and attach themselves, bottoms-up to the roof, inverting themselves to prepare for the change to come.
I now have two perfect spring green chrysalises hanging quietly downstairs. Some sort of alchemy is happening inside and, any day now, one of the chrysalises will turn clear, revealing the crumpled and cramped wings of an adult Monarch butterfly inside.
I await this moment with much anticipation and joy, nervous and excited to watch this next stage that symbolizes liberation and freedom, hope and perseverance.
And I find myself thinking a lot about climate change and my ongoing hope that we humans might still make the necessary changes to save the Monarchs and all of life on Earth.
If you have an opportunity to bring caterpillars (of any variety) into your classroom to teach your students about the magic of metamorphosis and the importance of habitat preservation, please do so. Often we assume this would only appeal to younger learners but students of all ages are fascinated by nature; having an aquarium in your high school math or English classroom will also spark wonder, curiosity and conversations about our role in preserving natural spaces.
Below are some links to resources that may be useful in teaching your students about climate change. Please use these resources and pass them along to other educators and parents. And if you live in North or Central America and can help preserve the Monarchs, check out this site for advice on what you can do.
Thanks for reading! I'm heading downstairs to check on my chrysalises.
Resources for teaching about Climate Change:
1. The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming by David Wallace-Wells: this book is excellent for high school readers. I used to include it as a book circle option for students in my grade 11/12 Global Development Studies class and every student who read this book was impacted deeply by what they learned about climate change and the urgency for each of us to become part of global solutions.
2. Taking Action Global has created a climate change book list for readers of all ages. This is an excellent curated list of titles, along with some ideas of how to incorporate the books into your curriculum.
3. Taking Action Global has a full program for students, teachers and schools about climate change, including training for educators. In September there is a period of onboarding for new participants and you can check out details here. There are options to learn about how climate change is connected to digital agency and action, project-based learning, and equity and inclusion, along with opportunities for global collaboration.
4. The Climate Action Project is a global endeavor linking students to experts and peers to learn about climate change. This year's experience will launch on September 27th and will involve a 6-week learning experience. You can enroll as an educator and take your students on this learning journey endorsed by HH Dalai Lama, Queen Elizabeth II, Dr. Jane Goodall, world leaders and Ministries of Education across 16 countries.
5. Resources about teaching climate change from the New York Times: check out this article with valuable links and resources.
Photos of my two Monarch caterpillars and chrysalises this year, along with a Monarch butterfly I saw in August at North Beach Provincial Park in Ontario and a photo of my 3-year-old granddaughter watching the butterfly fly down the beach. Bottom row, middle: Monarch letters my daughters sent to penpals in Mexico in 1997 to participate in a program linking children in places connected to the Monarch migration.
Update: Butterfly #1 emerged on September 5th!
The start of a new school year is a magical time that may prompt us to think about new strategies and techniques we want to explore to deepen our teaching practice. Ultimately, most educators want to build classroom cultures and learning experiences where every student is supported and engaged, and where each child's curiosity about the world and their role in it is kindled and nurtured.
For many educators in 2022, deep student engagement is tied to an understanding of global issues, the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals, and an exploration of how each person (young and old) can use their skills and talents to create purposeful and positive change in our world. Living more sustainably, engaging in civic dialogue and action, and cultivating a connection and passion for local and global issues... the start of a new school year is the perfect time to consider how we can build changemaker cultures in our classrooms and schools and how we can help our students connect with these important ideas and themes.
A simple and deeply impactful strategy we can use to do this is digital storytelling, both as a tool for student engagement and inquiry, and an outcome that demonstrates deep learning and local/global impact. If you haven't used digital storytelling with your students, I want to share some easy ways to get started. And if you're already a digital storyteller, I want to applaud what you're doing and offer some links that may support your work.
Digital storytelling is simple. It's telling stories using digital tools and spaces. It can include:
* posting photos
* videos and YouTube
* website design for classroom and school storytelling
* digital animation
* social media campaigns and posts
* using apps like Flip (formerly Flipgrid) for student reflection and sharing these with parents and the school community
* electronic newsletters
* and more! (there are so many creative ways to tell a digital story!)
Whenever we tell a story with digital tools, we're digital storytellers. Simple, right? Simple and wonderful because our students love working with digital tools (and often know more than we do about things like making and editing videos!).
Here are some ways you can bring digital storytelling into your classroom this year to create deep engagement and learning, and to foster active and informed global citizenship for your students:
1) classroom activities: embed tools like Flip (formerly Flipgrid) into reflection and assessment tasks to give students a chance to show what they know and think in new ways. This will appeal to many types of learners and will help your students become more comfortable with digital storytelling skills like making audio and video recordings, as well as responding to peers online and engaging in appropriate and thoughtful dialogue. This can lead to global competencies, traits that our students need to function in our complex and ever-changing global world.
2) e-publishing and creating digital books: there are a variety of websites and apps to help your students create stunning picture books, graphic novels and more. A few I really like are Storybird and Book Creator.
2) service learning (investigation): when your students engage in the investigation stage of service learning and use MISO (Media/Interviews/Surveys/Observations) action research to find out about a topic, have them curate their findings as digital stories to share with peers and school leaders. Instead of having students do in-class presentations, have them create videos instead that you can share to a wider audience. If you're interested in learning more about MISO, as a side note, HERE is a link to a free Eduspark course created by me, Cathryn Berger Kaye and Shei Ascencio.
3) service learning (action): advocacy is one of four types of action that students can take during a service learning experience, and digital storytelling is a powerful way to engage in advocacy. Students can create social media campaigns, stories and photos to post online, events that take place in a virtual space and more. This, too, leads to global competencies as students navigate how to communicate their ideas in a variety of contexts and how to effectively persuade others to care about an issue and also take action.
4) service learning (demonstration): at the end of a service learning experience, it's key that students reflect on and demonstrate what they did and the impact they created. Having students explore digital storytelling strategies and techniques to tell their story is a wonderful way to showcase their efforts beyond your school community and inspire others to learn and take action, too. HERE is an example of how some high school students in California used digital storytelling to demonstrate their service learning experiences.
5) assessments: transform your assessments by making them outward-facing. Instead of traditional assessments such as tests, essays, reports and in-class presentations, have students write persuasive personal narrative essays and blog posts, create infographics and videos, and then share these with your local and global communities. Student engagement will increase dramatically and your students will become ambassadors for the learning that is occurring in your classroom. Try and connect your course content to the UN SDGs and advocacy to add another layer of active global citizenship to your assessments. I did this with a high school course I taught called Global Development Studies and the impact was incredible. My students cared much more deeply about demonstrating what they were learning because their products were being delivered to an authentic audience. This resulted in increased digital literacy, civic readiness and action, advocacy and reflection.
6) create a digital storytelling platform: there are so many easy and free ways to build websites in 2022. If your school uses Google, Google Sites is intuitive and easy to use. Microsoft Sway is another option. And sites like Wix and Weekly offer free plans for website creation. Creating a site to tell your classroom or school-wide stories is a powerful way to equip your students to create and share digital stories, and to build cultures in your classroom or school that value storytelling, the SDGs, active global citizenship and more. Here is an example of a fifth grade digital storytelling platform involving all learners and linking language arts and social studies learning to the SDGs and the school's vision for diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging.
These are just a few ideas to get you started with digital storytelling for 2022/23. There are so many possibilities for using this engaging and effective method to transform your teaching practice this year and beyond!
In the video below, you'll hear high school English teacher Anique Kruger talk about how she transformed a grade 9 English unit using digital storytelling. During the Covid lockdown in Shanghai in late spring, 2022, Anique used digital storytelling to engage her students and turn her assessments into outward-facing advocacy tools. Thanks, Anique, for sharing your story!
Spending time in nature is a sustainability practice I want to maximize this summer and throughout the coming school year.
My husband took this photo a few weeks ago when we were cycling with our daughter near our home in Ontario.
In the midst of busy end-of-year schedules, there is so much to do and I know your plates are full right now. Congratulations on finishing (or getting ready to finish) the 2021/22 school year. There have been so many challenges and tragedies this year, and the work that you do with your students every day is a grounding and positive force.
The end of the year always puts me in a reflective mood, and I usually find myself thinking about what went well throughout the year, as well as what didn't go so well, and where I want to design change for the upcoming year. I'm guessing you do this, too.
Perhaps you want to redesign a specific learning experience or unit plan.
Perhaps you want to try some new techniques or approaches to engage students and bring more creativity or innovation into your classroom.
Perhaps you want to be more deliberate with leading your students to engage with:
* health and well-being
* global citizenship
* purposeful service and action
I have been thinking a lot about deepening my sustainability practices (individually and with students), and recently found myself talking about this with a former student (Iffany Z). Our conversation might spark some ideas of ways you could embed more sustainability into your curriculum and into your own personal lifestyle next year.
If you haven't heard of the Inner Development Goals (IDGs), I also recommend checking them out. They were created as a response to the Sustainable Development Goals and they focus on our mindsets and behaviours, and ways of living "purposeful, sustainable and productive lives". There are many ways of using the IDGs in your classroom, and Inspire Citizens works with a teacher in Colorado who has made the IDGs a focus with her middle school students this year. Check out the story here.
On June 27th there is an IDG action day taking place from 10 am - 2 pm EDT in Austin, Texas. If you live near Austin, you can attend in person, and there is a virtual stream for out-of-area participants. I have my online ticket and I am super excited about the program. If you're interested in learning more about the IDGs, it looks like it will be a very meaningful event and gathering of people.
For some additional resources about embedding sustainability education into your practice, check out these links:
* Our Endangered World: ideas for sustainability lessons, activities and campaigns in schools
* Climate Stories that Work: a guide and video from UK-based On Road to help frame your conversations about sustainability and climate change
* SDGs for Children: a website by two young Canadian changemakers with lots of ideas for teaching young people about sustainable approaches to the SDGs
* Thinking Sustainably: this blog post by three young changemakers has many valuable links and resources for K-12 educators
Above: Students at ASD working on bee hives in the school garden.
Some schools have programs that are so brilliant they could serve as models for other schools all around the world.
When you learn about the Changemaker Education Program at the American School of Dubai, I think you'll agree with me that it is just such a program, and I am excited to introduce you to two educators who have built something really special. Laurence Myers is the Service Learning and Sustainability Coordinator at ASD and Sandy Garden is the Edible Education Coordinator. Their offices are in the same space and their programs are jointly run as the ASD Changemaker Education program.
The initiative began with service learning. Several years ago the Dubai government banned fundraising except through official channels and groups, and this transformed what was happening at ASD. Like many schools which have fledgling service programs, there were some co-curricular clubs running fundraising campaigns each year but there was no actual service learning in the curriculum. When the government decided to ban fundraising, a wonderful opportunity surfaced: to move away from this model and develop an embedded service learning program with an emphasis on all four types of service action (direct, indirect, advocacy and research). Laurence moved to ASD just after the shift began and was able to build the program from the ground up.
It wasn't long after this transition occurred that Sandy took over the garden space at ASD. It had previously been supervised by parents and, as students graduated and families moved away from Dubai, there was a need for someone to manage the garden in a more cohesive way. Sandy, a passionate gardener, was keen to take over and find curricular links to get students out into the garden space.
A kitchen classroom followed, allowing Sandy to teach cooking skills using produce from the ASD garden, and then came the bees. In proper hives! Sandy manages a full beekeeping area and students in three different grade levels take care of the bees and learn about how important these pollinators are for the health of the planet and the dietary health of humans (as a result of the many food items that rely on bees for pollination).
In the video interview below, you'll hear Laurence and Sandy explain the different components of their program and how they are working with teachers at ASD to build capacity for more and more curricular learning experiences related to the garden and to service learning. It would be amazing to see more schools adopt this model, and there is sage advice for educators in the interview about how to get started with building a Changemaker program on your campus.
In addition to the interview, check out this article (written by Laurence) about the program. You can also follow Laurence and Sandy on Instagram at: @ASD_Sustainable_Garden and @ASDChangemakers.
Sandy highly recommends the work of Alice Waters and The Edible Schoolyard. There are many resources on this website, and Alice is committed to bringing good, local food to school cafeterias in the US.
Additional resources to get a garden growing at your school:
1. Eartheasy: Complete Guide on how to start your school garden
2. Kids Gardening: Rationale and Resources for how to start or expand your school garden
3. Plant a Seed and See What Grows Foundation: Resources, Links and Examples of School Gardens
4. UNESCO Education for Sustainable Development Resources
Photo by Waldemar Brandt on Unsplash
High School English teacher Nicola Ball, who teaches at Dulwich College Pudong in Shanghai, China, has embarked on a bold digital storytelling journey. Inspired by a desire to pair environmental conservation with the Year of the Tiger in the Chinese Zodiac, she has embraced a creative storytelling approach and is creating waves of engagement in her school.
As you'll hear in the video interview below, Nicola was struck by how Lunar New Year messages in February were featuring "regular" types of wishes: for a prosperous year, a healthy year, a happy year. But at the start of the Year of the Tiger, she didn't see any messages about tigers as an endangered species, or anything related to thinking about human impacts on the environment. That disconnect was jarring and she decided she wanted to take action.
The first thing she created was a 12-month goal calendar featuring one personal goal each month to raise awareness about tiger conservation. She shared this with her students and right away they had a lot of questions and feedback for her, and were curious and interested to know more.
Her first monthly goal was to engage in an act of advocacy for tiger conservation, and she chose to take William Blake's poem "The Tyger" (a poem she was about to explore with a group of her English students) and re-write it slightly to shift the focus to tiger conservation. The changes are subtle and clever, and students had to look carefully to find the differences between the two poems, which led them to analyze Blake's original poem to understand Nicola's piece.
"It was excellent," says Nicola. "They embarked on analyzing the poem on their own as a result of what I had done and it led to excellent analysis."
Nicola then took her poem and created a video with voice narration in Canva, sharing the final product with students and on social media. This sparked immediate reactions from students as they, too, started playing with the original text, adding art and other digital storytelling elements, and producing their own digital products to share with a global audience.
Here is an example of one student response focused on environmental conservation in relation to forest fires and human impact on the natural world.
"There have been many ripple effects from this first video I created," says Nicola, who is already working on her next monthly goal which will focus on the importance of language related to service and sustainability. "It's been fabulous to see how digital storytelling has generated so much engagement with my students; as they have watched me take some risks and put work out into the digital storytelling realm, I think it has empowered them to do the same, and it has created a situation where we are learning together. It's been dynamic and energizing."
Below is an interview with Nicola about what she is doing with digital storytelling, along with her video of "The Tyger". See if you can see how she has changed the original text, and to what effect.
If you're interested in pursuing digital storytelling in your own classroom, check out these articles and resources. They're a great place to start. And I will be offering my 4-part "Becoming a Digital Storyteller" course again in June. Stay tuned for registration details! :)
Resource Links: Learn More about Digital Storytelling
1. Digital Storytelling Across the Curriculum
2. 38 Ways Students Can Create Digital Content
3. Build Literacy Through Digital Storytelling
4. Digital Storytelling: Benefits, Examples, Tools & Tips
5.Shifting Schools Podcast about Digital Storytelling (with me and Shei Ascencio as guests for this episode)
As educators who engage regularly with aspects of global citizenship education, my guess is that you've been grappling with how to best equip your students to understand what is happening in the Ukraine.
It is vital to provide time and space for our students, at all ages, to process what they're hearing on the news or from other people, and to reflect on what it means to be a peacemaker in our local and global communities. Given the ways in which humans gravitate towards violence and aggression, this aspect of what we do as educators is so very important, especially when overt military action is taking place.
So what can we do?
I have curated some resources and links for you, some specifically about the war in the Ukraine and some about incorporating peace and peacemaking lessons into our curricula. I hope these links are helpful. You will find many tangible resources in the links including lesson ideas, templates and lesson plans.
Some immediate things you can do include:
1) Listen to your students. Give them opportunities to share what they have heard, how they are feeling and the questions they have about this conflict or other conflicts (current or historical).
* Article: How to Talk with Students About the Russia-Ukraine Way - 5 Tips (Education Week)
* Resources: Thoughtbox Education
* Video: Two Ukrainian Parents Discuss the Struggle to Keep their Families Safe (PBS Video)
2) Help students understand why it's important to be a peacemaker and how to be a peacemaker, and then allow them to apply what they learn to conflicts they may face day-to-day. If we can embrace peace on an individual and community level, this is an important foundation for understanding core concepts.
* Teachstarter Blog Article: Peace Activities for Elementary Students
* Book with PDF downloads: Peace Lessons From Around the World (the Hague Appeal for Peace)
* Peacebuilding Toolkit: middle and high school units and lessons about peacemaking (United States Institute of Peace)
3) Connect students with peers around the world to reflect, dialogue and learn. Documentar is an excellent digital storytelling platform where students can post and interact with peers. Through Documentar, you and your students can connect with an Art for Peace initiative launched by the Pechersk International School Kyiv. Your students can make art for peace and post it on the PSIK padlet to show solidarity with PSIK peers, and on Documentar as well.
Links for Documentar are:
4) Be informed and help your students know how to evaluate real news from fake news.
5) Organize a response
* Pechersk International School Kyiv website with information about some options to act in response to immediate needs
* How to help people in the Ukraine and Refugees Fleeing the Conflict: PBS
Below: An example of an Art For Peace post on Documentar by students from the Istanbul International Community School.