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.
Photos, clockwise from top left: ISK teacher Maciej Sudra explains the process of upcycling plastic to elementary students on campus; a Plastiki Rafiki recycled plastic and tetra pack "flasher" to make fences visible for wildlife at the Loisaba Conservancy in Kenya; upcycled Plastiki Rafiki products like school schools and skateboards; machines used in upcycling plastics at the ISK campus.
A group of students and educators at the International School of Kenya (ISK) in Nairobi is doing something incredible. They are removing plastic from the natural environment, upcycling the plastic into useful products, and partnering with local communities to create immense change. What started as a small high school club has grown, over the course of five years, into a large co-curricular endeavor with connections to the curricular program, and into a social enterprise providing hundreds of jobs at plastics workshops throughout the country.
Welcome to the story of Plastiki Rafiki! When I heard about this project, I knew I had to interview the teachers and students involved. Not only do I care (a lot!) about plastics and finding ways to manage our plastic problem. I also care a lot about ISK. I worked there from 2010 - 2015 and two of my daughters graduated from high school there; the school and community has a very special place in our family story, and it has been wonderful to connect with current teachers and students to learn about this powerful service project.
In a nutshell, as teacher Maciej Sudra explains in the video below, a group of students heard about how to upcycle plastics and researched machine designs online. Inspired, they worked with teachers and local staff to build some machines and experiment with upcycling plastic into new products such as key chains, jewelry and plant pots.
They loved the creative work involved with this process, as well as the positive impact on the environment by removing plastic waste from local communities. And so the project grew.
Now the club has dozens of members and there are multiple Plastiki Rafiki workshops throughout the country. In Swahili, by the way, the word rafiki means "friend". Companies and groups order items (examples include trophies, medals and wildlife flashers to use on fences at conservancies to help make the fences visible to wildlife), and the orders are filled by community members working at the local workshops. ISK students coordinate the design and prototyping of all products, as well as the handling of orders, client communication and billing.
Photo: Examples of trophies and medals made by Plastiki Rafiki for the Faraja Cancer Support Trust Whitewater Rafting Challenge.
In addition, middle and elementary school students at ISK are learning about Plastiki Rafiki and classes regularly visit the design room at school to see the machines in action and learn about plastics.
Check out the interviews with lead teacher Maciej Sudra and ISK student leaders to learn more about this incredible and multi-layered service experience and community partnership. You can also check out the Plastiki Rafiki website HERE.
It would be amazing to see more schools follow ISK in building this type of program. I can see how all of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals link to the work that Plastiki Rafiki is doing, and it is an excellent example of what happens when we allow students to lead and create positive change.
Resources for starting an upcycling project at your school:
1. https://plastikirafiki.com/: The ISK Plastiki Rafiki website.
2. https://preciousplastic.com: On this site you will find a wealth of information about how to upcycle plastics, and you can even buy starter kits for your school or use plans to build your own machines. Some chapters of Precious Plastics will come to schools to run workshops, too. If you do a google search, you should be able to see if there's a group near you.
3. Article: how to get started with a classroom/club/school upcycling project, especially for younger learners.
4. Article: some good questions to think about to get your upcycling project started, along with some examples.
5. Courses: Courses about upcycling furniture, fashion and more. There is a small fee for these courses, but they could be a good starting point for teachers to explore some ideas and personal passions.
6. Article: Simple ways to upcycle plastic bottles for your home or classroom.