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.
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.
Image source: https://www.pamelarutledge.com/story-power-the-psychology-of-story/
Did you know that storytelling affects the brain in the ways depicted in the image above? Isn't that amazing? There are numerous articles you can read online that explain the ways our brains respond to stories, including the article that served as the source of this image. It's fascinating reading, and I've linked a few articles at the bottom of this post.
Maybe you are a math teacher and you're not sure how stories relate to your curriculum. Or you're an IB teacher trying to fit in all of your content before the May exams. Where, you ask, would you find time time to tell stories?
The brain science around storytelling suggests that if we want students to really learn what we're teaching (in any content area), stories are a key strategy for evoking engagement, embedding information into our memories and creating compassion and trust in our classroom. This isn't an add-on but an essential way we can reframe our curriculum so it is meaningful and purposeful for our students.
What could this look like?
As an example, just last week, a group of educators participated in an ECSL (Educators Consortium for Service Learning) workshop where storytelling was used as a way to connect and reflect on key events from 2021. The key tool for the workshop was a simple plot mountain (remember the five components to a story's plot? exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution). The educators mapped their past year using the plot mountain and then shared their stories in groups of four in breakout rooms. When they returned to the main Zoom discussion room, many similarities were noted amongst the shared stories. Many educators had experienced upheaval as a result of Covid-19 and experienced climax moments where their jobs changed significantly. Many learned they had strength to persist and keep going in the face of numerous obstacles. And in sharing these stories, the teachers connected and felt a shared sense of catharsis and belonging.
Were our brains producing dopamine, cortisol and oxytocin? Absolutely. And this created an impactful experience that allowed us to feel supported and heard, one that we will remember for a long time.
In your math, history or art classroom, you could use this simple plot mountain exercise to help students reflect at the end of a unit, or to review existing knowledge before launching into a new lesson. Your students could create a plot mountain that captures the story of an electron or a set of fractions or a significant moment in history.
This is one simple way of incorporating stories into your curriculum in any subject area. You could also take curricular content and transform it into narrative. Are there historical figures in your subject area that relate to what students are learning? Tell those stories, have students watch videos about those people, or maybe even have students create digital stories.
Stories will help your students learn and remember. Stories will help your students understand the world in ways that are more rich and purposeful. Stories will open up intercultural understanding and empathy.
Below are links to some excellent sites that provide additional resources for storytelling in your classroom. And here is a video featuring a fabulous teacher (Dagne Furth) who has created an entire high school course around storytelling. Called "Storytelling Agency", this course merges traditional and digital storytelling with active global citizenship, service learning and design thinking.
If you'd like to create an innovative course like Dagne's, listen to what she has to share in the video. Her story also highlights the power of storytelling to create positive change in our world. Brain science would tell us we need more classes like Storytelling Agency in our schools.
I hope you enjoy the resources from this week's post. Please email me if you have any questions about storytelling, service learning and global citizenship. :)
Links about Storytelling:
1. How Stories Connect and Persuade Us (NPR Article)
2. Storytelling as a Teaching Strategy (TeachHub Article)
3. Twelve Ways to Integrate Storytelling in the Classroom (Vista Higher Learning Article)
4. Storytelling Games for Elementary Classrooms (YouTube Video)
Below: The Plot Mountain Exercise we used at our ECSL Meeting. You could adapt this to any classroom activity for reflection or as an anticipatory set. The Word version of this document is accessible at the bottom of this post.
Spending time in nature affects us and our students in so many positive ways.
It reduces stress, calms the mind and helps us become more present. It allows us to understand and appreciate natural systems and can kindle a passion for environmental stewardship. It sparks creativity and gets us moving. It is an excellent way to build purposeful service and sustainability experiences for students. There are so many reasons why we should go outside!
If your school campus is in a green area, it might seem easier to align learning experiences with time outside. For teachers in urban settings, this may feel like a challenge, but nature and outdoor educator Kenny Peavy feels every educator can find ways of connecting nature to classroom learning, either by finding pockets of accessible nature or by bringing outdoor elements inside the classroom.
Kenny works at the Bali Green School where he regularly holds classes outside and takes students on nature walks to discover plants, insects and natural systems. He has been a passionate nature/outdoor/experiential educator for many years and in the videos below shares his experiences and wisdom.
Kenny has also written and published a book called The Box People, along with a resource guide for teachers to use the book and align content with the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (resource linked at the end of this post). The guide is full of purposeful learning prompts and printables, and Kenny hopes to inspire teachers and students to get outside, value nature and consider sustainable ways of living.
The three videos (below) capture Kenny's reflections on how he teaches in/with nature at Bali Green School, his experience writing and publishing The Box People (if you've been thinking about self-publishing a book, you will find valuable tips here), and advice for teachers in urban settings.
After the videos, you can find a downloadable version of Kenny's resource guide, as well as some links to additional sources of information about how to inspire students to value and love the natural world. Happy exploring!
This website founded by outdoor educator Alex Moxon is replete with excellent resources and ideas for nature/outdoor/experiential education
Created by a team of Canadian educators, this site has many resources for educators including some PD opportunities in this realm.
This site is particularly useful for resources and ideas related to gardening and planting outside. There are some excellent resources here for elementary educators.
Digital storytelling can take SO many different forms in a school setting.
It can be super simple and involve a classroom assignment that involves photography or animation. It can take shape as a classroom or grade-level website (like IMPACT, the grade 5 storytelling site featured in a blog story a few weeks ago).
And digital storytelling can also involve a team of educators, students and leaders to encompass a school-wide storytelling platform.
Featured in this post is an example of a school-wide site called Citizen C at Concordia International School Shanghai. This digital storytelling site began as a grassroots movement spearheaded by a handful of teachers who used Square Space to launch a site where they all published stories they felt mattered to the community and the world. It grew to include dozens of student storytellers who posted articles, photos, videos, original music compositions, podcasts and infographics. It even became a hub for live-streaming drama productions and concerts when parents couldn't access campus because of Covid, as well as a place where recordings of those arts showcases could be curated after the fact.
After just a year, Citizen C became a powerful platform for advocacy, awareness and the creation of culture at Concordia. Not only did it allow students and teachers to share important stories that aligned with school values and global competencies; it also inspired conversation and action around these themes, resulting in a strengthened resolve to work towards the school's Student Learner Outcomes (SLOs). In particular, the outcomes of "active global citizen" and "effective communicator" slid into focus, front and centre.
Below is a short video that walks you through the format and function of Citizen C and explains its genesis. I hope it will give you some ideas about what this might look like at your school.
In addition, I want to remind you that "Becoming a Digital Storyteller", a 4-week course for educators, begins on February 10, 2022! The registration deadline is next week, February 3, 2022, so click on the registration link to secure your spot. There will be two cohorts for this course, an East Asia and African cohort, and I am excited to launch into this meaningful work soon! Any questions? Send me an email and I would love to hear from you. :)
A screenshot of one page from Citizen C from the "Global Citizenship" tab.
This week on the blog I am excited to share two things: a story and an announcement about a new online course coming in February!
The story is about d'Arcy Lunn. d'Arcy is a passionate and purposeful changemaker who is the founder of Teaspoons of Change. He is currently working on a carbon mapping project for the Dulwich group of schools and has spent years teaching students and teachers about sustainable living. I have known d'Arcy since 2015 and recently recorded a zoom interview with him to explore his journey as an active global citizen. If you are an educator who cares about global citizenship and sustainability, this story will inspire you. You could share this story with your students or with other educators, or simply enjoy it yourself as a way to connect with d'Arcy and his vision for a more sustainable world. Please feel free to share this link!
In addition, I am excited to announce that I will be launching a new 4-week online course to help teachers become digital storytellers! The course will begin on February 10, 2022, and will involve two hours of engagement each week (one hour of synchronous learning and one hour of asynchronous learning). If you have wondered about digital storytelling and how to bring this powerful tool into your classroom, this 4-week course will equip you with everything you need. :)
Here is a link to the course info page.
And a link right to the course enrollment page.
The poster below is a JPEG file so the links in this image aren't active but correspond to the links above. I am excited about this course because I love digital storytelling and have seen, multiple times, how it is a powerful and purposeful tool to:
* create deep learning and engagement with our curriculum
* develop mindsets for active global citizenship and global competencies
* cultivate communication and action skills
* raise awareness, promote advocacy and build cultures of service and sustainability in our classrooms and schools
Join me and a group of like-minded educators for this 4-week session! Any questions? Shoot me an email. I'd love to hear from you.
This photo was taken in my backyard for our family Canadian Thanksgiving celebration in October 2021.
When it comes to sustainability, food is a topic most people can relate to and understand. We all eat, and some of us grow gardens, cook, bake and think a lot about food. And, over the last number of decades, our food options have exploded, allowing us many more choices than our grandparents or great-grandparents imagined possible.
Michael Pollan, in his book In Defense of Food, says that "eaters have real choices now, and those choices have real consequences, for our health and the health of the land and the health of our food culture." So true!
We know that what we eat affects our bodies and our local ecosystems, and most people are aware of the link between what we eat (or don't) and climate change (did you know, for instance, that approximately 25 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions each year is related to agriculture, and that beef has an enormously high carbon footprint?). Yet it can seem overwhelming to understand how to approach our plates and palates with a more sustainable lens.
As teachers, we can learn alongside our students if we bring issues of food sustainability into our classrooms. Even the youngest learners can explore what it means to eat in a healthy and responsible way, and how to grow simple plants in a class or school garden. Older learners can unpack complex issues such as root causes of unfair food distribution and the impact of food waste on our climate. In any discipline, there are many ways to engage our students in these conversations, to literally bring food sustainability to the table in our learning environments.
To get started, check out the interview below with Eric Jakah, a young leader in a community called Vumilia in the Rift Valley, Kenya. Eric has been at the forefront of helping his community grow food, and he is exploring new techniques such as aquaponics and no-till agriculture as solutions for the future.
Below the embedded video are links to provide some starting points for planning curriculum around food and sustainability, too. Because I love stories, I have included some links for wonderful books (for readers of all ages) that can serve as a foundation for units of study.
I hope these resources are helpful! :)
Resources for teaching about sustainable food:
Younger learners (PK - grade 6):
* www.readerstoeaters.com/our-books?category=Garden (a wonderful collection of picture books about food and gardening)
* www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/14431165-potatoes-on-rooftops (a fabulous children's book about urban farming and more)
* www.tomsofmaine.com/good-matters/helping-hands/teaching-kids-sustainable-food-practices (some simple things anyone can do)
Older learners (grade 7 - 12):
* www.animalvegetablemiracle.com/ (Barbara Kingsolver's blog and book about sustainable gardening)
* michaelpollan.com/books/ (Michael Pollan has written many non-fiction books about food; these make a great starting point for high school learners to rethink what's on their plates)
* gdswithmrslav.weebly.com/unit-3-food--farming.html (As part of a class I taught for several years called Global Development Studies, I developed this online unit about food and farming; don't worry about completing the assignments listed on this page - unless you want to! - but check out the videos and links. There is a lot to learn here).
Also, a big shoutout to my good friend Anthony Reich, the Director of Global Citizenship at Dulwich College Pudong in Shanghai. At his school, they produce a sustainability newsletter each week and this week the topic is Sustainable Gardening, a wonderful connection to these ideas. Here is a copy of his excellent newsletter (which contains even more resources!).