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!).
In September, two grade 5 teachers from St. Andrew's Episcopal School in Austin, Texas, wondered if they could create a digital storytelling platform that would create deep learning and engagement for students as well as awareness and action in the school community. Three months after their initial idea: the launch of Impact, a purposeful and powerful digital storytelling hub for students, teachers, parents and other members of the St. Andrew's community.
Michele Turner and Mark Garcia, the two educators leading this initiative, care a lot about their students and about the state of affairs on planet Earth. Advocates for peace, environmental sustainability, equity, inclusion and belonging, Michele and Mark are passionate about helping students engage with global issues, the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals, and principles of sustainability.
Michele (a teacher at several top international schools in various parts of the world before returning to the US in 2020) had contributed to a digital storytelling platform at her last international school and could see it was a way to build community and tell success stories about what was happening in innovative classrooms. She wanted to bring this storytelling approach to St. Andrew's to create a space where students would be thoroughly and actively engaged. Mark, a language arts teacher who loves storytelling and who brings a social justice lens to many units of study, was keen to join Michele. Together, they tackled the tech aspects of creating a website and managing posts, and the results - even in the first month of publishing content - have been powerful.
"I am excited to see my students working on their Impact stories," comments Michele. "They really want to get their work published because they care about the issues they're learning and writing about. You can see they're very motivated to succeed, and a lot of that has to do with their emerging passion for what they're learning about the world. I can see their communication skills improving quickly, as well as their critical thinking skills; having Impact as an end product or goal is really pushing the students to see how their learning in the classroom is connected to bigger issues in the community and world."
Mark agrees. He says that in his current novel study (of Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan), students can connect themes in the novel to the Sustainable Development Goals and issues of migration, socioeconomic inequalities and belonging.
"Michele and I came up with the three categories for posting on Impact - people, planet and perspective - as a way to help students understand they can communicate about what they're learning in a way that leads to positive change," says Mark. "Our school community cares about working towards a more just, equitable and kind world, and we think Impact can help with that mission."
To get started in realizing their goal of creating a digital storytelling platform, Michele and Mark partnered up with me and my husband Brian (international educator and tech wizard). We met online for four 2-hour coaching sessions where we supported Mark and Michele in designing and planning the site, and navigating the tech side of creating a site and posting a variety of media. As well, we spent time each week discussing mindsets for purposeful global citizenship, and how to help students engage with ideas and action in ways that would be open, fair, humble, curious and respectful.
The coaching partnership was rich, fun and positive, and equipped Michele and Mark with the time, resources and support they needed to achieve their goal and launch Impact. That happened at the beginning of December, with school administrators and parents attending a class launch event that celebrated the power of storytelling.
"We're excited to see how Impact will grow as we continue to post articles, videos and photos," says Michele. "Already parents and administrators have contacted us to engage around ideas, and we think this can be a powerful way of living out our school's mission."
You can visit Impact HERE.
Below is a video interview with Michele and Mark where you can hear them talk about the creation of Impact and how it's possible for any educator to get started with digital storytelling. If you're interested in creating your own digital storytelling platform for your classroom or school, get in touch and I would love to partner with you as a coach. By sharing your stories, you'll be participating in creating a culture of global awareness and citizenship at your school: what a powerful way to build authentic and meaningful global competencies for all. I'd love to hear from you!
I was recently working with a teacher who wanted to post some visual prompts in her classroom to remind students to remain curious and open-minded when engaged with service learning, when reflecting and when making connections between the Sustainable Development Goals and community assets/needs. In response to our conversation, I created some posters she could print and post in her classroom, and I wanted to make those same posters available here. If they are useful and you'd like to use these in your classroom, please feel free. Screenshots of the posters are featured above, and you can download the posters as A3/11x17 files by entering your email address in the space below. Please feel free to pass these along to colleagues who might want to post visual reminders for students in their classrooms, too! :)
11/9/2021 0 Comments
Reflection is a key, foundational component to service learning and global citizenship education. When we ask students to pause and reflect on what they're learning, we give them opportunities to synthesize and process their learning experiences, and to understand themselves and the world in deeper and more meaningful ways. That's why reflection is the stage of service learning that surfaces everywhere in the 5-stage cycle. If we're purposeful, we can embed meaningful reflection tasks into all of our service learning and global citizenship experiences.
And what can meaningful reflection look like? We might immediately think of journalling as a reflection tool, and journalling can definitely be valuable. But if it's the only strategy we use, students may disengage with it because of over-exposure. Also, students who have alternative learning strengths (kinesthetic, visual, etc.) may miss the opportunity to reflect in ways that help them maximize their ability to think deeply about something they have just experienced.
I have found most teachers want to grow in this area so they can offer a variety of reflection tasks and prompts that appeal to a wide variety of learners and keep students fully engaged during all reflection activities. Enter your email address below to download a guide I have created featuring ideas for written reflection, oral reflection and kinesthetic reflection. Please feel free to use it and share it, and I hope you find the ideas add value to what you are doing in your classroom.
I'd love to know what your favourite reflection prompts/activities are, too! Please share your thoughts in the comments.
I am excited to share a new resource with you! I have been working on this one for several weeks and I have put together a kit for teachers that explores five superpowers you can activate in your classroom or school to equip students to become changemakers. After decades of working with teachers in service learning and global citizenship, I realize that many teachers want to do more in their classrooms to equip students to become active global citizens and sometimes it's daunting to know where to start. Start with these five superpowers! To get this free resource, all you need to do is go to my contact page and sign up for my email list. I will send it to you right away! The link to my contact page is HERE.