By Stephanie Bartlett
When five year olds become social activists, what are the skills they need? How can they turn a passion or curiosity into a positive action that can influence society? My students’ most recent interest is climate change. Rather than be overwhelmed by the magnitude of this task, we are working to redefine the notion of community. This work starts with compassion. We live meaningfully and we listen. When we care for our space and the natural environment, we become able to look at the world and do our part to divert us from potential crisis. Climate change and the market economy are real threats to our planetary nature. We invited our students to take action in order to create change in our local community and beyond. Our five year-old students say they can do this and want to make a difference. Here is our story, aiming to inspire others with the notion that if we start local, change is possible.
Kindergarten students are learning the process of planning social action. We recently hosted a Sweater Swap / Echange des chandails for our community at the school’s Take Action Fair. First, we identified a cause that was important to us. We are concerned about the Arctic, so we planned to raise awareness about climate change by celebrating National Sweater Day in our school.
Then, we organized a campaign, inviting the community to donate gently used sweaters.
We spent a few weeks designing posters to educate the school and we worked with the growing number of sweaters in our classrooms.
We sorted the sweaters into colours and patterns, counted them, and organized them into groups of small, medium and large. Traditional math and literacy skills were embedded in their project work.
We had parent and grandparents come and teach us how to crochet and knit.
We researched arctic animals and created an arctic habitat in our dramatic play centre and the block centre became a market with booths to practice selling sweaters.
We built the market in the hallway and sold many sweaters.
We even measured the length of our customers’ arms to get the right fit!
After we counted the money, we wrote a letter to the World Wildlife Fund explaining how we earned over $200.00 to help protect the animals in the Arctic. The sweaters that we didn’t sell will be donated and sent to Haiti to be remade into different materials.Through these community initiatives, students are learning to be ethical citizens by caring for our planet and earning money to donate to the common good.