Monday, January 19, 2015

Lessons in the Field...of Sustainability

by Stephanie Bartlett

We are creating. We are prototyping. We are learning. We are teaching. One spark builds upon the other as we take direction from our students.  The mission of the Chinook Park School Sustainability Project is to increase environmental sustainability and stewardship within the community through authentic task design. What does that look like? The work is two-fold. We are teaching the global message of recovering and recycling and we are looking closely at our math and language curriculum, using the strings of lights as an authentic experience.

The Kindergarten students began with a simple message to bring in broken strings of lights. When the first string arrived, students went straight to it with measuring tools and drawing materials. They drew patterns, counted groups of strings, and began to compare the length of the lights.
They presented their message, as only five year olds can, to other classes and to the school community at the Holiday Concert. “Recycle your broken Christmas lights!” “We will sell the strings to recover the copper, plastic and rubber inside.” “We will give the money to charity to save the universe!”
One student asked if we could stretch the lights around the school. So...we did! By this time, many classes in the school caught on. For two days, many classes were all engaged. The buzz was different. The questions were real. The conversations were deep.

Finally, all the lights were gathered up and our Eco Club took them to a scrap metal yard. We weighed the lights, toured the facility to see how the copper would get shredded and received our money.

Back at school, the students are asking questions about other metals and how we can recycle them. They need to research environmental organizations who might receive a portion of our profit. Another portion will stay at school to support our sustainability efforts. That is the beginning of our fourth sector business. What is a fourth sector business? A fourth sector business combines environmental and social initiatives with a viable business. Much of the profits are contributed to the common good, whether it be to the community or to the environment.

The teachers are looking closely at our work to document the full cycle of this initiative so that we can plan our next authentic project to link the school and community in their environmental efforts. National Sweater Day is on February 5, 2015 so get ready to turn down your thermostat and put on a colourful sweater to celebrate...
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