By Kirstie Parker, High School Science Teacher, East Campus
Our Foundation IB (FIB) programme Science course has always provided students with great opportunities to acquire research and evaluation skills in order to expand their scientific knowledge. This year we concluded our FIB Science programme with a project that not only allowed students to demonstrate their research skills, but also enabled them to learn how science can be used to work towards a peaceful and sustainable future.
Sustainability, ecological footprint and climate change are buzzwords we commonly hear, but it was clear to us that many students didn’t understand the true meaning of these words.
“Before we started this project I personally thought that sustainability just means the uses of plastics and not throwing rubbish carelessly, not knowing that it is actually more than that,” said Lusi, a student.
This year we rewrote our entire unit on Sustainability to ensure that students not only know how to reduce their ecological footprint, but also feel inspired to make change - no matter how small.
The driving question was: "How can we help our community to become more sustainable?" Mireille Couture, Head of Environmental Systems and Societies, kicked the project off by sharing about the definition and various models of sustainability.
We learned about the interconnectedness of environmental, social and economic aspects and discussed whether some were more important than others. Students also calculated their ecological footprint and were staggered to find out that if everybody on Earth used the same amount of resources as they do, we would require at least four Earths. They were realising just how much resource they used and questioning which of their actions were the biggest contributors.
Students were given the role of “sustainability consultants” and allocated a teacher-client. They diligently prepared interview questions and nervously met their clients for the f irst time to find out more about their lifestyles. Then, they began researching. At first, they discussed cutting down on air travel, recycling and reusable bags, but as they delved deeper into research, the solutions became more creative. By the second week they were discussing sustainable credit cards, toiletries, cat products and the differences between the A380 and A350 airplanes (the A350 is much more sustainable!).
In their final client meetings, students presented a website containing the culmination of all their research. Collaboration with Digital Perspectives meant that students learnt about the Science behind sustainable choices, and how to create a website which includes podcasts, infographics and a space for client feedback. As the world has seen from Greta Thunberg, to be an environmentalist is no longer a private affair: we need advocates to share their thinking so others can join in for the greater good of our planet. Learning to design media that is accessible, articulate and convincing is a 21st century skill. If technology can amplify our voices, don't we have a responsibility as a UWC to use those tools in accordance with our mission?
We could not have been more impressed with the students’ professionalism and articulation of their findings. The students valued having an authentic audience for their learning and it is clear that they haven’t simply learned about sustainability with their brains – the lessons have also snuck into their hearts. The final reflections from the students demonstrate their takeaways from this project and we couldn’t be more excited to do this again next year, this time maybe with parents as clients!
“The group gave background knowledge and practical steps for moving forward - I can make changes today that will support my own wellbeing, my pocket and local and global sustainability - what a win!” said High School Vice Principal Cathy Jones.
“During this project I have learned that our world is in a lot more danger than I thought it was, and I am contributing to this danger in more ways I could have imagined”. - Pranav
“I learned that we don’t have to do something big, we can start from small things.” - Gloria
“My engagement in this sustainability Project opened out a new window of thoughts for me and not only made me evaluate my client’s sustainability but also made me keep a toll on mine.” - Sri
“On an environmental note, it is heartwarming to see young people deeply involved by their teachers in this subject. They will certainly keep advocating these ideas and behaviors.” - Sabine Veron