OACS News Service
The shift was first sparked by their teacher Laurence Stassen piloting a different education approach called project-based learning.
Stassen began by using a variety of media to depict the beauty of the natural world. He then went on to show how humans are threatening Earth’s health, noting what scientists are predicting will happen if people don’t change their ways.
“It really affected the students at a heart level,” Stassen tells OACS News. One student described the learning experience as a “wake-up call.”
Sitting in a circle with the students, Stassen went on to ask them whether they thought they had the power to do something in response.
While they agreed they probably weren’t going to change laws, the students began talking about what they could do: namely, ignite a "wake up" in their community.
As they talked, ideas flowed, and they came up with a variety of ways to share what they learned around four areas of environmental concern — green energy, endangered species, loss of habitat and climate change.
The students formed their own groups, based on what they were passionate about, and from then on, Stassen says, his job was just to enable them to “make their ideas happen.”
As a passionate animal lover, student Nicolette researched endangered species. She studied the blue whale, including where it lives, what’s endangered it and what people can do to protect it. Her group designed pamphlets about several endangered species and what can be done to save them, and handed them out a local store.
“I’m really trying to be aware of what I’m doing that’s endangering species,” Nicolette says on how her thinking and action has changed as a result of being part of this project. This is especially the case when it comes to her purchase decisions, she says.
Zacchaeus and his group researched loss of habitat, particularly rainforests. They built a website to which they directed people to learn more. Zacchaeus says he’s trying to eat less red meat, knowing that rainforests are often reduced to create grazing land for cattle.
The class also held an eco fair in their school. Family
and community members were invited to come and learn at
the booths detailing the environmental concerns and how
people can respond.
The greatest possibility he sees in this approach, he adds, is that education becomes “authentic to students,” that is, they learn in ways and about content that has a direct impact on their community and the world.
“With traditional learning, what I often get from kids is, ‘Why do we have to know this?’ and I didn’t get that once through this whole enterprise; it was very refreshing,” Stassen says.
You can comment on this story by e-mailing michelle(at)axiomnews.ca.
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