Fiona Buchanan's Story

I am new at the school and worked with a group of students I have not worked with before (Grade 11 Leadership students). The students were incredibly engaged with the inquiry and the resources we used (SLS Action Packs). The most important observation I made from the overall experience was the empowerment the students felt after finishing the projects. Because the students were required to take actions and because the actions were “doable” students felt like they were actually making a difference. The students commented several times on how surprised they were at the impact the small actions made in their own lives and in the lives of their family, friends, neighbourhood, and community.

Because the class is a Leadership class that also covers the Planning 10 curriculum, it was the perfect venue to look at the curriculum elements of Planning 10 in more detail. We used the Student Leadership in Sustainability action packs from Be the Change Earth Alliance. The students explored topics including GMO’s, plastics, chemicals, local foods, organics, connecting with neighbours, and more. Students took independent approaches to their lessons to their peers on the topics they chose.

The action packs were an amazing resource that supported the students perfectly. The entire process was incredibly successful for my class.

I facilitated the beginning of the process for the first action pack, using the lesson plans and resources Be the Change had already provided. Once the students were moving through their action packs, I only supported them. The students were “forced” to interact with their communities and each other (which was one of the best parts of the entire program). Local farmers, families, and students’ neighbours were all involved in the students’ exploration and research into their actions and inquiries.

The students were changed after doing the action packs. I can confidently say that most of them continued to work on their action goals and work toward healthier and more sustainable lifestyles. They came up with their own tips and tricks for each other to support the entire class in also making positive actions toward change. The students were so engaged; it was all they could talk about. You know when the students are talking about it weeks after the project is finished that they have successfully “learned”.

Although the class I had was generally quite invested in the course (since it is a leadership class and not just a regular planning course), the students were able to make measureable changes. They filled out surveys before and after each section and reflected on their differences. From this inquiry I learned that with the right tools, you can easily incorporate real and meaningful project based lessons. It has inspired me to take action in all my classes and try to explicitly connect real world consequences to each lesson regardless of what course I am teaching and what resources I am fortunate enough to have access to (ie. SLS program).

The most important thing I learned is that it is not difficult or hard to change my teaching practice to be more of an active participant in sustainability initiatives. I did not have to re-invent the wheel or use up a lot of my time. In fact, I believe using this resource was easier in the end. I would tell others not to be afraid to try new things because you never know what kind of an impact you could make on even a single student and the effects of that could be incredible and very meaningful for the future of sustainability.

- From Fiona's Healthy Schools Network 2015 report, and re-shared here, unchanged or edited.


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