"The inquiry was very powerful and increased awareness about our buying patterns and the impact on the environment of our culture of consumerism."
PART 1: Tell us about the learners at your school. (Gathering Evidence/Scanning)
(E.g. what did you notice about the experience of your learners that was most important to your work? Are you a rural, urban or new school?)
We are a grade 8-12 high school with 950 students located in Vernon, a small city in the Okanagan (greater Vernon area population is approx.60,000) Our area draws from a mix of socio-economic backgrounds and we are a newly built school. The inquiry project was done as part of our new Social Justice 12 course.
PART 2: What did you do? (Focus and Plan, New Learning)
(What keys areas of health and learning did you focus on? What were your driving questions? What contributed to the need to address health and learning at your school? What did you do to make things better? What tools/resources did you use?)
We used the inquiry grant to purchase access to the amazing Be the Change Earth Alliance online and downloadable materials for our new Social Justice 12 class. We focused on Conscious Consumption as part of our Consumerism and Sustainable Development unit – (Driving question: “how does consumerism impact the environment?” ) Student groups of three or four conducted an inquiry into eight different aspects of this, including Pre-cycling (giving real thought to purchases before buying), Costly Trends, Disposables, Recycling, Packaging, Waste going into the river, Organic Waste, and the acidity of our oceans. Each student group reported their learning back to the class as a whole in creative presentations.
PART 3: How did it go? (Taking Action)
(E.g. What actions or strategies did you decide on? Who was involved? What type of support did you gather? How were students involved? What new areas of professional learning did you explore? What difference did this make for students and the school community? How did this impact students’ learning?)
The student presentations were very powerful, led to great class discussion, increased awareness about these critical issues and additionally led to some great actions.
As a class we volunteered our time working for an organization called Gleaners, where imperfect or close to date fruits and vegetables that may otherwise have been thrown out by grocery stores is collected, chopped up, dehydrated and turned into nutritious soup mix that is sent out to feed the hungry internationally. Several of our students did individual volunteering at Gleaners in addition to our class time. One of our students volunteered at an orphanage in Guatemala over spring break and was delighted to report that the children were eating Gleaners soup mix!
Students wrote individual letters to the premier or prime minister asking for specific action to be taken and for changes in legislation. We asked for responses and hope to hear back.
Students proudly modeled thrift store purchases and hand me downs, as did I. Several of our students volunteered at the Salvation Army Thrift Store. Part of the grad fashion show featured Value Village items (very cool!)
PART 4: What are your reflections and how can you build on your efforts? (Reflect & Evaluate)
(E.g. what change was evident? What did you use as a baseline for evidence of change? What did you learn from the inquiry? What is most important for you to learn to build on your efforts to sustain changes for your students and in your school? What advice do you have for others.
The inquiry was very powerful and increased awareness about our buying patterns and the impact on the environment of our culture of consumerism. In addition to the environmental impacts human rights issues in sweatshops producing items for the more privileged in the world were very apparent.
I believe that the students are agents for change and will educate and lead by example. I am hopeful that there will be some response to the letters written to government. Pride in thrift store fashion is another great thing to see, as is student volunteering efforts.
Next time through I will have a better sense of timing, I specifically started the unit during Canadian Environment Week (first part of June) but next time will do this earlier in the semester to allow for more time for action.
*This story was originally shared on the Healthy Schools BC Stories Map.