For Mr. Macleod’s grade six students at Black River Public School in Sutton, participation in the Environmental Leaders of Tomorrow program became the spark for a much larger cross-curricular, multifaceted action project.
After their visit to Lake St. George Field Centre in January, students were inspired and eager to improve the natural environment at their school. This school was also chosen to be part of a pilot project funded by First Book Publications, BMO and Compugen to support student learning through the use of technology. Through this funding, each student in the class received their very own Chromebook to keep.
Using the overarching theme of “agents of change,” students began their inquiry project by using their laptops to research environmental topics of interest to them. Topics included bats, bees, amphibians, compost, garden, birds, butterflies and polar bears/climate change. In small groups, the students used their laptops to develop an infographic and an interactive slide deck on their topic of interest.
As the knowledge and curiosity of the students grew, so did the depth of their action project. They engaged other students at their school by leading a knowledge-sharing circle with some of the younger grades. They also partnered with another local school that also received technology funding.
Students at both schools met for a day of collaboration to share their presentations and learn how to provide positive and constructive feedback to each other. Students returned to the classroom to polish their presentations in preparation for a special parent information night in May where they had the opportunity to host their families at the school, present their inquiry questions and showcase their work.
In addition to knowledge sharing with fellow students, neighbouring schools and parents, the students were also eager to make use of our Schoolyard Biodiversity Grant to increase the natural habitat in their schoolyard.
Since the school is part of a much larger multi-use complex that includes the local Catholic elementary school and a municipal community centre, the students soon discovered the extent of effort and leadership required to prompt change in their local environment.
They did not shy away from the challenge. With the guidance of their teacher, students attended and presented their plan to the facility’s multi-use steering committee.
With the full support of all parties, the students got the go-ahead to plant a pollinator garden. They also received permission to install bird feeders, bird houses, bat boxes and hummingbird feeders.
The students considered every aspect of their proposal, including the establishment of a partnership with the Town of Georgina to jointly maintain the newly planted gardens. Students also managed to find time to set up a new composting bin and organic waste collection program for the Black River Public School community.
The extensive action project undertaken by Black River Public School is an exceptional example of how natural and environmental science can be successfully embedded in all facets of education and can result in a deeper learning experience for students.
It was clear that the students had a strong grasp of the concepts learned during their participation in the Environmental Leaders of Tomorrow program and had gained the confidence to apply what they had learned in real-world settings.