Students become teachers: Sustainable Development Goals in action

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by LeeAnne Lavender, HS Teacher & Service Learning Coach

At 8:30 one morning at the end of January, 18 nervous and excited high school students gathered up displays of information, teaching materials and courage and started on a journey across campus. Their destination? The fourth floor of the elementary school. Their challenge? To spend 90 minutes teaching fourth graders about eschewing consumerism and pursuing sustainabilty.

Fourth graders learning about the 100-mile-diet and how eating locally can reduce our carbon footprint and support local, sustainable food systems.

Fourth graders learning about the 100-mile-diet and how eating locally can reduce our carbon footprint and support local, sustainable food systems.

This dynamic cross-divisional experience occurred after fourth grade teacher Michele Turner learned about the high school students’ end-of-semester projects in December. In Global Development Studies, grade 11 and 12 students wrapped up their final unit of study by focussing on Sustainable Development Goal #12 (Responsible Consumption and Production). They researched counter-cultural movements around the world that promote a more sustainable and green lifestyle. Examples include the tiny house movement, minimalism, capsule wardrobes, buying locally, buying fair trade products, the zero waste lifestyle, the 100-mile diet and freeganism. When Mrs. Turner heard about this, she immediately thought about connections to her fourth grade curriculum and wondered if it might be possible to connect the students to foster some deeper learning.

Grade four students were divided into small groups that rotated between stations where the high school students taught and shared information. Each session lasted about 8-10 minutes, with a lot of engagement, questions and interaction between the elementary and secondary students.

“I really enjoyed teaching the grade four students!” exclaimed Savannah M., a Global Development Studies student. Savannah was smiling ear to ear as she made her way back to the high school building to resume her regular classes for the day.

The grade four students were also excited and energized by the cross-divisional activity. “My students’ hearts were stirred and a new spark ignited,” commented grade 4 teacher Jamie Halula.

For the GDS students, this was an exciting extension of the action component of the service learning cycle for their culminating unit. They had already used their research to teach peers at the high school level in a marketplace event in December, and to relay information to the larger Concordia community via the class website: https://concordiagds.weebly.com. Being able to share information with the grade four students provided another avenue to serve in an authentic way in relation to learning targets for the course.

Teachers are excited about extending this cross-divisional partnership in more ways during the second semester. Watch this space for updates about exciting developments!

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LeeAnne Lavender