Students Thinking about Sustainability

My students have been thinking about the sustainability of our planet, and our ways of living on it.  I’ve had my English Language Arts students [grade ten students] working through a unit that I’ve called The Necessary Revolution.   The title is not very original, as I’ve lifted if from a great book by Peter Senge, but it works.  Students

Chris Jordan

began the unit with an introduction to Chris Jordan  and his work and message.   They watched short videos, viewed much of his artwork digitally, and read from his blog.  They were asked to respond to Chris’ message in writing by posting their thoughts and opinions as comments on my blog.  They also began to study a list of essential vocabulary; words like unsustainable, sustainability, necessary, revolution, citizenship, etc.  Next, the students viewed the documentary The 11th Hour.  While viewing, student took notes of important facts, information, and viewpoints, and we stopped the film constantly having good discussions.  After viewing, my students were expected to write a written response to the film.  Follow the link bellow to read their responses (please leave us some feedback).  

Another activity I’ve had on the go, is a small-scale tree planting project.  I’ve had students in three homerooms in the school planting white spruce tree seedlings.  We’ve planted them in small pots to keep in the room for the winter, to care for them, and then eventually move them to a more permanent home in the spring.  My students have been measuring, and watering their trees.   They’ve even tagged and named their trees. 

All of this is just a start, yet I feel that we are heading in the right direction.  

Follow the links below to read my students responses, and please, leave us some feedback. 

Student responses to Chris Jordan, his work and his message. 

Student responses to the film The 11th Hour.

Trees . . . I’ve Got Trees!

In much of my reading and viewing of information about the Necessary Revolution, I’ve been affected by the power of trees.  In Suzuki Speaks, David Suzuki talks quite inspiringly about the importance of trees on our planet, as do many important scientists in the film The 11th Hour.  At some point, through discussions with co-workers (namely Dylan Johns) I came up with the idea of getting trees for the students at our school. 

sustainabilityI have two tree planting projects in mind, one smaller, and one quite large (from my perspective).  I would like to plant trees indoor (inside our classroom) as soon as possible with my homeroom and with a couple of other teacher’s homeroom classrooms in the school as well.  The idea here is to have students take care of the tree seedlings for the rest of the school year, and at the end of the year, they will take them home to plant in their yard. 

The larger project that I have in mind is to provide one tree seedling to each of our students in the school – we have about 500 students and about 50 staff members at Martin Collegiate.  I would think that this would work best in the spring time – likely March or April.  Each student will take home a seedling to plant in their yard, or to plant in a place that they can be attached to.

ChariTree2Originally, I had attempted to get trees from our provincial crown power corporation.  That was a process that just didn’t feel quite right.  This corporation uses the waste heat produced by one of its power plants aid in growing over 500,000 seedlings each year which are ChariTreegiven away for various reasons and projects.   After finding the proper contact person, I was directed to some extensive paper-work.  Unfortunately, the application is somewhat of a lottery, through which I will have to wait until April to find out whether or not I will receive any of the requested tree seedlings.  I completed the application, but as I have stated, that just did not feel quite right. 

Shortly after, I found the Love Trees web-site of Andrea Koehle Jones.  Andrea is Executive Director of Love Trees as well as the ChariTree Foundation.  What a godsend!  She responded promptly, agreed that she thought my projects were great, and said that she was happy to provide trees for both of my projects as LoveTrees.cawell as shipping (so there will be no cost to me or our school).  After receiving such an exceptional response from Andrea, I did a little searching, and found out that she is also the author of the children’s environmental picture book The Wish Trees.  I bought the book as a gift for my girls (along with Suzuki’s Tree: A Life Story for me).The Wish Trees

“If children are going to make a lifelong commitment to protect the environment for themselves and future generations, they first need time to explore the wonders of nature,” said Andrea Koehle Jones, Executive Director of Love Trees.  She says one of the best ways to learn about the environment is to plant, care for and watch a seedling grow into a magnificent tree.

 I couldn’t agree with her more.  I know first hand how this has helped me.  Planting a tree from a seedling has made that tree special to me, and I still have the tree that I planted as a child.  This is exactly what I hope to see take place with this project. 

Andrea has notified me that Love Trees is a member of the United Nations Billion Tree Campaign.  The trees that we are planting will help the UN reach this very substantial goal.  I feel pretty good about that.