Earth Day Climate Action Challenge
I am currently teaching a Business Leadership Class combined with a Green Industries Class. As such, the business portion has been focused on industries related to emerging Green Technologies and Green Tourism such as agriculture, forestry, landscaping, and horticulture. We live in a UNESCO biosphere and are an Ecoschool, so relating our curriculum to these topics is very important to us. Over-tourism is a huge issue in our area, so we wanted to explore how businesses in our area can continue to grow while also being aware of the impact of this growth on the environment. We came up with the idea of a school-wide Climate Action challenge. We based the idea off of the show The Amazing Race and planning ensued.
Students knew they wanted to incorporate the entire school. They knew they wanted to make Earth Day fun and not just assign a road clean-up. They felt that – though important – a roadside clean-up did not shed light on the issues noted above. They wanted to show students you can learn about climate change and sustainability while also having fun. Further, they wanted to include the entire community to show the issue is going to take all of us on board to tackle. Finally, they wanted to show that you can plan cheap and fun activities while having as little impact on the environment as possible (relating back to Eco-tourism initiatives).
Students were cognizant of the fact the little Kindergarten and Grade One students would not be able to handle the rigour of a true Amazing Race activity, so we discussed how we could make the activities age-appropriate. The students decided grades K-3 would stay at our school and complete an on-site nature scavenger hunt. They would have age-appropriate challenges (finding pinecones or making nature shapes with their bodies etc.) and then earn puzzle pieces. We would make the puzzles ourselves and paint nature scenes on the puzzles. The junior grades 4-6 would be divided into four groups and go to the beachfront (which is near our school) and participate in four different activities. It took some planning, as we had to reach out to other community members, but eventually it was decided the activities would be a beach clean-up, a sandcastle building contest, a recycling sorting activity, and a fishing sustainability challenge. Students rotated through two of the stations spending about 30 minutes at each. Finally, the grades 7-12 were divided into 32 mixed groups with four to six students in each. They were then further divided into colour quadrants: blue, green, yellow and red. This meant there were about eight groups assigned to a colour quadrant. The quadrants were also tied to a LSF goal: red was Infrastructure, green was Good Health, yellow was Poverty, and blue was Water. Each group was given a map and scorecard and sent with a teacher to one of the four quadrants in our town. Students would participate in a variety of challenges (staying inside their quadrant) and earn points on the scorecard. Upon completion, students would return to the school and the winners would receive a prize of some sort.
After the basic outline was complete, it came time for reaching out to community members. Because students were going to be running around town, we would need the community to be on board. Students called the local Municipality and we arranged to use four local spaces for free: the arena, pavilion, Rotary Hall and fire hall. We decided at each of these locations we would ask local community members to be stationed and ready to talk to kids about local climate and/or eco-tourism initiatives. The response was overwhelming. We had several local groups volunteer to be at the stations either talking to the grade 7-12 groups about topics such as hiking the Bruce Trail and Hydroponics or leading one of the primary or junior groups in the recycling sorting or fishing sustainability activity. In total, we had over 15 presenters. We had also reached out to the school at Neyaashiingmiig, as well as Cape Croaker Park, and invited members from the school and community to attend. The entire school came to join us for the day, as well as several Indigenous Knowledge speakers who came to present.
My five keen business students then spent a month designing activities, making the maps and scorecards, coming up with trivia questions, painting puzzle pieces, finding materials for all of the challenges (such as recycled boxes for the tower challenge and buckets for the sandcastle activity), collecting single whole punchers for the scoring (this is an environmentally friendly option and meant we wouldn’t need pens or pencils), and designating groups and a supervision schedule for the teachers (they had teacher input and support on that last part). The last part was deciding on the prizes. We knew we had a limited budget, and the point of the day was actually to complete these activities using as many found materials as possible. However, the students felt strongly that they wanted an eco-friendly prize of some kind for all the hard work, especially for the grade 7-12 students who would be completing the challenges. During one of our many meetings, one of the students suggested trees. This is why we had to ask for the LSF funding. We wanted to be able to give out trees to the students. We called Grey Sauble Conservation, as well as a few local nurseries and got prices. We decided, even with funding, we could not afford to give all the students (including the guests from Neyaashiingmiig) trees. One of the students figured out that we could afford to give all the students from grades K-6 a tree, and we could have the winning teams from the 7-12 challenge do a tug of war in front of the whole school to determine the winner and give those groups larger/older trees. Out of this idea, came the final idea for a pep rally. So, it was planned that all of the groups would participate in their activities from 12:30pm to 1:45pm. After which, all of the groups would come back to the school for a Climate Action Pep Rally. They were treated to hot chocolate (students were asked to bring a metal water bottle in advance to reduce waste) and gathered on our back hill for our Indigenous land acknowledgement, tug of war with the 7-12 groups, and handing out of trees. We were able to keep the trees a secret right to the end and the kids went wild when we announced it.
On the day of, students had a lot of running around to do. We had to go to all of the stations to get them ready in advance, meet with each age group in our gymnasium, explain the activities and then send them to their locations, hand out maps, get the microphone, tables, hot chocolate and trees ready, and then also lead a group during the challenges. It was a crazy day, but it was a huge success! Everyone had a blast and the whole community supported the efforts of our students.
Reflection & Celebration
After the event, we had so many compliments from community members who had seen students running around. The speakers and presenters commented on what a great idea it was and that we should duplicate it with adults. They said students were polite, engaged, and eager. Our guests from Neyaashiingmiig were happy to have been invited and said it was the start of many more joint projects. Students in the class also had to submit a report as part of their final assessment. Many commented on how much they learned about themselves as leaders and that it inspired them to see so many kids come together for something they had created.
Check out our tug-of-war video!