ND S.O.A.P (Saving Oceans and Planet)
How can we keep marine ecosystems safe and improve access to clean drinking water for Indigenous communities living in northern Canada?
My students began by unpacking the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. After researching independently, they pitched why their choice should be the global goal of choice to guide our action project to each other. As a class, they voted on SDG #14: Life Below Water. Next, students learned that we would be creating a social enterprise and that we need to find a local charity that could be the recipient of our fundraising. They researched and then produced a podcast episode on their charity of choice. Again, students listened to each other’s episodes and voted on a worthy recipient. We are now partnered with True North Aid, as they have water projects that work to build clean water infrastructure in northern Indigenous communities.
The next step was deciding on a product to sell that aligns with our mission of keeping life below water safe. We brainstormed as a class, “What are 15 ways we use water?”, and then “What are three products linked to each of these ways?”. From here, we narrowed down our product brainstorming to two ideas: Hoodies (which came from doing laundry) and Soap (which came from washing your hands and hygiene).
This is the point at which we experienced many challenges. As a class, we struggled to agree on which product was the right choice for us. Half the students felt very strongly that hoodies and “merch” are what teenagers are looking for right now. The others felt strongly that if we made natural, handmade soaps, that would be more in line with our mission of helping life below water as we would be reducing the amount of harmful chemicals people use in our daily hygiene products.
So, we hosted a Dragon’s Den with members of our community; our VP, some staff from the school board, grade 11 business students and a few business mentors from our community. Both teams pitched their products and after lots of meaningful feedback, we decided on soap.
We then officially became “ND S.O.A.P (Saving Oceans and Planet).”
Since then, we have engaged in lots of design thinking. We have faced many challenges so far. Two significant challenges include: how to make soap safely in our class, as making soap from scratch requires the use of lye solution which is corrosive and very dangerous. Another challenge came from learning from a local soap maker that fragrances and colours in soaps are not natural and can be harmful to marine ecosystems.
We went back to the drawing board both times and ended up purchasing a safe clear melt & pour base from Candora Soaps and coming up with the idea to make our soaps look like life below water. We did this by designing and printing 3D marine animals (tiny octopi, whales and turtles) and putting them in the soap along with some eucalyptus leaves that are meant to look like seaweed. Both items are compostable.
The students are well on their way in the project that required dividing and conquering tasks. Our business needed a product development team, a marketing team, a social media team, an “Ed Tech” team, Health and Safety, Finance, Storytelling, and so on. Each day, students sign up for tasks based on their interests that day and work toward selling enough soap to meet our fundraising goal of 2000 dollars for True North Aid while keeping our local water ecosystems safe and protected from harmful chemicals.
Reflection & Celebration
We will have an End of Year celebration with a cheque presentation from True North Aid and kind words from mentors and partners in our community.