Protecting Our Environment: A Collective Effort
Our vision for Canada is to be a country in which as many as possible are doing their part to reduce waste in landfills and recycle, reuse and/or reduce as much as possible. Our project focused on this through creating a recycling program in which paper and plastics are collected in each classroom of the school. As well, we are increasing education regarding this topic by creating and enacting a Virtual Reality lesson for students at Corner Brook Intermediate.
Our school is surrounded by wooded areas – on the other side of the road is a very important green space to our community, which is comprised of a wetlands, boreal forest, pond, and stream which is found in the middle of the community. By improving recycling of paper and bottles, we would be cutting down of waste that finds itself in the middle of the wetlands thus impacting the migratory bird, duck, Red Squirrel, and Eastern Chipmunk , populations, amongst others. The stream also is impacted as at times (especially during heavy rains), one can find bottles floating there down toward the pond, which can impact the swans that make their home there. The stream is also a protected salmon river with salmon ladders to encourage spawning.
Our school did not recycle paper or bottles in classrooms. The Science Club created a recycling program that includes bottles, cans and paper. Their goal was to place appropriate bins in all classrooms and hallways and take responsibility for the cleaning, sorting and delivery to the depot of all recyclables (currently not mandated in the community). This goal was met.
With the increasing studies and data that show climate change is occurring at an alarming rate, we feel that “chalk and talk” is not working for students today – students need the experience of seeing and doing. The students need to become
connected to nature and its conservancy. Our school has a focus on implementing technology in the core curriculum as well as what has been labeled “The 6 C’s of learning”: creativity, collaboration, character in learning, citizenship, communication and critical thinking and problem solving.
The club reached students and teachers and allowed them to experience the effects of climate change through education with virtual reality. The club members helped develop lessons that were implemented in almost all science classes (grade 7-9) in both English and French. The students helped develop virtual reality lessons that show the effect of climate change and then using Google Expeditions and 3D viewers, they implemented these lessons to staff through the Science Club and then to over 600 students in individual classes. In this first phase, students concentrated on protecting and restoring the ecosystems that directly surround our school. We feel that by starting the recycling program and implementing our recycling lessons, we also put into practice a vision of protecting our earth and limiting climate change on a local scale.
In the following year, during phase 2, all grade 7 science classes will complete their required core lab using VR technology. The students will assess the current recycling abilities of the school and develop further VR lessons that show that small changes can have big (community and global) impacts. We would continue to educate our incoming students on the importance of protecting our ecosystems and earth and it will provide students with the opportunity to celebrate the successes that they have already achieved.
The monies collected through recycling would be put directly back into further environmental activities – such as efforts to set-up a greenhouse and composting to go along with the already existing hydroponics and aquaponics.
This project directly engaged the Science Club because they took ownership of some recycling at Corner Brook Intermediate. It indirectly engaged almost all students in the school because they took part in a lesson regarding the importance of recycling and its impact on the environment. Teachers were also directly impacted, because they agreed to allow the lesson to be taught in their class. In terms of parents of students, the parents/guardians of the students in the Science Club supported their children in their efforts (meetings, cleanups, etc.). Some students were also inspired to clean up their own properties! Lastly, Scotia Recycling was involved in accepting and recycling the material that was collected by our students.
The project instilled leadership skills in students because the students took responsibility and collective ownership over the classroom recycling program at our school. They created the bins, distributed them and collected the recyclable materials on a daily basis. As well, the students developed their leadership skills by designing and presenting a lesson plan to fellow students. They built upon their communication and collaboration skills throughout the facilitation of this lesson.
Reflection & Celebration
The Science Club started collecting paper and plastic/aluminum recyclables in mid-January. Two large, labeled boxes were placed in each classroom and the students collected recyclables each day during recess or lunch. A virtual reality lesson was delivered to most Science classes (7-9) by the Science Club. They taught how long it took for materials to degrade and the importance of recycling regarding nature. Then, students were “taken” to the Gabonese Beaches and shown garbage build up. They were then “brought” to a recycling plant in New York and shown how materials get recycled and reused. The recycling program was introduced!
Throughout the project up to this point (Feb-May), thirty eight 30×38″ bags were collected and deposited at the recycling depot that normally would have been diverted to waste.
The biggest challenge is to instill internal motivation in students to care about recycling, reusing and/or reducing. We tried our best to address this concern by using Virtual Reality headsets to show students the result of pollution and how things can change if we all did our part. Hopefully, we brought concerns to reality for some students and inspired change in attitudes. Aside from that, it was difficult to schedule some classes due to ongoing assessments, projects and activities in their respective classes. For the students that could not take part in the lesson, posters were shown in the school and bins were placed in all classrooms.
One of the things that we learned from the project is that if given the opportunity, most students will recycle their materials. Students and staff generally care about the environment, but also like efficiency in terms of recycling. Having bins in a few places around the school (eg. Cafeteria) was not as effective at collecting recycling as having recycling bins in classrooms. As well, we strengthened our belief in knowledge that students gain interest in learning if further differentiation is used (Virtual Reality Goggles) and topics/presentation is more in line with students’ realities (Virtual tour of actual places vs. reading in a book).
We celebrated by sharing the results of the project on our school website. The school website is public, so it was shared with the whole community. We also plan on including this topic in our School Celebration Ceremony.
Our next step is to continue the recycling through the Science Club next year and beyond, and implement a Science, Technology, Society and the Environment (STSE) Ecosystems project dealing with ecosystems using Virtual Reality headsets to all Grade 7 students. We will also have a cleanup around the school near the end of the school year.