Last week, our school celebrated Climate Action Week. The events from Monday through Thursday were organized by the ISD Green Team. It was the intention of this team of students that this week coincided with the Fridays for Future march that was taking place in the city on Friday afternoon.

As an educator, I have always struggled with weeks like this – kindness week, spirit week, earth week, etc. While they encourage positive actions, I believe that it is our job to have discussions with students about how we ensure these actions continue in some way, even when these weeks are over. It was this very point led to a great discussion on Friday during our Grade 5 Gathering. 

Building a Caring (and thinking) Community

This is a bit of an aside, but I want to share a bit about our Grade 5 Gatherings. Being a part of a larger community of learners, one of our focuses has always been on establishing a positive and supportive community for all. As I read through Paulo Freire’s Five Ideas for Dialogical Learning, I was able to make connections to our focus on this. 

Two years ago, one of our team members came up with the idea of having regular community gatherings in which we came together as a larger group to share announcements, celebrations and inspirations. We felt the success and this practice has continued. As teachers we generally plan for and lead the first few gatherings, and then turn this responsibility over to a small group of students each cycle. 

One thing that exists in each gathering is that we end with a question to “ponder”. This was this week’s:

Usually, we leave it as an unanswered question, but it was clear right away that students wanted to engage in a discussion about this, so we asked students to share their ideas with one another in small groups, and then to feed out these ideas with the whole Grade 5 community.

Students had many ideas that involved individual and personal actions they could take and other community initiatives or actions that could occur as well! It was a great “real” discussion that we’ve realized will lead nicely into our next unit of inquiry.

While I briefly discussed this unit in my last post, I will go into more detail about it here. As it is our hope as a team, that we will be able to really harness the power of technology in order to enhance student learning.

Harnessing the Power of Technology

It is clear from the discussions we’ve already had, that our students’ thinking about this topic is activated. Our students are engaged and wanting to learn more, so we are actively working as a team to figure out how to use that to our advantage. 

Our plan is to engage with students in a guided inquiry into the global climate crisis and some of the local and global responses to that. But, what we are really hoping, which is consistent with Fullan’s ideas, is that we are able to unleash deep learning.

We are hoping that students will engage in inquiries in which they:

  • Seek out and discover new content knowledge.
  • Participate in collaborative and connected learning.
  • Use their new knowledge to take action.

As a team of teachers, we recognize that we are not content experts on this topic. It is a HUGE and incredibly complicated issue. But, with this being said, WE don’t have to be the experts.

Brené Brown’s message on vulnerability really resonated with me. For deep learning to occur, we have to be vulnerable. We as teachers need to be open to taking learning in a direction that may be difficult and could lead to unknowns. But, I believe, as a team, we have put the supports in place for a courageous learning to take place – from students and teachers alike.

Learning Master vs. Content Master

So, we may not know exactly where the learning is going, and we will not be able to answer all the questions that will arise, but we can leverage the power of technology to support us in this learning journey. As teachers, we can focus “on helping students master the process of learning and helping students discover and master new content knowledge themselves using digital tools and resources.” (Fullan, 2014). 

In this unit, our third line of inquiry, an inquiry into personal choices and consequences, will be the focus for student’s personal inquiries. Students can use the thinking they’ve already started during Climate Week, to guide these inquiries or dig into something else they are interested in. While it is not fully planned yet, this is our rough outline for what this personal inquiry might look like:

Link to GRASPS task

We plan to seek out resources that will help our students in this learning process and to reach out to individuals (using the power of Flipgrid) that have more knowledge in these areas. The hope is that our students will be able to collaborate with and form connections with these experts, and then use this learning to take action in some way. 

This is exciting to me…the prospect of being able to learn with students. It is my hope that these inquiries lead to some meaningful action that perhaps inspire us teachers to take action ourselves.