Global Community of Learners Striving to Tackle Climate Change - and on the way Build Partnerships for the Goals
By Estella Owoimaha-Church
Thanks to the vision of #TeachSDGs Ambassador and recent Global Teacher Prize finalist, Koen Timmer (@zelfstudie), more than 250 teachers and their students had an amazing opportunity come together this fall as a global community of learners. Our goal was to tackle SDG 13, Climate Action via the #ClimateActionP Project.
While I cannot say with certainty how many students worked on the project, it must have been in the thousands considering 250 schools were involved. If only 10 students per teacher participated, that is a yield of nearly 3,000 students engaged worldwide. In our school’s case, 32 tenth grade English Language Arts students participated in the project. #ClimateActionP garnered support from some of the largest names in science and has been covered by new media outlets around the world.
Earlier posts on this blog make reference to the #ClimateActionP project. I encourage all readers and those in this professional learning network to go back and read those posts for in-depth reflections and personal anecdotes. Consider this post a highlight reel which includes personal anecdotes from my classroom. While the obvious goal addressed through this project is “Climate Action”, I believe this project exemplified goal 17, “Partnerships for the Goals”. Never have I witnessed, or had a chance to participate in such a massive coordinated project. Every second of it was glorious.
At least eighteen of the participants on the project represent the Teach SDG’s initiative as ambassadors or task force members. As mentioned above, this project was facilitated and created by task force member, Koen Timmers. Below are links to the projects of several ambassadors. To explore other classrooms involved in this project, visit www.climate-action.info.
Throughout the course of the project, schools were tasked with addressing a few questions:
Over the course of 4-5 weeks, which began in October, students explored these topics and questions in some of the most creative ways imaginable. Some projects included Minecraft, Sway presentations, films, visual art projects, and more. Week four, some projects culminated with schools collaborating via Skype to share finding, project results, and ask more questions. Week five included live Skype calls with prominent scientists and explorers; one of which included Celine Cousteau. A compilation video of participants is available here. Several other videos related to the #ClimateActionP Project are available here.
#ClimateActionP Project in California
Our project began with a brainstorm and discussion about the Sustainable Development Goals. We embarked on a 4-week research project meant to culminate in mixed media projects that would be shared digitally. The classes that participated were my sections of 10th grade English Language Arts. Reading and writing are sometimes a challenge for students and so this endeavor was structured as a Project Based Learning module. Students were given a bit more autonomy and flexibility in what was discussed as well as what final presentations looked like. In addition to completing the group mixed media assignments, students were tasked with writing a research paper on climate change.
More than 15 sources - well within students’ Lexile ranges - were compiled both digitally and in file folders for student groups. Students worked in 2 groups throughout the four weeks with their fifth week being devoted to writing their research papers. Each week, students got into their expert groups to discuss the articles that pertain to the given questions, as outlined by Koen. Once they were done with this, they moved to their share out groups in order to help each other break down each source. Then students, in flexible groups used the data they had collected to produce posters for that week’s research question. Students then practiced public speaking by sharing out their findings and their posters.
Before the project came to an end, we were able to have a Skype call with Sean Robinson’s class in Canada. This experience was amazing for my students. It was their first time on an international call and they were ecstatic about the prospect of meeting students in another country. After speaking with the brilliant scholars in Sean’s class, we were lucky enough to get a visit from Naomi, Global Teacher Prize finalist and TeachSDG Ambassador. Naomi led a demonstration-lecture on climate change and guided students through hands-on science observations.
The best part of participating in this project was watching students realize they were a part of something larger. They took great pride in the fact that they were members of a global action. They derived even more motivation to complete the project knowing they were the only ones in our school working on this project. They gained a new level of confidence and empowerment that had been lacking due to a history of low grades and reading levels. When they received their certificates of completion, they were shocked. I think they thought I was exaggerating about how massive the project actually was. Some of them laughed and said, “You were serious?” as I handed them their certificates. At the very end of the project, we made a few videos. As I played them back, it was clear they were having fun - which is something I take great pride in.
I have to thank Koen for being the force behind an amazing project and putting forth the effort to ensure so many of us were on board. While the most obvious aim for this project was to meet sustainable development goal thirteen, I believe it was just as effective in supporting goal seventeen, partnerships for the goals. After participating in this project, my students now have 249 partners as we continue to move towards 2030. We are empowered and instilled with hope as it is evident none of us are alone in the effort to meet the goals.
Estella Owoimaha-Church was recently named a Global Teacher Prize Finalist (2017). She holds an M.A. in Education: Language Arts & Literacy from Loyola Marymount University and a B.A. in African-American Studies: Urban Education from California State University, Northridge. Estella teaches theatre in Los Angeles, helping youth to employ performing arts as a community service tool. Mrs. Church is an education consultant, as well as a reading, curriculum and pathway specialist. Though in the classroom full time, she remains active with several community organizations, including Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, training teachers in human rights and social justice education. “The arts are a transformative tool; when paired with the SDG’s, the arts can heal communities and build bridges, cultivate youth into global citizens, and usher in the SDG’s by 2030.” She is humbled and looks forward to serving her community as an #TeachSDGs & Varkey Teacher Ambassador. Connect with Estella on Twitter at @eochurch.