Community Transformation through Social Justice, Sustainability and Education

Community Transformation through Social Justice, Sustainability and Education

Students of Detroit Community Schools in Detroit’s Brightmoor neighborhood were faced with a challenge. All across the city, as well as in their own neighborhoods, the water was getting shut off – leaving residents to collect rain water from roofs using rain barrels. However, the water was not safe for drinking. The students, guided by their teacher Bart Eddy and a team from the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, looked for solutions. The students have been converting industrial tricycles that transport water purification units to residents who have had their water shut off. The Water Cycler units run on solar power to purify the water collected in the rain barrels. As part of the Water Cyclers project, Creative Change Educational Solutions (CCES) is linking together the real-world experience with classroom content through a well-developed curriculum. “This curriculum will help students address issues surrounding climate change, and will all be woven into the youth employment and leadership.” – Bart Eddy, Educator We have united the different parts of the project, showing how science, sustainability, and social justice are connected. Through their work and our framework of lessons, students are learning not just what it means to be part of a community where we help each other, but also hands-on skills to convert the bikes, teamwork, leadership among peers, creativity, the science behind the Cycler units, and the importance of local and global...
Time To Clear-cut Paper Mache Rainforest

Time To Clear-cut Paper Mache Rainforest

What comes to mind when you hear Earth Day and education? Do you see endangered species posters? Or perhaps a paper mache rainforest? Such projects can be fun. But focusing on exotic animals and ‘wild’ places sends the message that the environment is a place both far away and without people. That keeps kids from understanding a vital fact: humans are part of the environment. Understanding this starts with learning about one’s own place. Can the student who draws a rainforest toucan identify a bird that’s native to the local ecosystem? Can the student who made a cardboard tree name an indigenous tribe that inhabits the forest? I wonder.  Is it time to clear-cut the paper mache rainforest? Not necessarily. But let’s raise the bar. Environmental literacy is an essential 21st century skill that will determine life in the 22nd century. Our kids deserve the best we can give them.   Looking for ideas? Contact me for inspiring examples or helpful...
Science Curriculum, Democratic Education, and Sustainability

Science Curriculum, Democratic Education, and Sustainability

From our #NewTeacherVoices series, here’s guest blogger Collin Crowell. Interested in becoming a guest blogger? Tweet at @creative_change or email santone [at] creativechange.net. Science education needs to be fluid because the things we learn are always changing.  We need to adapt to situations and be able to apply ourselves to improve the world around us in order to improve the democracy we are a part of.  It’s a good thing that science can fix problems that we would otherwise have no control over; however, how much control is too much control?  Why does society focus on fixing problems rather than preventing them? The consequences of actions are the reason why science is both incredibly helpful and potentially detrimental. The world is complex and if you would change something without looking into all aspects it could potentially affect, then multiple systems could be influenced dramatically.  A perfect example of this is the industrial revolution, a time where human development was at its peak, but also when copious amounts of carbon dioxide was unnaturally released into the earth’s atmosphere. This is a serious consequence. Schools need to incorporate the ethical dimensions of science into their curriculum. Curriculum should emphasize the consequences of research and experiments and the prevention of problems rather than fixing them. Sustainability and democratic education are the tools to facilitate the ethical dimensions of science education. Science moves faster than morality. Morality dictates ethics. We discover things and try them out only to find that what we thought would be okay turned out to be detrimental for something directly or indirectly related (DDT for instance).  Solving ignorance is...
Ypsilanti Community Schools Sustainability Summit

Ypsilanti Community Schools Sustainability Summit

Calling all of our local friends: Save the date – Thursday June 11, 2015. Middle schools students in the Ypsilanti Community Schools are hosting a Sustainability Summit. The event will bring together community leaders and organizations involved in local sustainability efforts, ranging from food to health and public safety. The event is the culminating project of the students’ history course, in which they are studying ancient civilizations and how to apply lessons from the past to plan for the future. Learn...
A million math facts. But where’s the meaning?

A million math facts. But where’s the meaning?

Students at a Montana elementary school are working toward solving one million math problems. Teachers motivate the students by awarding meter-long streamers for each 1,000 problems solved and hanging streamers in the hall to mark the milestones. “When they reach a million math facts, we’ll have one kilometer of streamers across the ceiling,” said Jessop in the article. The story notes that students who complete 1,000 math problems receive a meter-long streamer as a head band they “proudly wear through the school and playground.” We applaud any efforts to get kids engaged in math.  But we wonder: What will the kids gain from a million calculations?  Sure, the students will probably develop skills on specific standards. But will these children also increase their understanding of the world?  Will they apply the math facts to a larger purpose? Stories like this remind us that facts alone are not meaning, and acquiring information does not guarantee its wise application.  In a data-driven environment, we need to remember this:  Facts, skills, and standards are the building blocks of learning–not its definition. A million bits of information won’t matter unless we give them context.  Standards have to more than isolated test items. They need to serve the larger goals of citizenship and global problem-solving.  Learn...