19 November 2018

The Environment, Recycling and Infographics

One doesn't need to travel far to become aware of how shifts in climate are affecting local residents and travelers around the world. From soaring temperatures to droughts and extreme weather phenomena, rarely a day goes by when environmental shifts don't hit the news. 

Discussing the environment is also not novel in many educational contexts. What I do find however, is when presented with the topic of the environment, students fall back on ready made answers almost, without actually thinking through possible solutions and outcomes. There will often be a reading text and reading comprehension questions, with perhaps, some light follow up activity. Little critical thinking is required and often, learner attitudes express boredom and ennui (they have heard it all before). 

Being able to think critically, without studying for an exam, is a need which is not new either. Achieving on exams, is precisely that - the skill to achieve on an exam. On the other hand, being able to "do', to think through problems and find possible solutions to the problems outside the classroom, is an imperative which needs to be practiced in classrooms - one that has become even more pertinent with the shifts that digital tools and the spread of the internet has enabled all learners today. 

Here on the left hand side, is a chart resulting from a business survey from 2015 (The skills agenda: Preparing students for the future ).  Problem solving, team-work, communication and creativity continue in the top league of the chart - results which one can find in many such surveys which are regularly published. 

One way to to avoid this simplistic regurgitating of environmental solutions and further cliches of how best to protect the environment, is to have learners in small groups and have them actually find solutions under determined themes.  Working in small groups, learners are indeed engaged in the 4 skills above mentioned, as they need to express their ideas, listen actively to their group members as well as contribute towards their group's discussion. In other words, effective team work will (hopefully) result in a more realistic and creative approach to problem solving. 

Below is an infographic as an example with how environmental topics may be presented under certain themes:

Without presenting this example initially,  to students, teachers may divide students into small groups with a particular theme (as in the example above) and have them then present their findings and possible solutions in an infographic - visuals create a stronger impact on audiences and by creating a visual artifact expressing solutions, keeps learners more actively focused on the task. These infographics can then be printed and posted on the classroom wall, or included in a class blog. The final activity could be a class discussion and reflection on what learners learnt, how they experienced the team work process and what in fact they will be doing for environmental protection in their day-to-day lives. 

Sketches from Tomin on Vimeo.

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