Sunday, 21 October 2018

[Educator's Stories Series]: Interview with Hani Sadati

  1. What are the environmental issues that you are concerned about as an educational leader? 
While my environmental concerns are more than this, but the followings can cover some of the main ones:
·     Climate Change
·     Deforestation
·     Increased Carbon Footprint
·     Overpopulation
·     Loss of Biodiversity
·     Natural Resource Depletion

  1. What do you think educators can do about these problems?
I think environmental issues should be shown to the people in innovative ways and not just as some statistics on the papers. These methods should help people to touch the issues by heart. Here I would like to mention two examples of these innovative ways:
·     Creating various types of visual presentations.
·     Organizing participatory workshops that encourage people (students or the community) to think and reflect on environmental issues I believe educators (both in Environmental fields or other fields) should 

As an example, that can cover both of the above mentioned methods is Docademia.This is a new and fascinating platform, which uses independent documentaries to bring theoretical social justice discussions to life in classrooms. The platform offers a perfect solution for talking about well-being through real-life storytelling via short documentaries. Each documentary film follows with a tailored curriculum to discuss it with the students and an opportunity to have a Live Q&A video chat with the storyteller/filmmaker. 
Using Docademia, documentary videos on environmental issues can be shown to the students and at the same time they have opportunity to participate in a discussion with the storyteller/filmmaker and also the professor/educator. 

  1. Please share any activities that you have participated in to promote sustainability?
I believe one of the best ways of promoting sustainability in the community is to integrating different aspects of it with the everyday life. Therefore, in my everyday:
·      I have adopted vegetarian/vegan diet as one of the ways to contribute in environmental sustainability. In this way, food and all occasions that connect with food can initiate discussions about vegetarianism and its environmental impacts.
·      I try to share environmental concerns, news, and events on my social media. 
·      I seriously consider separating the recycling materials from other garbage.
·      I try to take care of water (with not wasting it) as one of the valuable and limited resources in the world. 
·      In different occasions I might get engage in environmental related discussions with friends. 

Sunday, 14 October 2018

[Educator's Stories Series]: Interview with Ehaab Abdou

  1. What are the environmental issues that you are concerned about as an educational leader? 
I am concerned with issues of lack of awareness regarding climate change and global warming. I am concerned that individuals seem to have become apathetic as to what they are able to do to change the status quo. And I am concerned that even for many of those who want to do something, there is not enough guidance and awareness as to what they can do through their lives to help support the cause. There are many things we can to make a difference whether it is in big decisions regarding whether to buy a car and what type of car, to decisions on whether to buy your coffee in a disposable cup or do your shopping in a plastic bag! 

  1. What do you think educators can do about these problems?
Educators need to make sure to bring in issues of environmental degradation and sustainability into the classroom through guest speakers, extracurricular materials like documentaries, etc. But what is even more important is that they need to help guide their students regarding small and big actions they as students can carry out to affect that positive change they want among their circles of friends and families. And of course, educators need to be good role models. I would say that educators themselves need to be walking the talk in their own lifestyles. So for example, using public transport more than their gas-guzzling cars/SUVs, carrying cloth bags instead of using plastic bags, trying to eat sustainably, and even carrying their plastic or glass mugs instead of wasting a paper cup every time they buy a coffee or a tea! In sum: 1) bringing awareness about issues; 2) giving students practical tips and guidelines on how they can be agents of change (and inspire them by showing them organizations and individuals who are trying to do similar things); and 3) leading by example.

  1. Please share any activities that you have participated in to promote sustainability?
I volunteer at Santropol Roulant (a Montreal-based non-profit organization that prepares and delivers meals to elderly and immobile persons mainly) which I believe has a good influence on food sustainability practices and raising awareness about those through its network of volunteers, staff and clients.  My partner and I have also been subscribing to a community food basket that helps us access fresh vegetables, but in the same time promote sustainable agriculture, etc. 

Interviewee: Sahar Fazeli, PhD Candidate, DISE, McGill University

Monday, 28 May 2018

[Teacher's Stories Series]: Interview with Zohreh. E.

Teacher’s stories about teaching environmental sustainability issues in their classes
Interview with Zohreh. E.

What grade do you teach? What do you think your students needto learn about environmental sustainability issues?

I am teaching grade 4 and 5 in a private school in Shiraz, Iran. We do have very serious problems with water deficiency especially in Fars province and we know all these issues are because of abusing the environment. So, I think it is very important to start teaching children how to take care of the environment from the early ages and let them know what will happen if we do not care for our planet.
 Thus, the knowledge about our environment and sustainability issues should get a serious place in our curriculum.

Could you please tell us about 1 or 2 activities that you haveused in your classroom to develop your students’ understanding andempathy about environmental issues?  How did you engage your students?

I started my classes by showing the students some videos about the environmental issues we are facing in the world now. I tried to grab their attention to the ugly side of abusing the mother of nature by watching different video clips and short documentaries in our class.
After that, we discussed different possibilities about how to take care of the environment and we tried to pull some rules out of our conversations for the semester.
For example, we defined a “free car day” once a week. As I said, I am teaching in a private school and the tuition fee of this school is quite high. So, normally these kids are from rich families and they come to school with one of the parents by car. And one of the important issues in big cities in Iran is air pollutions. 

So, I asked them to convince their parents based on the knowledge they got from the documentaries, to bring them to school by bus or subway just once a week as it could be very helpful to have a better weather in our city.

They were so excited about it and I can say most of them could convince their parents to do so.

The other thing that I tried was about the plastic bottles of water or juice that the kids consume while they are at school. So, we put a big box at the corner of the class and I asked kids to throw every single bottle they use in the box for a duration of one month. 
Oh, my God, even me was so surprised about the amount of the bottles we accumulated in a month. And in this way, they saw how the regular use of plastic bottles could end in a huge mass of plastics in just one small society like our class and this would be much bigger when we see it in a context of a country or world.

What was your students’ response?  How did you assess their learning?

I can say it was a really good experience and it made the kids think about the planet and environment and how they should take steps to take care of it.

At the end of the semester, I asked students to write a reflection about their experience in our class and explain how they feel about the environment afterward. And I got very nice responses and reflections. I was so impressed.
I counted the reflections as an extra mark for the science course to assess their learnings and also as a reward.

Interviewee: Sahar Fazeli, PhD Candidate, DISE, McGill University

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

[Teacher's Stories Series]: Interview with Rebecca Pearce

Teacher’s stories about teaching environmental sustainability issues in their classes
Interview with Rebecca Pearce

What grade do you teach? What do you think your students needto learn about environmental sustainability issues?

I teach Secondary 4 Environmental Science, and we do a short unit on ecological footprint.  I think that students need to learn that many, if not most, of the resources that they use are finite, so they can identify and make environmentally responsible lifestyle choices.  It is also important for them to recognize that if all of the people in world lived the way we do in Canada, the world would quickly run out of resources like food and water. 

Could you please tell us about 1 or 2 activities that you haveused in your classroom to develop your students’ understanding andempathy about environmental issues?  How did you engage your students?

1.     We first start by having a class discussion about ecological footprint, I ask what they think it is, what factors students feel contribute to an individual’s ecological footprint, and how an ecological footprint is usually calculated.  We also discuss the concept of sustainability and what it means to them.  
2.     Students then use an online website (usually calculate their environmental footprint.  Before they do this we go through all the questions that the website asks to define any terms or concepts students might be unfamiliar with. Usually they do this at home so they can ask their parents questions about things like the type of light bulbs they use, or energy efficient features their houses might have.  It’s also interesting for parents to go through this activity themselves!
3.     Students then reflect on their own footprints by answering a series of individual questions, including whether they think their own footprint is sustainable, what they can do to reduce the size of their footprint, and how the repercussions of large ecological footprints relate to the concept of sustainability. 
4.     Finally, as a class we examine everyone’s footprint by making a bar graph distribution of everyone’s results, calculating the average ecological footprint of the class, and then extrapolating this to all of Canada.  
5.     Sometimes we also compare the average Canadian footprint with that of developing countries.  

 What was your students’ response?  How did you assess their learning?

Students usually find these activities interesting, surprising and relevant.  Some students are already very aware of sustainability and the choices they make that can have a positive environmental impact, such as taking the metro instead of driving, bringing reusable water bottles to school, turning out lights when they leave a room.  There are other things they are unaware of.  

With respect to assessment, this varies year to year.  Sometimes I will formatively assess students’ answers to the analysis of their ecological footprint using a rubric, sometimes we might have a short quiz or test that uses deeper-thinking questions in order to evaluate their understanding of ecological footprints.  This year I might have students choose one thing they can in their day-to-day lives do to reduce their ecological footprint and explain their choice through the lens of sustainability.  

Interviewee: Sahar Fazeli, PhD Candidate, DISE, McGill University

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

[Teacher's Stories Series]: Interview with Heather Mcpherson

Teacher’s stories about teaching environmental sustainability issues in their class
Interview with Heather Mcpherson

What grade do you teach? What do you think your students needto learn about environmental sustainability issues?

I teach grade 10 and 11 Science. So I teach grade 10 the regular program and the enrich program. And one of the main focuses of the grade 10 program is the environment. So, lot of the topics that I teach or the way I teach, everything comes back to the environment. So we teach things like global warming, waste reduction, the over use of land fields like how you use material and why it is important to reduce your usage of materials. We look at environmental issues like eutrophication and what we can do to stop eutrophication. We look at the effects of overpopulation and how that’s hard on the planet and what are some of the options to feed a hungry planet, how to be more efficient in your agricultural techniques.
Every theme I do is related back to the environment. So there is probably way more, those are just what comes to my mind right now. Oh we did one the water usage, like the global water crisis, the shortage of water, we looked at that as a global issue. And when I do all that its all tide to the real science concept so they need like “concentration parts in million” or material science, stuff like that. I have bundled everything into the environment rather than teach a bunch of unrelated science facts.  

Could you please tell us about 1 or 2 activities that you haveused in your classroom to develop your students’ understanding andempathy about environmental issues?  How did you engage your students?

The unit I just finished teaching was about material science which is remarkably boring. Some we learn about composites, and all the different woods, alloys and metals …its really dull. So instead of just teaching material science, I link it to the environment. So I’d start of the whole unit by showing them four different pictures of the great Pacific gyre, where all the waste is concentrated in the Pacific Ocean.  So there is pictures of sea birds strangling in plastic or sea turtles that are dying as they got plastic bag everywhere or it is a really good one of the little boy in a boat surrounded by micro pieces of plastic.

So they look at that and they realize that we got a problem in here. And all the plastics that we are using end up somewhere. We talk about why they use plastic water bottles which I have told them their *abomination*. So we go over the fact that people are just over using plastic and other materials. In that same unit, I did a whole section on ecological footprints with an online survey which was in a very easy reading level and they realized … Like it is a whole series of questions and they get a print out at the end, of how many worlds that they require to live the way they do.  

And they are horrified and some of them were five worlds but some might go up to nine.
You know, because of air-conditioners and how is everybody drives in SUV and it goes on and on. So we look at these issues. That was just something which I just finished now. But inside it was all about material science. But it was how to use materials, how we harvest certain materials, where they come form and how we dispose of them and what are ethical ways to dispose of your garbage. 

The unit before was on eutrophication. So, I start of showing them the story of like Winnipeg which is undergoing huge eutrophication problems because it is very shallow like, and it’s the tenth largest lake in the world and at summer time you might have 75% covered in blue green algae. So its disgusting. 
And then we look at all the fertilizers, the things that people are doing that end up in the water that cause eutrophication and then rather than doing a boring lab on moles per liter, I get them to make cleaning solutions, and they get their choice of any solution they want, so I put up baking soda, salt, borax… all sorts of solids and I give them volumetric flasks and I say you all have to make 0.2 mole per liter solution and I put grease on the windows and then they have to clean the windows comparing their homemade solution with Windex. And then linking it back to the phosphides and cleaning solutions. So its moles per liter and they learn all polyatomic ions but they are doing mostly the environment. 

The next section that I am doing right now and testing them on tomorrow is how to improve the heat efficiency of your home. So we do experiments with different kinds of insulation and how they hold heat just using 
Q = m C DT    
The whole point is to get the to use the Q = m C DT    

So they do labs on that. We look at different types of insulation.
Next one there is an acid spill somewhere in the environment somewhere in the Northern Quebec and we have to look at ways to clean up the acid spill and they learn about neutralization and learn about PH and all sort of other stuff and that. So everything is linked back to the environment.

The other thing I do which is a lot of fun, I love my job. I take them to New Brunswick every other year, I take 35 kids to New Brunswick and we do Marine biology and we look at the marine biodiversity in the bay of Fundy and then alternating years we do twelve days in Costa Rica, and that one we are looking at environmental sustainability, but we are also looking at populations and some of the geo political issues happen in different countries. How different countries relate to some of these issues. How people in Costa Rica have lower Carbon footprints. 

So the whole focus of the Costa Rica trip is also sustainable living and sustainable development. How people have a lower carbon footprint is just because in a country where they are not using so much stuff, and we do thing on the trip that they are not allowed to use plastic water bottle, they have to bring refillable bottles. We don’t allow them to drink soft drinks, we don’t allow them to eat beef because they are cutting down the rainforest. So we go through this whole ethical for twelve days of you know, there is choices… there is ethical choices you make about how you treat the planet. 
It is good for me. I love going to Costa Rica.

What was your students’ response?  How did you assess their learning?

There are all sorts of different assessments. If they do a project, I might do a thing per share explain what they’ve learned. I don’t like kids standing in front of the class because most of them find it very unsettling. So we will walk around and they will talk about what they have done so there is a lot dialogue happening. Some of the projects are group work so there is conversation, I walk around the room there is formative evaluation. 

Every section has summative evaluation as well. 

For the Costa Rica trip, I have them the last day of the twelve day, we were in the cloud forest, so way above the treeline, we are out of the tropics and we are in farm. We are the only people on top of the mountain and I tell them you have to go alone for an hour and you write this little reflection of piece and you write down what you have learned on this trip. 

So then we can see how they absorbed and how they gained from the experience. And then there is lab reports whenever there is lab, like the moles per liter with the eutrophication. They have to write a lab report, but then, part of the lab report is the reflection on you know, the phosphates that we put in our cleaning stuff causes eutrophication. We’ve got to use less of this and the advantages to home cleaning products. 

Interviewee: Sahar Fazeli, PhD Candidate, DISE, McGill University

Friday, 11 May 2018

[Teacher's Stories Series]: Interview with Harini Narayanan

Teacher’s stories about teaching environmental sustainability issues in their classes
Interview with Harini Narayanan

What grade do you teach? What do you think your students needto learn about environmental sustainability issues?

I was teaching grade 8 and grade 9. So literally the high school students. 
As you know the whole world is running behind environmental sustainability today And of course the problem is diplomatic changes that we have today. For example, the tsunami we had back in India or still the diplomacy changes in Africa and all over the globe. I think we abused the mother nature to the core and now we are facing the consequences.
Thus, I think the environmental sustainability has to be given to kids and they have to know what is the concept? why are we learning that? and then how does learning environmental sustainability will allow us to take care of our environment?
 So, having all those components into the conversation, I believe and I strongly recommend that we have to start little by little, just give the students a spoon of knowledge about the environment, and not only in high school but from middle or even the primary school.Then when they reach to high school, give them the exact picture about what is happening in the whole world. Why should we take care of the mother of nature, why we should take care of the environment and how we do that? 
So, the foundation has to be laying back strong saying that we have to do something for environmental sustainability

Could you please tell us about 1 or 2 activities that you haveused in your classroom to develop your students’ understanding andempathy about environmental issues?  How did you engage your students?

I was working in a school in Ethiopia. It was founded by a funding Center coming all the way from United States and we didn't have enough money to do some kind of fancy sustainability environmental activities, but we still be able to do some activities.
The school and residences were all in one campus and people who were living there, they accumulate the kitchen waste in one corner of the building so we had lots of kitchen waste. So after sometime the whole campus used to smell.

As a science teacher working there, one day when I was walking to the class I thought that we have to do something about this smell.

So in the class I asked my students: “what would you like to do with this? how do you think you could deal with this issue?”.

Then, it was a bunch of students who came off and said: “why don't we convert them into a compost?”

I fell so happy when they came up with this idea and I said: “Wow!! this is something great. Now sit down and let's write the schedule and let me know what you want to do exactly about it.”
 After couple of days, they came up with a nice schedule. I can say that the whole research was initiated by them and I just facilitated the idea. I never went with them, I never sat with them to do the whole thing. So they just went to the internet, they browsed and they found the way to make compost. They came up with the whole process andthey said: “we will split the mask and then we'll make the different holes and will make sandwiches of waste and soil.”
Ethiopia has a very rich soil itself. So, they made sandwich of waste and soil and they used to water them on a regular and exact basis. They took care of it and after a week the compost was good and ready.

They were happy, I was very happy and also the whole school was happy because we didn't have the smell anymore and that was the main reason and the main idea and it was a major goal for me to get rid of the mass of waste and the children were able to make handmade compost and it was so exciting. We used the compost for the plants in the same campus. We had a couple of plants in the campus ‘garden such as roses and vegetables and we started to use this compost for them which was very practical and nice.

What was your students’ response?  How did you assess their learning?

I Think I have talked about my students’ response in detail in the previous question but regarding the assessment of their learning I can saythat I started involving their actions into their academics. 
I decided to mark that as a project and I started evaluating them on that. I think it has motivated them to do much more because they got points and they needed that points and it was the rewarding system. 

Also the school coordinator was so sweet and kind enough to make a notable work for these students in that the students. So, on school closing day when they used to have celebrations he used to reward the students who were involved in this project with a certificate and I can say this made the students very happy.

Interviewee: Sahar Fazeli, PhD Candidate, DISE, McGill University