Promoting student agency and inquiry through the climate action project
Primary Years Programme (PYP) educator Rupali Arora at DPS International School in Gurugram, India explains how her students took ownership of becoming global changemakers by participating in the climate action project.
By Rupali Arora
At DPS International, learning is always engaging, relevant, challenging and significant. That’s why students decided to partner with their facilitators and parents (i.e. the learning community) on the climate action project that would allow them to take ownership of becoming global changemakers and address the most pressing need of the hour, climate change. Our school pledged for a better planet and they were intrinsically motivated and inclined to participate, acknowledging their rights and responsibilities as individuals.
The climate action project
Open to more than 135 countries, the climate action project allows teachers and students to collaborate on climate change topics over the course of six weeks (Climate Action, 2017). Together with their mentors, our students brainstormed and listed the fundamental objectives of the project and apprised themselves about the timeline of the project to be mindful about their submissions, hence honing in on their self-management skills (time management and goal setting).
Each week, they were given opportunities to explore a concept and made use of their preferred digital tool(s) of choice like Jamboard, Padlet, Wakelet and Nearpod to demonstrate their understanding. For example, students repurposed plastic bottles as planters and made bags out of old clothes. Through these activities, they became self-aware and reflected on their actions before making decisions. They also become more enthusiastic and curious about climate change.
Using visible thinking routines like ‘see-think-wonder’, ‘think-puzzle-explore’, ‘see-one’, they brainstormed and co-created their understanding of the causes and effects of climate change. They built on their prior learning while making connections and comparisons using graphic organisers like Venn diagrams and mind maps.
Proposed solutions to address the climate crisis
Students co-created a list of viable solutions and means to address the climate crisis. They identified and organized their learning into three categories: actions by individuals, organizations and governments.
For combating climate change, students found their own solutions like spreading awareness through posters, self-composed songs, poems, stories, creating bird feeders and many more. They also pledged to support the Know Your Palm and Ilivesimply initiatives and encourage organizations and governments to support their incredible work.
Furthermore, some of them participated in the global tree planting initiative ‘plantED’ by planting trees in their community. Those who couldn’t participate pledged and adopted trees through their website—a solution open to any individual. This generated a feeling of empathy among the students as they reflected on their actions for saving the planet.
Key skills developed throughout the project
Since they collaborated on the virtual platform, it was imperative to brainstorm and frame the essential agreements accordingly. They were principled and displayed academic integrity by giving credit to the sources they took information from during their research work (including their grandparents, parents, peers, siblings and neighbours).
At various times, they were divided into small groups to collaborate, develop their thinking skills and acquire new knowledge on climate change. They also got an opportunity to apply metacognition skills by planning their approach to various types of tasks and using appropriate skills and strategies. They became thinkers by using critical and creative thinking skills during their analysis.
The project gave them an ideal opportunity to develop social skills through inter-generational conversations with their grandparents, parents, relatives and neighbours, where they were able to analyze and reflect on the changes to the climate in the past and the present.
It also gave them access to new perspectives to determine further courses of action. They used quantitative and qualitative methods of research throughout. Quantitative research methods helped them examine the causes and effects of climate change in terms of numbers whereas qualitative research provided insights to strengthen their efforts and understanding, hence enhancing research skills.
During this student-centric journey, they were caring, committed to service and acted to make a positive difference in the world. They worked independently and cooperatively to explore new ideas and innovative strategies. They also embraced the 21st-century learning skills and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and made use of technology to find, structure content, present and share findings whilst breaking the geographical barriers at the same time. The project instilled confidence in the young students and motivated them to spearhead change and save our planet from further environmental disruption.
Rupali Arora is a passionate French language facilitator at DPS International School in Gurugram, India. She focuses on creating a hands-on learning environment that sparks curiosity, fosters collaboration, brings joy and empowers students with the right tools and mindset to keep them excited about learning. Her advocacy for sustainable initiatives supports students’ actions through mindful choices.