Coding to save the Planet

Author: Stefania Altieri

The Agenda 2030 is an important strategic document signed in 2015 by the 193 ONU member Countries. The Program includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals which guides world on the way forward over the next 15 years.

What can we do to help and support environmental sustainability actions? How can we bring about a real change? How can school fit into an educational path that manages to produce responsibility and call for immediate action?

The eTwinning project Coding to save the Planet (https://twinspace.etwinning.net/93690/home) proposes to fight inequalities, face global problems and protect our Planet. It is also focused on building an active citizenship and on the role of new alternatives for a better future.

The growing attention to programming and STEM, their integration into disciplines to seek solutions to real world problems, started from the job market demand. It has now arrived on school desks, transforming the pedagogical approach and opening new horizons for learning.

Common goals mean that they concern all countries and all individuals: nobody is excluded from the path to sustainability.

The Agenda indicates the objectives that directly involve school. Goal nr. 4 is about “providing quality, fair and inclusive education, having learning opportunities for all”. This is a fundamental prerequisite for improving people’s lives and for achieving a real sustainable development. School, as an educating Community, is implicitly invested with other tasks: future citizens must know, build, master. They are required to have a broad citizenship, made up of a sense of legality, ethics of responsibility and ability to argue.

Coding to save Planet project aims to address some Agenda topics and propose solutions and alternatives to create sustainable lifestyles, protect human rights, support gender equality, promote a culture of peace.

In the project phases, students acquire knowledge and understanding of local challenges, but also gain real global citizenship through the enhancement of cultural diversity. The exchange of experiences on the eTwinning Platform, in fact, allows to stimulate reflections and to share important concepts to make the future a better place to live.

Coding becomes a tool to enrich teaching practice, tackling the themes and foundations of sustainable development. Together we discuss and create models to combat climate change, to fight poverty, to eliminate hunger in the world.

Storytelling and online games are created in a funny way with digital teaching to involve and call everyone to action and participation.

Citizenship is taught above all by example. The school is the first (but not only the one) driving force training critical and computational thinking. Sharing, researching, training and reflection are necessary.

For these reasons the teachers, members of the project, plan a pedagogical curriculum, based on a concrete and effective educational practice.

Following the Agenda, we try to reconcile three dimensions: social, economic and environmental. For each goal, paths related to STEM and Inquiry Based Learning have been built, with an investigation-based methodology, which stimulates the questions and actions to solve problems and understand phenomena.

The project involves several European countries and students of different ages. For the goal nr. 13 about Climate change, a critical debate on the controversial issue of global warming was proposed. Is the cause natural or anthropic? Can man reduce the damage caused or does he just have to adapt to changes?

Learning to listen, to argue, to support thesis with data and sources, to speak in public by directing a communicative message to a defined audience, are some of the pedagogical objectives of the proposed activities. In this way, students reflect on the topic by testing themselves and developing their soft skills, learning to learn and collaborating with their classmates.

We seek a solution together. The final product is a game (No Planet B) created with Scratch Platform (https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/332354273), which calls for a reflection on the possibility of reducing the use of plastic. The player must help a diver to clear the Ocean of plastic to prevent the fish from dying. There is not much time and the mission is very demanding…

Even the youngest students reflect on global warming and make a pixel art image of the earth that is on fire. They entrust their code to the eTwinning European partners to reproduce the same design.

Online quizzes were also proposed (ex. https://learningapps.org/watch?v=piyyryrq319) to raise awareness of the use of clean energy and the reuse of materials. Interactive moments were experienced playing CodyColor (https://codycolor.codemooc.net/) and CodyWord finding and sharing the rules of nature to save the Planet.

By comparing and working together, students experience a feeling of belonging to the group, but also to a common humanity; they share values and responsibility based on human rights: they acquire the motivation and the desire to make the necessary choices.

The variety of topics are covered and they are all close to daily life experiences. Ensuring fair access to education also means fighting bullying, creating a welcoming and inclusive class environment, where no one must be or feel marginalized.

Quality education is promoted with a Scratch Project where children create a puzzle (https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/340707633/) to describe the difference between equality (providing everyone with support in the same way) and equity (providing everyone with what they need). In this way, thoughts and reflections on important values are disclosed in the school of the future.

Mitchel Resnick says that the best way to help people in understanding the world is to offer them the opportunity to actively explore, experiment and express themselves.

This simple and effective approach to computer programming and STEM learning is offered by educational robotics that can add value to teaching. Building and programming a robot means setting your creativity in motion, correcting your mistakes and finding solutions together with classmates and teachers. By experimenting, students develop the computational thinking and the problem solving attitude. We made a video with our robots made with Lego WeDo 2.0 (https://animoto.com/play/SMv0i8Jgmo3mN05qi4z4vQ).

Water is one of the most discussed topics at school, recognizing its importance for all forms of life. As far as goal nr. 14 is concerned, Life Below Water aims to empower future citizens on the value of water for ecosystems balance and for the living beings, for conscious and responsible consumption with a view to sustainability.

Planet, people and prosperity are linked in the oceans. Students reflect on how to permanently conserve and use the seas and marine resources. The younger students reproduced on a giant grid a pixel art of a dolphin, a symbol of purity. Furthermore, with augmented reality, the ideal ecosystem of fish and other marine species is reproduced.

Life on Land is the goal nr. 15. Together with students, the procedure about how to plant a seed is reconstructed with an algorithm. We then reflect on the importance of forests for living beings survival and Scratch remix projects are created (https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/327321410/) using programming to illuminate our path towards environmental sustainability. Australia on fire demonstrates the precariousness of habitats and the danger of extinction of some animals. Solutions are sought to reduce biodiversity loss and to protect our common heritage (https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/358755162/).

Goal nr. 12 is about Responsible Consumption and Production. We reflect on how to avoid waste, moving to cleaner and less polluted energy sources, planning a project with Scratch https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/335982406/ (Global warming cause-effect). By focusing on people, students develop empathy, solidarity and respect for differences and diversity. They are personally called to act and protect peace. The goal is prosperity and harmony, without leaving anyone behind. We want to defeat wars with peace, through solid collaborations and partnerships.

5P are foreseen by the Agenda. We propose another P for programming our future. We grow and change together. We are becoming increasingly aware of how important is defending and protecting our fragile Planet.

Stefania Altieri

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