Teaching sustainable development in a mathematics class may seem challenging but challenging is always appealing. If something was easy to achieve there would be no sense of accomplishment.
The Nature-Based Solutions MOOC was an inspirational event. Eager to put into practice all I had learned I came up with a lesson plan that would appeal to my 7-grade students. The motivation behind my plan was to raise awareness and prompt action to reduce the environmental footprint we cause through the excessive consumption habits of our modern life. I wanted students to learn how to contribute to sustainable consumption, how to engage in a circular economy, reduce their carbon footprint and the effects modern life have on the changing climate.
At the beginning of March, I embarked on a set of activities with my 7-grade students. Three classes of seventy-five students in total. The lesson plan I implemented aims to teach students about the importance and relevance of Nature-Based Solutions. Through critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity pupils will understand the importance and relevance of their actions for the future. They can impact the goal of reaching sustainable development through engaging the local community. Society, economy, and the environment. These are the three pillars of sustainable development.
A cross-curriculum approach was necessary to ensure success. We initially reflected on knowledge from biology. The Earth must be a warm planet if humans, wildlife and plants are to survive. This means that greenhouse gasses in our atmosphere are necessary.
However, with too many greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere there would be an excess of heat which would result in climate change (the melting of glaciers, a rise in sea levels, wildfires etc). Living by the Adriatic sea in a warm Mediterranean climate made it easy to relate to this.
The classes were divided into groups of 4 students. Each group received prepared data and materials on reviewing local forecast reports and they analysed how the weather conditions have changed during the last 10 years. This was a connection to mathematics through data analysis, statistics, graph manipulation and percentages.
The guiding questions were:
How has climate change effected countries in Europe?
– What countries have been most affected by climate change? Why do you think this is?
– What are the trends in extreme events in Europe?
– What do the graphs tell you about these trends?
– Are there patterns in the frequency of major natural disasters?
– What are the six candidates for measuring climate change?
– What are the benefits of Nature-based Solutions with regards to climate hazards and perils, including wildfires, floods, erosion and drought?
The next activity tasked the pupils to calculate their carbon footprint. They watched a video on renewable energy sources (from the STEM Alliance repository) and answered a questionnaire related to renewable energy sources.
According to the WHO, it is estimated that 93% of the world’s children under the age of 15 years are exposed to polluted air every day putting their health and development at risk.
A brainstorming session followed with the children being asked the following:
- Can we develop strategies to stop this trend?
- Can we reverse adverse environmental effects by changing our habits? Consumption habits at home, and by extension in societies, have a great share on global environmental health.
- Greener cities can be achieved if we all become active agents of change in the local community. This was the motto the children came up with.
The students discussed solutions to create a sustainable and green school environment. By encouraging a change in their immediate environment they are making an impact on the wider community and the planet. Solutions they submitted included a rooftop garden, green walls, planting in the school garden and cooperating with the local government encourages a sense of responsibility.
The list we came up with included equipment and materials needed to make a visible change. The elements on the list were seeds, fermentation jars, compost bins, soil or other growth media, pots and donated containers. Two weeks followed of preparing, receiving donations from the local community, organising the transportation of plants and containers. This involved planning with precision but the end result was an afternoon spent planting, painting and feeling an immense sense of gratitude with the final result.
Beautiful hallways filled with hanging gardens and a schoolyard filled with bright barrels containing plants are the green lungs of our school. The work done during March will make a huge difference to our future.