Where is the green?


This learning scenario was designed during the NBS MOOC aiming at introducing students to green management, they will learn about relevance, availability, andΒ green maintenance. Students from different groups collaborate to design a green plan for our city Caserta. At the end of the activity, the plan designed by students will be shown to the city mayor, to underline that (future) citizens have a voice and ideas.

The implementation context

This multidisciplinary activity was carried out with 6th graders (10-11 years old) from ICs Da Vinci Lorenzini, Caserta. The topic and Teachers involved were: Science, Italian (language subject), Mathematics, Technology and were carried out in three different classes (1D,1E,1F). In total, have been involved, 5 teachers and 54 students. This learning scenario was designed for a multidisciplinary activity of Civic Education, which was reintroduced in Italian National indication from this year with a multidisciplinary approach. The students have no previous familiarity with the topic and tools and all the activities were carried out in remote learning from 10 of March to 9 of April 2021 using Gsuite for education.

The narrative

I proposed this learning scenario to my colleagues in order to fulfil one Civic Education activity and have a common assessment on this topic. Before implementation, we had a short meeting to discuss how we can support students during the activity according to our timetable, topics covered, and skills. We analyzed the learning scenario and we decided who will support the different activities included in the scenario. We also decided on a rubric to evaluate the process. At the end of classes, we had another meeting to evaluate the student’s involvement and deliverables. The whole process for students was divided into 5 lessons:

  • How many green areas we have in our city? (Math-Science);
  • Role assignment and tasks, organization of the first meeting (Science-Technology);
  • First simulated city council to organize tasks between different roles (Science, Italian, Technology);
  • Workgroup to design a plan for green areas (Science, Italian, Technology);
  • Second simulated city council to approve the green plan (Science, Italian).

When possible the lessons were carried out with two or more of the teachers involved, this was a positive side of remote learning, because we had more flexibility in the timetable.

We start with starting green areas analysis in our city. Using a google map we search for public and private parks, students have to demarc these zones and write in a spreadsheet the value of the area. In this way, we determine the number of green areas for one citizen in our city, and we compared this value with one from another city in Italy.

Collaborative maps and table by students with indications of green areas in Caserta

The data collected were used by students in a role-play: they have to act as City Mayor, Assessors, technicians (Botanicist, Pedologist, Geologist, Engineer), Environmentalist, Politician, and Journalist. The point was to invite them to observe our city problems from a different professional perspective. We introduce the topic of green management using the game by Thinknature, this was really effective to introduce to students the different challenges you will have making decisions about city green areas. They had one week to make researches, then students have been involved in the first simulated city council. During this meeting, everyone described the situation from their point of view, and we organize the work to design a green areas plan. Journalists have to write articles about the situations of the green area and what happened during simulated city councils. Students have two weeks’ time to share ideas and proposals, then we have a second simulated city council during which, after the revision of the city plan, the City Mayor and Assessors have to vote for approval of the plan. All the activities carried out by students of different classes were published on a website in Italian designed to report this activity.

Learning outcomes

I hope that this activity is a starting point for my students and they will grow up as active citizens. Students were strongly involved during any phase of the whole activity, they were active in searching technical details about green areas in our city, in writing articles, make proposals and search for best practices from other cities. In fact, after the plan approval, I invited students to have a clap for our achievement, a new life, and ideas for our city.

I was strongly impressed by one of the students that during the simulation of the city council was wearing a tie, he said that he choose a formal dress because this activity was important and needed proper clothes. They made also research on the best practice in other cities and in one class they wrote in their green plan, students propose to plant a tree for newborns in Caserta, and he or she will be responsible for this plant for the next 30 years. Taking care of their plant they will take care also of green area in our city.

In one class we have no approval of the plan because some assessors did not make any proposal, so we have to organize a third simulated city council during which we finally approve the plan, but students asked to continue the discussions on the topic because they were interested in. At the end of the activity, I asked my students their thoughts using Jamboard and one of them said

I learned many things: respect for nature, how a municipal council works; the reduction of the consumption of green spaces; the importance to avoid building in risky areas; the danger of hydrogeological instability for humanity; I can say that I loved this activity.

I managed to organize a meeting with our City mayor and I showed to him my student’s green area plan, the idea was to reinforce that students voice count. The city mayor was impressed by students works, he asked me a lot of details and I realized that some of the student’s proposal is already planned and on their way. When I tell to my students about this meeting they were really satisfied! because they know that their plan is on the mayor desk!

A copy of Students green plan delivered to Caserta Mayor Carlo Marino. – The picture is the author’s own –(Attribution CC-BY)

Teaching outcomes

The main idea of this activity was to show students that their voices and ideas count, and it is never too early to start to think as citizens. I designed the learning scenario because I need an activity to assess my student in civic education related to geometry and science, and it finished in a marvellous multidisciplinary activity that allowed me to collaborate with other colleagues and helped students to think as active citizens.

My suggestion to other teachers that are thinking about implementing this activity, or others working on increasing awareness on sustainable behaviour, please do! we really need those new generations to take action on this topic! For this reason please try to involve as much as you can students and colleagues to push on this topic. In my opinion, in this learning scenario, the most important aspect is participation, everyone can give their effort in a different way, so if you are thinking to implement this activity highlight to your students and colleagues that being involved can make a difference.