Student Sustainability Fair Presentations
After weeks of research, writing, and practice, the seventh grade student teams at Arthur D. Healey School were ready to present their understanding of several environmental issues to parents, staff, and other Healey School grade levels, at their recent Sustainability Fair. They then pitched their innovative business solutions in a “Shark Tank”-style forum the following day. Social studies teacher Nicole Madden, English language arts (ELA) teacher Emma Daniels, and science teacher Paeder Dooley worked together to design a multidisciplinary approach that exposed students to issues related to climate change.
As students studied fossil fuels and alternative energy sources in science class, in social studies they explored how humans balance meeting their energy needs today with protecting the environment for future generations. At the same time, in ELA, students learned about persuasive writing techniques and public speaking. The essential question that students focused on answering along the way was, “How do our everyday consumption and waste choices impact people and the planet, and how can I create sustainable alternatives or change behavior in my local or global community?”
The seventh grade students presented their research findings on problems such as electronic waste, fossil fuel overuse, over-packaging, and food waste to parents and other Healey School classroom students at the Sustainability Fair. They also articulated the many reasons why society has not yet solved the problem they researched. Each student team presented a slideshow that explained why their issue matters, designed a project that addressed the issue, and each individual team member wrote their own newspaper op-ed article to increase support for their team’s cause. Final projects presented at the Sustainability Fair demonstrated the deep level of research and the thoughtful problem-solving approaches that students took. Student groups designed and built food batteries and solar-powered ovens to promote the use of renewable energy and decrease reliance on fossil fuels, made biodegradable plastics from a corn starch base, and designed fashionable jewelry and clothing from unwanted electronics and packaging rather than sending them to landfills.
Students Enter the “Shark Tank”
The following morning, the teams pitched business concepts that addressed the climate change issues they studied. They did this in the style of the television series “Shark Tank,” where entrepreneurs present their ideas to investors who decide whether or not to invest in the concept. At Healey, the “sharks” who provided encouragement and feedback on the viability of the business concepts were local community members and eighth grade students who completed the project last year. One idea that was pitched was a jewelry business with the slogan “You Waste, We Make” that made earrings and necklaces from unwanted electronic components. There was a company with the slogan “Keep Landfills Neat, Use Our Concrete,” which inserted electronic waste into concrete to reduce the amount of e-waste in landfills and to contain the e-waste’s toxic chemicals. There was also a business plan to produce the Solar Oven 5,000. With the slogan “Leave it to the Sun,” that group used recycled materials to create a solar oven capable of cooking and warming food, including a frozen pizza that warmed successfully during their “Shark Tank” presentation. When asked what her favorite part of being a “shark” was, Donene Williams said, “I loved seeing the creativity of these kids, and the depth of the research they did on the problem. And, of course, seeing the team work of group projects is always nice.”
Principal Cobb’s Insights
Dr. Mary Ellen Carideo-Cobbs, Healey School Principal, was attending her first Healey School Sustainability Fair and “Shark Tank” challenge and had this to say about the experience, “The Sustainability Fair provided our children with an inquiry-based learning opportunity rooted in real world environmental issues.” She went on to explain that she was “most impressed by the shared responsibility our teachers and students demonstrated for our wider Healey community.” Dr. Cobbs was especially pleased that the seventh grade students and teaching team shared their learning with the wider Healey community not only by inviting them to the Sustainability Fair, but by making sure that “classes were provided videos, readings, and other resources that helped the younger children build background knowledge for the fair. This allowed for thoughtful questions and an increased learning opportunity for everyone. That is how positive change can be made.”
---Abby Luthin, Writing Communications Specialist