Sunday, May 14, 2017

Garden Compost Update... 17,000 kg!

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If food waste were a country, it would be the third largest producer of carbon emissions, right after the United States and China. Nearly one third of all the world's food waste ends up in landfills. This food waste produces, not only carbon but also methane gas, which is one of the most potent of greenhouse gasses.

Thanks to the collective efforts of ASD’s community members and the school’s cafeteria partners, this school year we diverted an estimated 100 kilos of food waste per day.  This food waste feeds our garden’s composting program enabling us to have a cost effective and organic means of fertilizing.  This becomes even more impressive, when the effect is calculated over time.  Since the beginning of the year, our school community has diverted nearly 17, 000 kg of food waste!  A big thank you to the ASD community for your support of our garden and for ensuring that all that food waste is kept out of the landfill!  Think Global, Act Local is alive and well at ASD!

By Sandra Carden, Sustainable Garden Coordinator

Saturday, April 29, 2017

A Week of Healthy Involvement & Discourse

Picking mulberries!

Corner Concerts

Earth Day Final harvest lunch

MS Advisory sessions

Healthy snacks/smoothies

G1 Making functional accessories from plastic bags

Farmer's market sample give-away

A few of our Walk for Water participants

Healthy World, Healthy Me Week intended to bring the issue of personal healthy, balanced lifestyles, global environmental health and sustainability into the forefront in an "it's all related" kind of way. The approach was very much "crowd sourced" meaning that the schedule offered itself for the benefit of those who wanted to take a moment - or longer - to highlight elements of personal choice (from working out to the food choices we make) and to celebrate the great things that already happen at ASD.  There was a little bit for everyone, from classroom and advisory conversations to after-school activities to yoga and exercise sessions. 

All in all it was a week that brought to the forefront the many things these school does that are aimed at bringing balance and health to the community. The pictures above offer a glimpse of some of the events that took place. Of course, though the week was intended at focusing on the issues of health, we all know that a week won't do the trick. It's important to continue along that path and to make personal choices that are beneficial both to one's self, the community and the world at large. A great week overall!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Healthy World, Healthy Me Week

Born of two simultaneous seeds of inspiration - to extend opportunities for healthy habits and an awareness of global environmental health - this year ASD is welcoming a new concept... Healthy World, Healthy Me Week!

The week is intended as a 'crowd sourcing of opportunities and celebration' for those who want to focus, a little or a lot, on personal choices, learning about healthy eating and doing, sustainability in a personal, community and global context, etc. The week features a number of opportunities that are available weekly (did you know about them?) such as yoga and sports before and after school. But it also features a few items that are being introduced with a bit of a focus on either personal healthy habits (such as the Fitness Blast) or on sustainable lifestyles (like the Farmer's Market sample giveaway). In addition it highlights student run events such as the Walk for Water (by the Global Issues Network) and the Kids for Wish Kids Survivor event.  This is supported by on-going, week-long initiatives such as the calming art options in the libraries. There's lots of little things going on in this school so why not check a few out!  Check out the calendar below for some ideas!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Plants of ASD

Students spend most of their waking hours in school. As such the campus is an integral component of the learning of our children and, of course, should be utilized as a learning tool.

Ms. Varnell's grade 3 class was studying plants. To make authentic connections the class decided to focus on plants that are all around us, right here on our campus. Through a short survey given to staff, parents and other students they discovered that, overall, there is a dearth of knowledge, which alarmed our young change makers. Did you know, for example, that the vast majority of our plants are non-endemic to this region? Did you know that there are over 20 species of plants on campus?  Did you know that we have banana plants and olive trees, fountain grass and neem trees? And, as a result of their service learning experience, did you know that technology can help you gain a better understanding of the plants that adorn our school?

With the support of Ms. Varnell and Ms. Carden (in the Garden) the students did a "deeper dive" into the world of these plants. Where are they from? What characterizes them?  How can we identify them from other, similar, plant species? How do we take care of them? How can we address the fact that the community seems to walk by them every day yet know nothing about them? Their collaborative minds decided to create a set of informational plaques for the community (complete with tech-integrated QR codes!) to generate an appreciation not only of the plants, but also for the learning that can be generated from our physical environment. 

So next time you're wandering the campus please take a look around and, armed with your QR code reader, find out more about  the plants that call our campus home. Way to go grade 3! 

Want to see more about their experience?  Take a look at their video below!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Tackling Waste... One Re-usable Container at a Time.

The ES Roots & Shoots Club has been working away. A small but diligent group they have been involved in the change of behaviors and culture at ASD. How does one do that?  Emboldened by last year's K1 service learning project that led to the elimination of plastic utensils in the ES cafeteria, the Roots & Shoots club wanted to address single-use cups.  Working in conjunction with the school's administration the final product - water dispensers in seven locations around the ES - was kicked off this morning!  

Today dawned a new day, both literally and figuratively, for our ES.  This morning the Roots & Shoots students were the focus of a small, yet very meaningful, "ribbon cutting ceremony" that served as the opening act of a new era.  Short speeches by Mr. Advento (ES Principal), Ms. Griffith (Roots & Shoots advisor) were a preface to the grand opening. Dr. Mutch also addressed the necessity for change makers before cutting the ribbon. Finally, the members of the Roots & Shoots club participated in a "first water bottle filling" to signify a key shift in the way ASD provides water to its community. 

What can we expect moving forward? Along with the elimination of the water bottle vending machines back in December, the introduction of the water dispensers forms a bold step in the "war on waste" (as they are calling it at the Sustainability Action Team meetings) for our school. As time ticks on, armed with our water bottles and reusable mugs, we expect to see our students being examples of sustainable practices and role models in their own right. 

Sunday, February 26, 2017

MS Critical Consciousness Building

Week Without Walls has been a mainstay of the ASD educational experience for many years. It is often signaled out as the most engaging learning experience for students in the middle school. The destinations are varied - ranging from South Africa to Greece to Tanzania to Cambodia to Nepal - but they are all intended to connect students to the development of "critical consciousness" and develop change making attitudes.  These trips are packed with powerful learning despite - or because - of the challenges involved in undertaking them. 

Students were seen integrating and sharing learning with local Massai communities, or planting trees in the outskirts of Athens, or participating in community development projects in Cambodia, Nepal or Tanzania. Whether in rice fields or classrooms their engagement was authentic and powerful. 

It's important to note that these trips should not - and often cannot - be about "helping others". Of course there is often a benefit to our presence there, but it is arguably more beneficial to our community to be in such diverse communities than it is for tho e with whom we are interacting. Still, in the continual ebb and flow of conversations, sharing, generating deeper understanding of culture and global issues, there is an ever growing growth - personal and collective - regarding the nature of the world and our place in it. 

Arriving back in Dubai brought with it the flurry of smiles and hugs and thank you's from parents, chaperones and children alike. But the cumulative growth in that one week - from a perspective of critical consciousness - cannot be overstated. Week Without Walls is, in simple terms - a personal broadening of worldview and a recognition that the world - for all its difficulties - is a beautiful place. 

Monday, February 6, 2017

Behind the Scenes in Service Learning

Educational research indicates that learning is best when it receives formative feedback, meaning a somewhat continuous checking-in throughout the learning process. Applying that same logic to the development of our service learning structures we find it important for students, teachers, parents and the wider community to be exposed to conversations about how best to generate learning experiences to empower students to become contributors. This post is about examples of such conversations. 

Across the school, every month or so, faculty comes together for professional development days. Two weeks ago one such session, facilitated by our Service Learning Coordinator, took elementary school teachers through the definition of service learning, conversations related to critical consciousness, deliberation related to scenarios of learning experiences, documentation of service learning and team work time around service learning. All ES faculty were involved and the feedback was quite positive about the connections made to curriculum, prompting further conversations at team meetings. 

At the Middle School level conversations are already underway regarding the obvious connections to the Week Without Walls program, but also in utilizing service learning as a connective methodology to create integrated learning experiences. Soon enough team leads of MS will be jointly meeting to move forward conversations about how best to approach service learning in the classroom and beyond. 

In high school there is work underway in the Global Issues in Action course (grade 9 social studies) to focus on social entrepreneurship. In a slight shift toward more authentic connections the grade 9 students will view and ask questions to a panel of social entrepreneurs from the UAE. The focus, specifically, will be on their personal motivation and story, as well as the connections between their respective company and the social benefits that they provide. Curricular planning is also revolving around how to best focus student learning on the use of social entrepreneurship to address social, economic and environmental issues worldwide. 

In grade 4 faculty conversations revolve around the connections between service learning and global issues, the Global Goals for Sustainable Development, student inquiry, investigative methods and moving forward with practical learning experiences. The idea here will be to create "focus groups" or committees involved with a different strand of the global goals and putting some bite into the notion of think global, act local. 

Perhaps the highlight of how service learning takes on a life of its own, let us share a small story.  Our grade 3 students, motivated by young role model change maker vides seen in class, realized that our community knew little about the species of plants on campus (do you?) and beyond. After surveying our community and identifying the plant species they decided to create small informational plaques to support learning and awareness around campus. That, in turn, developed into an idea to include our grade 2 students who are also studying plants around the world. One thing led to another and the conversations now are revolving around the idea of our grade 3 students not only creating the plaques but also creating a tour route to support the learning of grade 2 students, with our 3s as tour guides! The grade 2 students, in turn, looked at the information generated by third grade and recognized that almost all species on our campus are non-native species. 

Could this lead to further conversations that develop the critical consciousness we'd love to see in our students?  We can't know for sure, but one might suspect that sometime down the line conversations could link up to issues of invasive species, water use in a desert ecosystem, water desalinization, energy use, coastal pollution, global sustainability and a whole world of contribution just waiting to happen. :-)