Sunday, June 10, 2018

The Awesomeness of Building Community

A month or so ago this blog brought up the MS Project AWESOME, a new initiative done through the advisory groups, whose aim it was to support student engagement and community building. In truth it was a pretty broad starting point and so, understandably, the projects and initiatives were as diverse as the number of advisories themselves. But what great things our students came up with!

The focus was as diverse as providing support to HS students during their assessments, to reading and collaboration opportunities with our school's youngest students. Not to be outdone, several projects were also based on appreciation of the adult members of our community as well. And, of course, a number of initiatives focused on the MS itself, including the introduction of the Falcon Way!  Finally, one group also focused on the environmental issue of water, focusing largely on plastic use through a survey given to MS students and a proposal made to the administration related to that data. 

The above shared images reveal the multitude of topics covered. They were shared with the MS community in a Project AWESOME celebration last week. All in all, it was a month (and a bit) of student-initiated engagement and brought out the best in our students and adult community, focused on the process of service learning (investigating a topic/issue, planning, acting, reflecting and demonstrating), albeit in a less formal manner. It's great to see the difference our students make through their ideas and follow through and it highlights the sheer energy that our MS can generate in becoming change makers in bettering the world around them.  

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

MS/HS Cafeteria Beautification Projects

Over the past few weeks have seen a push to beautify our HS/MS cafeteria. Perhaps it was those big, empty walls. Perhaps it was the lack of color. Perhaps it was that gnawing feeling that a statement needed to be made. Whatever the reason, students participating in Environmental Science informed action projects and Sustain Our World, quite independently, decided to focus on "greening" and beautifying the space and to make it a more inviting area. It was a two in one deal, quite fortuitously.

The one that took shape first was an initiative by Sustain Our World. Wanting to make the cafeteria experience a bit more "user friendly" and natural feel, initiated a re-design of the Grab & Go area. For those who visit the space now they will see a newly painted space, indoor plants adorning the surrounding spaces, nice new and inviting furniture and a few sound boards made by the students themselves. The place looks great! We asked some middle school students to give the space a name, and they decided that "Cozy Corner" might work, or something with "cafe" in it. It's indicative of the "feel" of the space now. 

Just on the other side of the Grab & Go (or Cozy Corner Cafe) area, facing the larger cafeteria space, a group of HS students are creating a sustainability themed mural!  As a community project that began in Ms. Noll's Environmental Science class, the mural was the result of the collective work of a number of students who, over time, have participated in its painting. The new mural will be "good to go" soon and will highlight ASD's developing critical consciousness with regard to the environment and our collective impact specific to sustainable behaviors. 

Well done to our super ASD community builders!

Below you'll find a fun video of a short time-lapsed portion of the work being done on the mural. Take a look!

Sunday, June 3, 2018

ES Faculty Celebrates Service Learning!

After another year of work with service learning our ES teachers were happy to share out their respective service learning experiences this year. The Celebration & Share Out was a way of demonstrating the experiences of our littlest ones though grade 5. The approaches to learning were as varied as the grade levels but their curricular connections seemed to support literacy, social studies and/or science for the most part. 

The share out was intended as a way to demonstrate student learning (with particular focus on evidence of learning) to each other and to allow teachers to see what other grade levels engaged in with regard to their authentic learning. 

This year has also led the ES Service Learning Team to generate a list of service learning agreements, based on three years of experiences that we are now able to reflect on. As per the service learning process, we too are reflecting and adjusting, identifying needs and creating plans. For 2018-19 the ES has committed to the following agreements:
  1. Every grade level has a connecting “theme” to service learning
  2. Every service learning experience will be inter/trans-disciplinary in nature
  3. Every grade level commits to the same theme for 3 years (or more)
  4. Every grade level provides all its students a common & similar service learning experience
  5. Every service learning experience will involve the five steps of service learning: (a) Investigation, (b) Planning, (c) Action, (d) Reflection and (e) Demonstration
It is important, of course, to also acknowledge the work of our ES Service Learning team this year whose guidance has been instrumental in deeper and more authentic learning experiences.

Well done to all!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Grade 4 Talks SDGs

Grade 4 is on a journey to deepen its understanding of global issues and, of course, a big part of that is the recognition of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  Mr. Myers, K-12 Service Learning Coordinator, who was invited to speak to the grade 4 students about the SDGs focused part of his talk on what it entails to have a sustainable mindset, identifying four main characteristics in particular:
  1. Having a "solutionary" mindset 
  2. Looking at topics/concepts/issues from multiple lenses (Nature, Economy, Society, Wellbeing)
  3. Making connections within and between the identified elements
  4. Taking informed action to engage with the world around us
Utilizing the SDGs and the Compass tool (developed by Compass Education) students were asked to work in small groups (typically two or three) to identify which SDGs were best placed in the compass points (Nature, Economy, Society, Wellbeing), essentially looking at the SDGs from multiple lenses. They were then asked to extend their thinking by creating cause-effect relationships within and between SDGs, essentially creating a systems thinking document. 

Systems thinking tools can be hugely valuable to students of all ages and adults. At ASD we are increasingly asking students to think in a systemic manner. It is a big part of the broadening of perspectives and the development of "critical consciousness" in our community. 

Sunday, May 13, 2018

In MS Everyone Can Be AWESOME!

Schools are great places to try new things and celebrate innovation, initiative and creativity. Middle Schools are arguably the "sweet spot" for such things because students are independent, passionate, and enthusiastic about touching their world in great ways!  That's why, in the Office of Service Learning, we're delighted that the new Project AWESOME has been created to allow students an avenue to showcase their version of awesome!

Below (in italic) is the excerpt from the Middle School Principal's May message to parents introducing this new initiative!  We can't wait to see the great things our middle schoolers will do to make their world just that much more awesome!

"I would also like to take a moment to highlight a new program we have initiated with students for the remainder of the school year called Project AWESOME. The program is aimed at engaging all students in the active process of contributing to a positive school culture in areas of: Advocacy, Well-being, Environmental, Service, Outreach, Mindfulness, or Entertainment. In advisory groups, students will brainstorm and commit to planning and engaging in a unique project that is, well, awesome! This could include random acts of kindness, volunteerism, "up-cycling" projects, or works of art or performances. Not only will this project empower students to make positive contributions, but also engages them in the skills of planning and action on projects that they are passionate about."

What a better way to end the year and engage students in culture building and positive change than putting awesome in their hands, supporting them in developing, learning and demonstrating their personal and collective awesome!

Monday, May 7, 2018

A Change Makin' Middle School!


Let's say that you're walking down the hallway wondering just what kind of school this American School of Dubai is. You're looking for evidence of learning, evidence of students addressing critical issues in their lives, showing leadership and expressing critical thinking in trying to make the world a better place. Is that too much to ask of a bunch of 12-14 year olds?  And say you're looking for them to impress you, too, with their presentational skills, their collaborative skills, perhaps through performance. And perhaps you're looking for some evidence that they are deeply concerned and want to take informed action to address issues that are important to them, and to make their community a happier place. 

Well, if you were searching for that type of evidence, on this day it wouldn't have taken you long to find. In what was a "wow" MS assembly the students who initiated, performed, presented, shared and collaborated did nothing but impress, one thing after another. The pictures above might not seem particularly varied. After all, they were standing on the very same stage. But look closely at the topics on the screen behind them and you'll get a heart-warming glimpse of the issues and topics that our middle school students are addressing. From happiness, to environmental action, to the sound levels in the cafeteria,  to reducing bullying to Project AWESOME, the middle school is - quite literally - awesome in bringing critical consciousness to the forefront and informed action to the stage!  

Way to go MS!

Monday, April 30, 2018

Earth Day, ES Style!

Earth Day (April 22) came and went. For some it was a chance to do the little things that it takes to show respect and appreciation for the planet. For others it was a more 'hands on' approach to things. The photos above are evidence of grade 5 students determined to do what they can within their own school community. Their awareness campaign - focusing on promoting Earth-friendly attitudes and behaviors - was supported by a campus waste collection campaign!  

We sincerely hope that their enthusiasm for the natural world, and specifically care and stewardship of it, will seep into the wonderful people they are becoming. For we all know that every day is Earth Day and when we're all looking the other way, the dispositions, attitudes and behaviors will be what makes defines us as the contributors to a rapidly changing world we all ascribe to being. Happy Earth Day everyone!