Monday, June 17, 2019

2018-2019 Wrap Up and Looking Ahead

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This year has been a whirlwind of positives for the Office of Service Learning!  We are pleased to share the highlights of our year and would like to thank our community for supporting student contribution and cultural shift:

Mindset Shifting
Our biggest success has been in the fact that ASD has reached what we view as a ‘tipping point’ in terms of sustainable mindsets and global citizenship. Along with the increasing number of conversations, deliberations and projects related to sustainability, we’ve also had some changes in our collective behaviors. One example is the elimination of water bottles on campus (spearheaded by our student organizations) and the introduction of sustainable cutlery use for events has been a resounding success (with an estimated savings of 75,000 water bottles and over 50,000 items of cutlery saved from landfill).

New Initiatives
The year has also brought with it a number of new initiatives, the highlight of which is our new relationship with the JUMP Foundation. Our work with JUMP will continue next year and focus student leadership development, deeper understanding of global citizenship and connections with local partner organizations for service engagement. We have also been delighted to welcome our Bee Garden friends, powered by our grade 2 students and their teachers!  Other, not so heralded, initiatives have included our participation in the Eco-Schools program, the introduction of The Falcontributor newsletter, the decision to set a limit on distance for INSPIRE trips (effectively placing a cap on carbon emissions for those flights), sustainable signage, energy and water data sharing for faculty housing as well as research on the carbon emissions of school flights.

Curricular Integration
Our hope is that, as time ticks on, more and more service learning and global citizenship engagement will take place inside the classrooms of ASD. This year has been a great one for that as well! All ES classes included service learning experiences in their learning and there was an increase in use in MS classes across multiple disciplines (including the visual and performing arts, social studies and language arts) and a big push to infuse the Sustainable Development Goals into HS courses, with a large focus on supporting the service learning elements in the grade 9 Global Issues in Action! This, of course, is in addition to the SDG links to our MS Week Without Walls trips and HS service trips!

Of course, perhaps the biggest recognition of the year was our receipt of the Zayed Sustainability Prize which not only provided us funding for a few initiatives (including the Bee Garden) but also sky-rocketed the collective community awareness of sustainability. As a ‘flagship’ sustainable school for Zayed Sustainability Prize we have received many connections to other schools in the area. Our recognition, however, also extended to our receipt of EEG Recycling awards for paper and plastic as well as news coverage in local and international publication. Finally, we've just heard (yesterday, in fact) that we are also the most recipient of the UAE Eco-Schools Green Flag Award! The Green Flag Award is the highest award given to schools by the Foundation of Environmental Education (based in Copenhagen, Denmark)! Cool, right?

Looking Forward
Of course, the plans don’t end there. As we continue to build collective capacity and receive more and more support from our community there are more plans for the upcoming year and beyond. Some plans include the expansion of the ES Learning Kitchen and the potential building of a chicken coop in the Sustainable Garden area, the placement of a new industrial composter (funded by the Zayed Sustainability Prize), a sustainability dashboard for public awareness, the placement of solar panels (funded by Expo 2020). Perhaps more importantly we are looking forward to the curricular and learning opportunities provided by global citizenship education (through our connections with JUMP) and more formal infusion of service learning into the Week Without Walls program and service-related INSPIRE trips. Similarly we are looking forward to continuing on the journey to infuse service learning into the curriculum (K-12) as we pursue the Middle States Association Program of Distinction in Service Learning.

We cannot be happier with the year, with our community’s efforts and with the plans we have to continue to generate a collective ‘critical consciousness’ with and through informed action. All the best for a wonderful ‘green’ summer!

Sandy Carden
Sustainable Garden Coordinator

Anne Malabar
JUMP! Global Citizenship Director

Laurence Myers
Service Learning Coordinator

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Inaugural Grade 4 Clothing Swap!

Take a close look at the pictures above. What kind of learning can you see?  Can you see the connections to economics and global issues? Inquiry? Presentation skills or public speaking? Opinion writing?  How about systems thinking, organization, maker, circular economy, waste reduction?  Creativity?  Can you see how collaboration might have been utilized to address an authentic issue?  If you look just a bit deeper you might also see students took a concept - in this case economic costs and benefits and global consumption - and made it authentic, relevant and actionable. 

Grade 4 teachers decided to dedicate this year's service learning experience to the study of fast fashion and waste reduction. It was, for them, an experimental attempt without an unknown outcome.... how does an educator "let go" of the control and give the reigns to the students to do what they need to in order to make a statement, run the event, plan the process and learn, learn and learn some more. 

The final event - The inaugural (we hope) Grade 4 Clothing Swap - on June 11, was a resounding success for the participants and for the visitors who found themselves roaming the grade 4 hallways looking not only at the clothing, but also the engagement, the enthusiasm, the knowledge and deep understanding of the issues at hand. In the end students walked away with some great new (for them) clothing, the satisfaction of having created a sharing economy and a knowledge about the sustainability of clothing. What a great day!

Way to go grade 4... to the teachers for putting their faith (and support) in the hands of the students... and to the students themselves for coming up with some pretty cool service learning!

Saturday, June 8, 2019

MS Awesomeness Continues!

Well, it was that time of year again... MS Project AWESOME came around in May and was met with a great amount of energy and enthusiasm!  As with last year, the opportunities were endless and students got busy dedicating their time and efforts in their advisory groups in the service of others. Projects ranged from supporting the working staff of our community to sharing notes of encouragement to HS students to volunteering with ES classes. The culminating showcase, at the end of May, brought with it an end to the celebratory month but we hope that the spirit and culture of service continues to build at ASD year round!  Above you can find some of the highlight slides presented at the assembly as a glimpse into the world of Project AWESOME. 

One particular project - a clothing donation to our working staff coordinated by Ms. Laros' advisory - was so well received that it has been continued for a further two weeks. Those who would like to support can do so in the hallway just inside Gate 2 (the bus parking area). 

Way to go MS!!

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Grade 2 Beekeepers Make History (we think)!

Typically when one hears the word "innovation" they might think about technology. But the photos you see above are evidence of a different kind of innovation. They depict the first visit ever (to our knowledge) - on May 16, 2019 - that a classroom of students has visited an active beehive on a school campus in the UAE. It's part of a wonderful innovative learning space that our grade 2 students have been planning and waiting for. In connection to their science unit on pollinators this new learning space has created quite the "buzz" lately!  

After a long period of excitement and patience our grade 2 students in Ms. Mulry's class made UAE history. They dawned their spacesuit-like outfits and made their way into the new Bee Garden where Ms. Laros and Ms. Carden (our ASD resident beekeepers) and Ms. Zahira (from the Emirates Beekeepers Foundation) showed them the new beehives. The resident queen bees - Sassy (from Saskatchewan, Canada), Cleopatra and Nefertiti (both from Egypt) were there to welcome their young friends. 

So what does one learn from a Bee Garden?  Well, bee behavior for one (when you have the time, Google "bee dance" and see how bees communicate the location of pollen to their fellow hive mates), but also indicators of healthy colonies, what the inside of beehives looks like, how bees collect pollen, the quantity of pollen available in Al Barsha, the makeup of the colony and all sorts of great things!  Of course, the big learning is that though we certainly need to respect our bees, they serve as indicators of a good natural community and there is no need to be afraid of them. They provide necessary ecological services to our community and we need to do what we can to ensure their survival and flourishing. 

Already our hives have created a stir, with the other grade 2 classes following suit in signing up to visit over the next few weeks. The Facilities Office and our landscaping company have been brought into conversations about the nature and quantity of pesticides on campus and how we might ensure the wellbeing of our flying friends while maintaining a balance in controlling pests that put our plants in jeopardy. They have also identified a beehive infiltration by moths, prompting our community to make "bee gates" through the 3D printers in the i3 Lab that are big enough for bees but too small for the moths looking to feast on the great honey being produced already!  It's maker meets ecology in an innovation extravaganza!

We would like, of course, to share a big thank you to the Zayed Sustainability Prize and an ASD patron family who provided the funding for the new learning space!  Without their kind support such innovative spaces and sustainable examples would be impossible!  

Visits will continue for as long as weather allows and within a schedule that ensures the wellbeing of our bee colonies. We're also receiving a good deal of interest from our community to get trained as beekeepers too!  Adult and student beekeeping courses are planned for the next academic year as we build our understanding and capacity of ensuring the wellbeing of these important keystone species. And all great learning by contributing to a positively changing world!

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Global Issues in Action gets Socially Entrepreneurial

The Grade 9 Global Issues in Action is a great course to develop that deeper "critical consciousness" and "informed action" that we often talk about in our community. In truth there are a whole lot of connections that are made between our learning in and for the world around us, the recognition of our systemic impact, the up-skilling of our change-maker abilities and the consciousness that brings it all together through informed action. 

For the third year in a row our GIA students have had the chance to engage with visiting social entrepreneurs as they embark on their GIA unit named - you guessed it - Social Entrepreneurship!  

This years visiting entrepreneurs were:
  • Charles Polaschke from Taka Solutions (an architectural firm focusing on increasing building efficiency), 
  • Matteo Boffa from etuix (a company that upcycles the PVC from large roadside billboards into fashion accessories such as bags and wallets) 
  • Rashid Mikati from MellToo (focusing on selling donated electronics and using proceeds to provide food to refugee communities in Jordan)
Judging from the questions the students had (a constant flow of them for 30 minutes) it seems they are eager to learn about the ways in which business and social good can be best cultivated concurrently. As they move forward with their own ideas for social enterprise we hope to support their work as authentically as possible. 

Already this new innovative approach has yielded a new student initiative called Iris (originally developed for a Business Studies class) that will up cycle unwanted clothing into fashionable clothing for consumption. 

All great connections to learning!

Sunday, April 28, 2019

High Tide Earth Week Turtle Petition returns!

In service learning we often talk about the different types of service we can provide for people, environments, animals and the organizations that support them. Often we focus on "direct service" which includes the hands-on opportunities that are often the focus of our documentation of learning. But sometimes "indirect service" is equally as important. Indirect service focuses on ways that a group/organization can support a cause or bring awareness to an issue through means that are not directly involved with the community in question. 

One such example is the High Tide petition signing for turtles which took place during Earth Week!  Our High Tide students were out there  supporting awareness of the turtle conservation (specifically their marine habitats and the detrimental effects that plastic have on their survival) by having meaningful conversations regarding the plight of turtles in the Gulf region and around the world. 

Way to go High Tide!

Friday, April 19, 2019

SEENAH Does it Again!

When SEENAH does it's thing it's always with the support of working populations in mind. Their October (and sometimes May) Jumble Sale forms the backbone of their operations but their outreach is done through what is called HOPE packages. This time around over 300 packages were distributed to a worker's housing complex in Sharjah. Our students -  supported by their advisor Ms. Hickey and our newly appointed JUMP Global Citizenship Center Director Anne Malabar - spent much of the morning packing the bus, traveling to and from the site as well as distributing the packets to the workers. 

SEENAH, by the way, is also planning an upcoming ASD worker's Ramadan fridge for our fasting workers. They will soon be coordinating the event which will take place between May 19 and 31. Keep an eye out for that!