Above: Grade 7 students Austin and Benny pose with Austin’s mom Amy and grandparents Carolyn and Reg

Project Gives Onondaga-Brant Students Global Perspective

The gymnasium at Onondaga-Brant Public School became the official site of the 2020 Summit: Global Problems of the Modern World recently, as Grade 7 and 8 students shared their learning around some of the most pressing issues facing humanity. Grade 7 students focused on the use and sustainability of various natural resources, while the Grade 8 students took on topics related to global inequalities.

Right: Grade 8 students Tejan and William show off the details of the model they built to depict life in refugee camps.

“As adults, we’re used to being the ones teaching our children, but today, they’re teaching us,” said Amy, one of the parents who visited the Summit, which was set up trade-show style with display booths depicting each area of research. “Listening to them each discuss their topics with this level of knowledge and passion is really impressive.”

Amy attended the summit along with her parents, Carolyn and Reg, to see the results of what son and grandson Austin had been working on so diligently. Austin and research partner Benny, both in Grade 7, choose to explore the topic of overfishing, and made links to the political, geographical, social, and economic implications of the practice.

“It started in the 1800s when whales were hunted for their blubber, which was used for lamp oil at the time,” Austin explains with confidence. “It’s continued in parts of the world where nations are fishing certain species faster than they can replenish their levels, so it definitely needs to be monitored better.”

Right: Grade 8 students Jaida and Julia answered questions around the causes of childhood poverty around the world.

“To add on to what you just said, countries need to enforce bylaws and permits as one solution,” says Austin’s partner Benny without missing a beat.

Listening to the conversation is grandfather Reg who remarks that at “his age,” it’s nice to still be learning new things about the world.

Part of the challenge of the project was to distill complex information down to a visual display that captured the most important aspects of the problem and its solutions. With forward design-thinking, students working on the topic of refugee camps choose to illustrate the problems of overcrowding and lack of sanitation by constructing a small-scale model. Others used charts, graphs, and maps to illustrate the most pertinent information at-a-glance. Every student had the chance to discuss, debate, and present solutions as parents and teachers made their way around the gym, asking questions. The goal wasn’t necessarily to know the answers to every possible question, but to be able to synthesize information, reflect on it, and make connections.

Right: Grade 7 students Jack and Kallum explored the impact of climate change on the world’s coral reefs.

“For many, this was their first introduction to formal research, and they’re looking at what they find through a critical lens,” said Christopher Bailey, Grade 7/8 Teacher at Onondaga-Brant who’s been facilitating the three-phase inquiry project with students since last December. “From the vast amounts of information they’re finding, the process is then to sort through that and ask, ‘what’s useful to know.’”

Projects like the Summit allow students to explore a topic, ask critical questions, then present their findings in a variety of ways, linking to Grand Erie’s Multi-Year Plan goals and the Achievement pillar which aims to increase student understanding of effective learning strategies and how to use them.

From the animated discussions taking place during the Summit, it would seem the world is in good hands.

Photos by Grand Erie Communications

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