Above: Kallee and Kelsey made a model to show the history of significant wildfires in Australia.

Talking Through Complex Issues at Onondaga-Brant’s Social Studies Summit

TUESDAY, JAN. 30, 2023


ast week saw the return of a signature event at Onondaga-Brant Public School as the Social Studies Summit once again invited peers and family members to the in-person showcase of learning on current global issues. 

Above: Younger learner Kepler got hands on, learning about invasive species with Grade 7 students Stella and Scarlet.

“We’re both very social people, and it’s really fun to talk to other people about a topic we know a lot about,” said Stella, a Grade 7 student who, along with project partner Scarlet, researched and presented on invasive species affecting ecosystems across the region. 

“We chose this topic because we both love the environment, so figuring out how to help it – it’s just so much fun,” added Scarlet, who brought a real-world sample from her own backyard, showing damage to a tree caused by the emerald ash borer. “And it’s kind of exciting that we’re the generation that has the ability and knowledge to hopefully fix all these problems.” 

The grade 6/7 class at Onondaga-Brant spent about three weeks thinking about complex issues affecting the planet and the people on it – subject matter ranged from the impact of climate change on increasing wildfires, the results of governmental fishing policies on the health of coral reefs, reducing carbon dioxide emissions in the production of cement, and many other topical issues of social, political, economic and environmental importance. All are issues that learners felt their generation will ultimately need to address, so the Summit brought the opportunity to begin that work. The research projects were conducted in two phases: a deep-dive inquiry into the topic they chose, and then a trade show-style presentation of those findings, engaging peers with infographics, 3D models, Kahoot quizzes and lively discussions about what they found. 

Above: Grade 7 student Diya shows an informational pamphlet she and her project partner developed to share their knowledge of glacial ice melt.

“We’ve been focusing a great deal on communication skills this year,” said educator Christopher Bailey, who guided the Grade 6/7 learners through the meaningful project. “After a couple of years with various periods spent learning remotely, I felt that it was very important for students to have an opportunity to develop their thoughts about their learning, to impart those ideas to audience members beyond their classroom peers, and to consider responding to ideas and questions that they may not have considered.”

The enthusiasm was high as learners relayed the facts and supporting details they’d researched, while also fielding questions from younger students, who had a chance to take in the Summit and share in the learning. 

Above: Alex and Logan’s booth featured a Kahoot quiz where younger peers tested their knowledge of co2 emissions.

“Any human can make a change, but I feel like the governments are one of the biggest parts in fixing this issue – scientists, researchers, so many are going to have to come together to make a solution for this,” said Kieran, who along with project partner Jackson, presented on preserving coral reefs. “Everything is connected… it’s a very big thing that not many people think about!” 

The collective priorities of Grand Erie’s multi-year strategic plan include building a culture of learning to nurture curiosity and opportunity for each student. The Social Studies Summit saw students taking on complex, complicated topics and developing confidence and pride as they proposed solutions to the issues. 

“Because students have the opportunity to choose their own topic and focus, the direction that they take is their own,” said Mr. Bailey. “An event like this makes the learning experience very authentic.” 

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