I.S.S.A Movement has always put a strong emphasis on the importance of environmental education and teachings, even listing it as one of our three pillars. We truly believe that in the modern day more than ever it is critical that our youth understand the value of and challenges threatening the delicate ecosystems they will grow to inherit. Ensuring that students learn at a young age about eco friendly habits will prevent them from having to relearn behaviors to compensate when they are older. Therefore, ISSA Movement strives to make strong partnerships with our schools in order to promote a healthy environment for all.
Last week we had the pleasure of releasing our "Eco Heroes" one week crash course with the students of the Lowell Community Christian Academy. We were able to share our passion for our environment & sustainability, providing the young students with the inspiration, tools, skills, & knowledge they will need to harness in the future to be successful advocates and strong leaders in their communities.
When Benjamin Chase and I designed this curriculum we wanted it to spark a love for nature as it was instilled in ourselves. I always had a passion for being outdoors, especially in my teen years where I spent a lot of time getting lost in the woods chasing waterfalls. However, growing up as a city girl our schools never taught us about our relationship with our environment nor were we exposed to it very much. It wasn't until I got into college and was taking an ethical business course that I finally started learning about the environment and it's delicate balance. This is one of the main reasons why we designed this course. Children need to be exposed to these concepts at an earlier age, and the progress we make for carbon neutral emissions and preserving our ecosystems will be carried out and improved by them. With this in mind we have strategically built a curriculum centered around strengthening interpersonal connections with one another to promote a collective mentality and in turn help our planet to thrive!
Each day we taught a different topic around conservation. Although I had never taught a class of 50 kids before, I remember walking in on Monday morning with such excitement & determination. As nervous as I should have been, I couldn't help but feel like it was all meant to be. Every word that was spoken just flowed so naturally and effortlessly. It was also beneficial having such a great partner like Ben by my side who kept up with every word and made sure the conversation was engaging and empowering!
That Monday we started by giving our introductions and explaining to them what ISSA does as an organization and what our goals were for that week. We then got to introduce to them the "Good Deed Drive" which was our favorite part and their homework for the week. After each lesson plan students were given a list of ways to do good for their environment or for others, we also encouraged them to get creative and come up with their own nice gestures.
Each list was inspired by what they learned that day, and completing one item on the list gave them a point that they would then use to earn a grand prize of an upcylced bluetooth speaker, whoever gets the most points wins. We hoped that by presenting this initiative, children will start to continue living more sustainably and increase interactions within their communities even after the program ended because it feels good to do good.
On Tuesday we taught about why our oceans are so important, the harm of single use plastics, and water conservation as well as showed an inspiring video as to how one man's decision to get up one day and clean a local beach led to the biggest beach clean up led in history! We even did a science experiment on water contamination and on Wednesday we also did another where we were able to show decomposition at it's finest, we went live on the school's youtube page which you can find here, click to watch along https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g2bqzJkWyDs
My favorite part in that live stream is at 35:40 where I asked the kids to share one thing that they did for their good deed drive, and all the kids were so eager to share, one girl took a shower in 48 seconds to conserve water and her grandmother timed her! A lot of children were cleaning up around their neighborhoods, helping parents do the dishes without being told, and reusing things around the house instead of throwing it away. Hearing all of this was so heart warming!
On Thursday after feeding them with so much information all week and one day away from our tree planting ceremony it was especially crucial for us to explain to them how to be good stewards to our planet as well as advocates! They learned how to talk to their friends & family about sustainable practices and we encouraged them to continue doing their own research on the topics that they were most passionate about. we also encourage them to spend more time in nature and then separated them into 10 groups to make flyers to hang up around their school about what they learned as well as present it to the class.
Then Friday came around and as dismal it was to know that it was our last day with the kids we were also super pumped to be planting six mulberry saplings with them right in their playground! Whats really great about these trees is that the female off spring produces fruit, more specifically berries, so as the children are playing in the future they can also go over to these trees and enjoy a delicious snack!
It was truly amazing to see these kids from the 5th - 8th grade get so excited and work together to plant these trees, everyone was having fun singing to their tree, doing "tree dances", and protecting their newly planted saplings to help them grow, most of the groups even named them! The playground was filled with laughter and children singing it was a beautiful sight to have been able to experience, and what is even more heartwarming is that as we were leaving for the day as a group of kids got together and started cleaning the playground! Being able to watch this as we drove away from our first ever Eco Heroes week was a confirmation for us as to how much these students were retaining and how much of an impact we were making in their young lives.
The feedback from both the teachers and kids were all of praise, it was delightful to hear insight from the other teachers who initially didn't give the environment much thought but our now contemplating they're daily habits. Which goes to show there is something for everybody to learn of all ages, we were even told by the principle after our composting day that we had sparked an 1 hour dinner conversation at her house afterwards because she had knew very little to nothing about it before that day.
Children came up to us expressing their love for this project and some even posted about it on their social media as you can see below. Overall we are extremely proud with the success of this curriculum and cannot wait to implement it into more schools around the country as well as continue working with CCA in the fall to start a leadership after school program where kids will help us with our new composting initiative, in school garden, and clean ups!