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How the IB prepares us for a sustainable future: Earth Day at Halcyon

13.05.2021

Author: Khushi Hunt

Making “a better world through education” is at the core of the International Baccalaureate Mission, and at Halcyon we believe that paving the way for a more sustainable future through teaching is central to putting this mission into practice.

This month at Halcyon, our community celebrated Earth Day. From litter-picking in PHE with Grade 6 to investigating sustainability-focused career options as part of  University and Careers Counselling, our students have discovered even more ways in which every area of learning is central to protecting and celebrating nature. Students can use the skills that they acquire in mathematics to measure wildlife depopulation; and in the arts, our young learners can use media to inspire audiences to rethink their connection to nature. We can use Earth Day as an opportunity to embrace these opportunities in the classroom.

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IB Mathematics: plotting tree heights for conservation efforts in Hyde Park

 

In maths, Mr Afonso's and Mr Bari's Grade 8 classes used mathematical knowledge and data collection skills to create a map of Hyde Park that plots the varying ages, heights, and species of our favourite trees. Many of us enjoy walking in Hyde Park on a daily basis, but we find that the rich history of its features is often hidden from sight - understanding more about the wildlife that surrounds us reinforces the importance of preserving nature.

 

Designing Earth Day awareness campaigns in science

 

In science, Grade 9 tackled the social aspect of sustainability by creating TikTok-style videos aimed at sharing information about the clean-up and restoration of Fukushima. This task also encouraged students to consider the complexities of using different media platforms to share information: Grade 9 were asked to reflect on how brand sponsorships could impact an influencer's transparency. 

 

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Exploring the Anthropocene in English

 

In English, Ms Ahmed and Ms Stoneman's Grade 9 classes continued this exploration of the Earth in the media, looking at the concept of power by exploring human relationships with nature. First, they looked at key quotations from across human cultures - from The Lankavatara Sutra to The Bible to the World Wildlife Fund website - that dealt with our relationship to our environment. From these quotations, they were able to create different models of hierarchies. In one model, humans are above the natural world, and can use it for their needs. 

In the other, humans are intertwined with the natural world. Students were then able to discuss their differing views on nature in a constructive way through these shared worldviews. You can read some of their writing here to see how creating shared language allows for students to bring their own perspectives to the table! The class then applied this thinking to Annie Dillard's famous environmental essay Living Like Weasels, which will be contrasted in their upcoming class with a deep dive into George Orwell's Shooting an Elephant: students will use these findings to construct their own personal essays on power.

Martyn Steiner, Halcyon’s Sustainability Project Leader, shared a reflection on Earth Day, highlighting the need to grasp every opportunity to bring global events which impact our environment into the classroom as they unfold. 

“It was wonderful to see the school's commitment to teaching sustainability reflected in lessons across the whole school curriculum, and exciting to have a week-long celebration run as a collaboration between staff and student leaders. IB education is inherently centred on internationalism and confronting planetary-scale challenges, but Earth Week provided a chance to focus our attention on this vital issue and hopefully provides a springboard for us to continue to connect our learners to the natural world and prepare them for a greener future.”

Our students used this time to consider the role that all areas of their learning can have in developing a more sustainable lifestyle, with Grade 6 even producing creative pieces in Visual Arts to celebrate nature. 


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