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As part of a learning group within my board (LKDSB) I have been exploring challenge based learning (CBL) in my classroom.  This image was my initial inspiration.

 

This picture represents the daily amount of trash that our custodian deposits in the dumpster.  Daily.  

I started playing around with useful apps Skitch and Moldiv, and came up with this visual to try and shock my students. 

 

Although not entirely accurate, it still served a purpose.  To present a challenge.  How can we change the way our school consumes energy and materials? 

My students initially went into small groups and began to explore different ideas of how we could reduce waste.  One of their first steps was to analyze the things or items that we were throwing out on a daily basis.  Some of the things we found were:

  1. Way too much paper was being both used and wasted (not recycled)
  2. We are mostly throwing out food or food packaging.

This brought us to the conclusion that we needed to find a way to reduce the food waste.  One groups solution was to start and promote the benefits of composting at our school.  To do this they decided to research the best ways to compost and they are creating an information page of acceptable items.  They choose to start small, with our class and a neighbouring class.  If successful they would attempt to roll this out to the entire school.  Progress has been slow but results are still expected.

Reflections:

We have been asked to evaluate and reflect on the process that we went through with our classes.  There were many aspects of challenge based learning that I enjoyed.  I liked seeing some of my students engaged in solving actual problems.  I enjoyed not having to answer the question, what’s the point of this activity?

Some of the aspects that I would have changed are; find ways to establish accountability within the groups. Students had trouble with the idea that I was not going to provide all physical materials.  Some of our projects have stalled at the material gathering stage. 

  • I would have put greater emphasis on identifying ways to measure the success of our efforts.  Students need to be able to see that their efforts are making a difference.   
  • I would look to improve my assessment techniques with these type of tasks, more frequent conferences, checkups and maybe student blogging/reflecting would help this process. 
  • Improve assessment including more time for student self reflection (again blogging would have been great for this).  

(Student built kinetic/dynamo phone charger using a stationary bike)

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