Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Walking for Polar Bears, Part 2: The Big Day

With the fundraising well underway and a developing knowledge of climate change, it was time to plan the actual event. We had decided at the project's inception that the walk would take place at Brandon University, as I really wanted to expose my young learners to university at an early age. Also, it made more sense to bus our students to Brandon than make my big kids from BU drive out in separate vehicles. However, no project is without some bumps in the road...

Mrs. Obach and I had a big discussion about whether or not it was reasonable to bus kids to Brandon in a project designed to raise awareness about climate change. Did it make sense to put more vehicles on the road when that was the very thing we were trying to stop? We thought the best way to handle this issue was to take it to our students. Leah's Grade 1 class had an excellent debate using the "tug of war" strategy  and raised many valid points about why we should travel to Brandon. In the end, we decided it was better to take two buses than multiple cars, and the benefits far outweighed the disadvantages.

Early in the project, I had asked Dr. Duncan about using the walking track at BU's Healthy Living Centre. However, the director of the centre felt that 21 big kids, 21 kindergarten kids, and 23 Grade 1 students was just too many to accommodate. What to do? With unpredictable Manitoba weather in a busy city, was walking outside a wise or safe idea? My kindergarten class brainstormed alternative locations, and we called Shoppers Mall Brandon and Keystone Centre. However, it didn't seem like a good use of time to walk in one location then travel to BU for learning activities after. This problem was solved by my big kids at university. They proposed walking around campus, going in and out of buildings to keep warm. This also gave our students a great overview of the entire campus. Problem solved!

In the days leading up to the actual walk, the JKs partnered with my big kids to create a green screen movie using the app Do Ink. My junior kindergarten class had taken a special interest in climate change and developed the understanding that by helping the earth, we also help polar bears. This movie showcased what we can do to slow climate change.

We also participated in a fantastic video call with Mr. Andy McKiel and the Hamiota Grade 1 class. Andy had travelled to Churchill a few years ago with a Discovery Education team to get up close and personal with polar bears. His amazing pictures and interesting information about polar bears absolutely captivated our young learners. Thank you so much for sharing!

Perhaps what was most exciting was the work my big kids did at BU. I wanted these future teachers to gain first-hand knowledge of project-based learning as it is so well-suited to multi-age/multi-level classrooms. They followed the project through all its stages, and then they stepped up to plan the events at BU. We made a list of what tasks needed to be accomplished, and the students worked in groups to complete them. We looked at each task and discussed what curricular outcomes would be met and how students of diverse abilities could be accommodated. I felt it was a real "a ha" moment for a lot of my students as they realized how interdisciplinary and inclusive project-based learning is!

One group was in charge of mapping the route we would take for our polar bear walk. A PDF of the campus and a Microsoft Surface pen was a fantastic tool!
 Another group of big kids developed a schedule for the day.
 Another group was in charge of advertising and contacting the media.
 One group had the brilliant idea that we needed a photo booth! And we also decided that a polar bear mascot for the walk would be amazing!
And finally our big day arrived! It was an amazing day that couldn't have gone better--take a look at our video!
This was one of my all-time favourite projects as it was such a unique collaboration among two classrooms, Brandon University, and World Wildlife Fund Canada. Together we raised $243 for polar bears. Everyone involved saw what a difference we can make when we work together. My young students built knowledge about polar bears and climate change as well as strengthened their early literacy and numeracy skills, and my big kids developed their abilities in a project-based learning approach.