This year, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to collaborate globally. In the past, I’ve participated in amazing events such as Dot Day, Talk Like a Pirate Day, and World Read Aloud Day. Each of those events has connected our students to classrooms and authors around the globe, and I’ve found so many collaborative colleagues through these events. It’s these very events that have pushed me to wonder what more we can do with our students. I’ve been pondering how we can have collaborations that allow our students to make a difference in the world and share their ideas, their questions, their problems, and their solutions.
When our spectrum teacher, Natalie Hicks, came to me with a flyer about America Recycles Day, I knew that this day had potential to spark some action projects with our students and students around the globe. I made a Google doc, crafted a blog post, and started inviting anyone and everyone to connect for America Recycles Day. It didn’t take long for some of the very people I’ve connected with for other events to start posting their own schedules in the doc and making connections. I want to thank Shawna Ford, Jenny Lussier, Cathy Potter, Donna MacDonald, Misti Sikes, Ly Phan, Kathy Schmidt, and Craig Seasholes for taking a risk with me and trying something new. These people put their schedules out there and started making connections.
This week, my own students started making connections for America Recycles Day. Each Skype or Google Hangout offered a little something different.
Ms. Clarke and Ms. Haley’s 3rd grade class connected with Kathy Schmidt and her 3rd graders in Gwinnett County, GA. We learned about how her students are collecting items from home to put in the library’s tinker lab rather than throw them away.
Ms. Wright’s 2nd grade class connected with Cally Flickinger in South Burlington, Vermont. We read the book Here Comes the Garbage Barge by Jonah Winter. The story sparked a great conversation about how our trash can take over our world and how important it is to recycle or reuse instead of throw things away.
Ms. Ramseyer’s 2nd grade class connected with Donna MacDonald in South Burlington, Vermont. Her students shared how they are using Drew Daywalt’s The Day the Crayons Quit to inspire a save the crayons campain. Students are collecting crayons and sending them to be melted into new crayons. Our students took time to offer some other ways that the crayons might be used such as making candles, melting crayons for artwork, fusing crayons together to make two-sided crayons, and investigating what crayons are made of so that they might discover even more things that crayons could make.
Ms. Li’s Kindergarten connected with Misti Sikes and her Kindergarten in Forsyth, Georgia. They shared how they recycle at their school by separating white paper and color paper as well as other ways that recycling has to be prepared before it goes into the bin such as removing paper clips and staples.
Ms. Boyle’s Kindergarten connected with Holly Esterline & Katie LeFrancois’s grade 1 & 2 class in Bolton, Vermont. We shared the book Compost Stew and heard about how their school is doing TerraCycling. Even with our connection issues, we still learned a lot about something we don’t do much of at our school.
Ms. Tesler’s 4th grade students gathered a lunch bunch together to connect with Cathy Potter and her students in Falmouth, Maine. The 1st graders at her school showed us a Google presentation with pictures of recycling and composting efforts in their school. They have a whole process of how their scraps at lunch get put into a bucket to go to the composting bin.
Finally, Ms. Spurgeon’s 3rd grade class connected with Karre Sloan’s 6th grade students in Nashville, Tennessee. They shared the recycling program from their school and how their 3rd graders are in charge of recycling. They also shared their ideas and tips for our own recycling problem at our school.
In every connection, our students shared our own school problem. We have recycling bins in every classroom, but we are finding that people are still throwing away recyclable things. Even when we recycle, we have an additional problem. People are parking in front of our recycling dumpster and the recycling truck can’t get to the recycling to empty it. We posted these problems onto a Padlet. We showed each connecting class the bins that we have in our classrooms and read the recycling instructions that can be found on the bag inside. Sometimes our connecting classes gave us new ideas right on the spot or shared what their own school is doing that might support our problem. Other classes added to our Padlet after we disconnected. We also added to the Padlet.
Our next step is to take this Padlet and share the ideas with our environmental committee which is chaired by Natalie Hicks. We also have 2 enrichment clusters that we can share the Padlet with. Our hope is that some of the ideas that came from so many perspectives will spark change within our school problem. We want to connect back with some of the classes we met this week and share what we’ve done to improve our problem, and we want to see what they have done since our connection.
I loved that during our very last connection, students arrived in the library to put signs on our recycling bin that were sent by our recycling department.
Miraculous things came out of our connections:
- We saw that we weren’t alone with our problem and that there were multiple things to test out to try to reach a solution.
- We learned that recycling is very different from place to place. We are so fortunate in Athens to have a state of the art recycling facility and single stream recycling. Some communities have to put forth a lot of effort to recycle, and it is so easy for us.
- We realized that there were so many things we could do with our “recycling” other than put it in the bin. The concept of makerspaces is really causing a lot of us to think about turning trash into functional creations.
- We saw that together we could come up with out-of-the-box ideas. We often started with “put up posters about recycling”, but with the energy of collaboration, new ideas surface such as make smaller trash cans, create a recycling contest, write a catchy song about recycling to sing on morning announcements, and more.
My hope is that this week of connections really does spark change in our school and others. At the very least, I think it made us more aware of what we are throwing away. These types of connections have the potential to grow into large-scale collaborations around the globe. The combination of powerful texts such as Here Comes the Garbage Barge and Eyes Wide Open along with the innovative ideas of students, teachers, and families fosters a healthy environment for long-lasting collaboration. Our students are the future of our world, and when we allow them to unite with one another around authentic dilemmas in our world, we are equipping them with problem solving skills to keep our world a peaceful place.