Audio reading by Lynn Thomas

The fall of 2017 was a turning point for me. It marked my official deep dive into global projects… and I was terrified! All the ‘what if’ scary scenarios popped in my head like ‘what if my students hate it?’, or ‘what if I bomb this?’

Fortunately, those scary scenarios were just that… an overactive imagination creating scenarios brought on by my lack of confidence and fear of trying things outside my comfort zone. Fortunately, I forged on and didn’t let the scary voices influence my decision to try because it was a great experience, so much so that here I am doing it again… and I’ve brought along friends!

The Climate Action Project created by Koen Timmers is a global project where 250 schools and over 69 countries collaborate on climate change topics over the month of October. Students from across six different continents conduct research, brainstorm and discuss ideas, then present and share their findings about these topics via videos and online presentations. During the final week of the project, all participants have an opportunity to Skype with each other to establish personal and meaningful connections with their global peers.

I love how the project allows me to dig into the sustainable development goals and offer my students cross-curricular learning (my colleague who teaches science at my school is even adjusting her course to offer her climate unit during the same time period in order to support the learning and conversations from all sides!) Furthermore, the project incorporates the collaboration and technology skills that I know are important for my students, but which also makes it inclusive and accessible.

While I loved the concept, the first time I did this project I couldn’t see exactly how it would play out in my classroom, particularly since I teach English Language and Literature, not science or geography or social studies. But, then I read a more detailed description Koen gave in a welcome to the project email. It talked about students being like journalists, researching and reporting on their findings via video and presentation so classes from around the world could share in the discoveries as well. That is what then helped me envision this project for my class since journalistic type skills are part of my curriculum. From there it grew.

In tweeting about the project, I piqued another English colleague’s interest, so she joined as well. Then she and I started collaborating. We chose novels focused on climate change for our students to read in small groups. We live at opposite ends of the province, so our students blogged about their books with each other and we all created videos and presentations to share.

Skype calls with other classes from around the world was a particularly cool experience, since my students had never done anything like that before. It was a first time for me too, and it was all the convincing I needed to see that connections like that were a powerful learning tool, so Skype became a regular part of our class. In subsequent units we went on virtual tours; for example, the Holocaust Museum in New Orleans; connected with experts and other guest speakers; and continued to connect with other classes for discussions.

This fall, I’m excited to do the Climate Action Project again, especially since another English teacher in my school is joining me for the experience. We both have a section of grade 10 English, so we are combining forces and teaching them as one big class – even though we teach at separate times of the day.

We plan on having the students choose their books by “Speed-dating”. This is a fun, yet organized way to have students peruse the selections and then make a decision. Students note three things they noticed about the book, two things they wonder, and one reason the would or would not like to read the book. We are then having them rate their top three choices which we will use to form the literature circle groups (this means we can have the groups evenly distributed since we only have so many copies of each selection). Using Microsoft Teams, OneNote and Flipgrid, the students will be able to stay organized and communicate across classes for their literature circles while reading their group novels. They will also be able to collaborate easily using these platforms to conduct further research and create presentations to share with the wider global project.

Having done the project once, I am more confident about guiding my students through the experience, but I’m even more excited in being able to share it with other colleagues and introduce them to this powerful global learning opportunity.

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