Sharing the Planet

As we finish up group and individual projects, mostly focusing on digital citizenship and cyber-bullying, for our “How We Organize Ourselves” unit, we are also inquiring into food, finite resources, and sustainability as we move into “Sharing the Planet.”

This is a huge topic, one that started a few years ago as our focus for Grade 5 Exhibition. And those who watched the video from last week of our students sharing their understanding of these and other issues, surely noticed a limited understanding of food – a seemingly simple topic. Definitely something we take for granted, and children are not the only ones with little to no understanding of the implications our food production/distribution practices have on the environment, humans, and systems.

So we need your help!

Family discussions will be crucial during this unit, more so than usual. We all eat differently, and we all have our personal beliefs about food. My request is that you simply talk about these beliefs, the norms and rituals that have developed for your family, while simultaneously asking bigger questions, “Where does this food come from?” and “Why do we buy certain kinds of food?”

A good family discussion might result from taking this “Food Quiz” as a family. The questions are challenging, as we discovered when we did the first three as a class, and they’re from a U.S. perspective, but they’re important questions, ones that raise some interesting points and reveal common misconceptions. I urge you to take this quiz and then leave a comment for this post summarizing the resulting conversations. And for all those grandparents and various relatives out there, as always, feel free to leave your own comments and opinions.

One of the main goals of this unit is to develop the idea of being a “systems thinker”. I hope that the students start to understand that complex systems – nature, food, sustainability, water, etc. – can be affected by the decisions and behaviors of humans. Being a systems thinker involves keeping track of some important elements/concepts:

  • Seeing the big picture – stepping back and seeing how things work together
  • Change – realizing that issues change over time
  • Connection & Causation – seeing that each decision is connected to something else
  • Perspective – realizing that different people have their own feelings about issues

Hopefully through discussions happening at school and at home, the students will see that decisions are rarely “black and white”, that we need to consider various perspectives and potential results of our actions, and we need to be informed in order to make the most appropriate choices. And while action is important, we’re not expecting 10 and 11 years old children to change the world. Understanding, as always, is key. What the kids do with that understanding is up to them. This funny video portrays that point in an entertaining way, that decisions and choice can be more effective than life-altering, impossible actions.

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