The Grade 4s knew a lot about their school's waste production and management practices and felt a responsibility to share it with the other students and teachers. To increase awareness, they decided to hold a Waste Awareness Campaign at their school-wide assembly.
As a first step in communicating their message, the Grade 4s collaboratively selected what they considered were the most compelling quantitative and qualitative findings from the waste-audit data. Clearly, the students and teachers needed to know that most of the school garbage that was being sent daily to the landfill consisted of compostable organic waste and recyclable materials. This was shocking news!
The Grade 4s wanted the staff and students to know why it was important for each class to re-think the manner in which they produce and manage waste. They decided to complement their findings with research about the environmental impacts of both organic and non-organic waste that end up in landfills. This would make for a more compelling message.
The students also considered how best to make their information accessible to their audience, which consisted of children ranging from JK to the junior years, as well as adults. They decided to share their message in a variety of ways, beginning with a brief dramatic skit about waste production indifference, followed by video footage of the Waste Audit Day to illustrate how they had arrived at their results. Additionally, each of Vessna's students presented a brief finding or fact about garbage production (See Table 17). The Grade 4s wanted everyone in the class to have an opportunity to present, to make the presentation more dynamic. All these strategies served to fulfil the curriculum
goals of media literacy.
The Grade 4s challenged each class to think of strategies to better manage the waste in their classrooms and to prevent it from entering the landfill. Their presentation ended with a representative of the class calling for change:
The Grade 4s enjoyed taking on a leadership role in their school and felt empowered to make a difference. To ensure that their message resonated long after the assembly was over, they launched a school-wide Waste Awareness Campaign that consisted of posters displayed throughout the school and advertisements for the morning announcements.
The Grade 4s' commitment to reduce waste production in the school was pervasive, crossing subject, classroom, and even time-related boundaries. By April, the students still felt a sense of ownership for their waste reduction initiative. In preparation for Earth Day, the Grade 4s launched a Garbage Reduction Contest for the whole school. The winner would be the class that produced the least amount of garbage for three days. The winning class would then share their strategies with the entire school by compiling a list of items that they recycled, reused, threw in the garbage, and brought home for composting. Once again, the Grade 4s organized all of the advertising for the contest. They displayed posters throughout the school, provided daily announcements, and selected the winning prize.
The Grade 4s' waste audit continued to inspire Vessna's students. They remained committed to their goal of minimizing waste over the entire school year. Clearly, this remarkable learning experience came about because their curiosity was valued from the outset and their sense of agency was fostered. They designed their waste audit. They uncovered compelling findings. They demonstrated leadership in the school community. Such was the power of Environmental Inquiry in practice.