The GEMS Dubai American Academy is a vibrant international community rooted in a culture of kindness that creates and empowers leaders and independent thinkers. DAA prepares students to lead successful lives through the diversity of its community and the extra-curricular experiences that contribute to the development of the whole person.
“This is my 7th year of teaching but my first year at Dubai American Academy. I was introduced to the Future Fluencies during the orientation and was immediately intrigued as it aligns well with my own student-centered teaching philosophy.”
“The results have been phenomenal—students were able to go deeply into the question of how their everyday choices impact their ecological footprint, and this is where most traditional curriculum would have stopped.“
“Working with Lee during our professional development was truly inspirational. He really grasps education and the role of the teacher in creating the space and opportunity to draw out the creative side of our students.“
What does it take to inspiremeaningful change?
When we’re in need of innovative solutions to the many problems plaguing the global environment, count on our digital students to answer the call. The Environmental Solutions Fluency science projects from GEMS Dubai American Academy’s Grade 9 learners are shining examples of the ingenuity and mindfulness today’s students can show when it comes to making our world a better place.
Dionne Douglas, an educator at DAA and the facilitator of the projects, says that the idea to move forward came on the heels of a visit from the Global Digital Citizen Foundation’s president Lee Watanabe-Crockett. “After we met with Lee, a couple of the science teachers decided to get together to put Solution Fluency into immediate effect,” she recalls.
From there, students would take the lead in researching and designing remarkable ideas for easing the burden on our environment.
Where do webegin to transform?
DAA’s science students needed a springboard to begin their exciting new projects on environmental concerns. Their adventures began with considering the crucial issue of sustainable water use. Water is the lifeblood of Earth and one of our most basic and vital nutritional needs. Unfortunately, our global supply is also in grave danger—the result of industry, pollution, and waste.
“Students were challenged to think about their choices and how they affected the Earth,” explains Dionne. “They worked in groups to examine the choices they make on a daily basis such as their transportation, the food that they eat, and even the clothes that they wear.”
Once they reflected on these choices, the learners’ task was to incorporate Solution Fluency into designing and delivering a solution to a chosen problem and, of course, to also debrief their journey. Dionne stresses that the students made their own choices for the issues they would tackle without any input from the teachers.
How do we plot a path to success?
As the work progressed, Dionne noticed the solutions students were coming up with were quite varied and sophisticated, with quite a few workable solutions that they were eager to implement.
“Students were able to go deeply into the question of how their everyday choices impact their ecological footprint, and this is where most traditional curriculum would have stopped,” claims Dionne. “They were able to go further and connect these important scientific concepts to the personal choices they make on a daily basis.”
Here’s what some of the students themselves had to say:
“I learned many new ways that transportation use and carbon footprint can be reduced.”
“I learned about how much we damage our environment and the carbon footprint we have from consuming beef, poultry, and other meat-based products.”
“I learned that plastic water bottles aren’t biodegradable … they release toxins which pollute soil and water and harm us.”
How do we measure growth and progress?
Students find that Solution Fluency helps them discover real-world connections to what they are taught.
There is a shift of responsibility for learning to the students themselves.
Students are exercising their inherent creativity and ingenuity through applying Solution Fluency.
Students are at the heart of the learning process, where they should be.
Teachers have assumed the roles of facilitators and “guides on the side” as students take the lead in learning.
The Essential Fluencies offer more opportunity for formative feedback and learning differentiation.
The Fluencies processes allow teachers to connect content topics to students’ personal interests and increase student engagement.
Teachers have new insights on how to relinquish control to students for their learning while still achieving curriculum objectives and demonstrable student growth.
There is a deeper culture of collaboration between students and teachers as well as between the teachers themselves.
Students are more empowered to adjust their own lifestyles to develop solutions for real-world problems that matter.
How do we continue to improve and excel?
The next steps for Dionne and the students at DAA are just as ambitious and fulfilling as their environmental solutions. “The next steps would be to create a space at assembly for Grade 9 students to present their solutions and then to tap the enthusiasm of these students to implement their solutions,” Dionne says. Some potential ideas the students are considering include:
Month Without Meat at the school cafeteria followed by Meatless Mondays everyday of the year for all schools served by SLICES catering (and eventually the world)
Introduce a “no cell phone hour” at school
Create an app to monitor and reduce spending
Open a DAA store for reusing clothing and other items
“Another step could be to explore where else we could use this format with our students,” she says. “Where else can we release control and let the students explore and allow us more time to guide them towards deepening their learning as they work on a project?”