Teacher: Ding Qiuyue, Ma Cun School, Shilou County, Shanxi Province
With the development of China’s economy, conflicts among enormous population and limited resources, as well as production expansion, environmental pollution and waste of resources have become increasingly obvious. As the economy continues to grow and the population continues to increase, the issue of shortage of water, energy and mineral resources is getting more serious. The contradiction between ecological environment destruction and protection is also becoming more fierce. In light of the future of China’s economy and society, how long can those natural resources and the ecological environment that people rely on last? I, as a Geography teacher, often think of this issue.
In the context of this growing environmental and resource problem, based on Zigen’s idea of “sustainable development”, our school attaches great importance to the development of students’ environmental education. The school regularly organizes environmental protection activities based on academic situations and problems in the surrounding environment. In November, 2018, with ample discussions and preparations, and within the framework of environmental protection education, I gathered 22 eighth-grade students and delved into village daily lives. I wanted to stimulate the students’ initiatives, improve their organizational and advocacy abilities, while also promote the study of “China’s natural resources” in the Geography classes. We wanted to discover and solve problems by conducting in-depth research of the farm families around the school campus and publicizing the protection of natural resources. The aim of the campaign was to “Protect natural resources, reduce environmental pollution, and resist excessive consumption”. Starting with daily life, each individual should reject behaviors that waste resources and pollute environment. When we cultivate students as seeds of change, they will take roots and grow over time, developing their potentials to propagate movements and become a positive energy in the effort to conserve natural resources.
The activity was divided in to 4 stages：
- In-Class Discussion, Independent Plan Design
To make the field survey and activities more organized and proceed more smoothly, I instructed the students to discuss the plan in detail during the Geography and self-study classes – from personnel allocation, route planning, interviewee identification, interview questionnaire, to publicity content, etc. After grouping, we chose the team leaders, vice team leaders, reporters and clerks. Then, we decided on the team focus. The first team focused on grassland protection; the second team on water conservation, and the third team on cherishing water resources. The final step is for the students to draft a promotion plan. Although the basic elements of the discussions were highlighted, the discussions took four or five class periods. Objective factors such as our remote location, economic backwardness, and information isolation resulted in subjective viewpoints that contributed to the inefficient use of time and the lack of breadth, depth, and objectivity in the prepared material.
- Promoting the Plan in the Village
On 22nd of November, based on the prepared plan (activity foci, goals, contents, scope, methodology, slogans, records, interpretations, and reviews), the students grouped into three teams and conducted interviews of mainly the elders, middle-aged villagers, animal farmers and produce store owners. They interviewed about land use, waste disposal and classification, water sanitation and usage. During the interview, some students serving as translators for villagers who do not understand Mandarin. The main problem stemmed from the aforementioned insufficient preparation, causing lack of objective data and in-depth questions. For example,
Q: How do you manage used batteries?
A: Throw away.
Then, an unrelated question followed. There was no feedback to share related knowledge about batteries disposal to the respondents. This led to absence of constructive and convincing feedback to a specific environmental issue.
- Return Visit
Based on the previous plan and the interviewing results, the students made slight revisions and created a new plan. Since the interviewee’s awareness of resource conservation was extremely poor, the students focused on universal education and gave constructive advice to those who had not changed their awareness at all. Take multi-use of water for example, the students provided further advice to the targeted group. And for those who had made changes, the students encouraged them to actively promote the idea of natural resources protection to others. One month later, on 25th of December, the students went back to the previous interviewing area, and found really impressive results. Several households had no increased garbage generation, nor water consumption. Though the changes were minor, it was a great encouragement to the students. The students made significant progress in their levels of thinking, communications, and collaboration abilities. At the same time, the transmission of environmental values was effective to a certain degree. There were some “stubborn” villagers who refused to cooperate. They only allowed a short interview time and retorted to everything students said. Calling those people a group of “nonsensical difficult people” is not an overstatement. The students were a little sad, but were not discouraged by those reactions.
After the two promotional visits, we held a wrap-up meeting on 28th of December, 2018. At the meeting, school Principal Hao Yanping gave a speech and introduced Zigen and its years of assistance to the school. The Principal was too busy to be familiar with the details of the promotional activities. With some skepticism, he randomly selected two students to talk about the purpose, details, significance, and impact of the activities. The students’ truthful answers greatly impressed the Principal. The participating teachers also complimented the students for their spirits and the results, and expressed willingness to make this event better in the future. The students felt that this event inspired them a lot. Prior to the event, this consciousness was on their lips but gradually dissipated. After the event, not only did they promote the idea to others, they themselves learned an in-depth lesson.
Reflection and Feedback
The design of the course followed the principle of the new curriculum reformation by applying student-centered methodology, being relevant to their daily life and letting the students gain related knowledge and experience through field activities, while also expanding the scope of the curriculum. From the perspective of the students, they actively participated in the practice of knowledge, realizing the student-centered, teacher-led teaching philosophy, and their interest for further exploration was stimulated! From the perspective of the teachers, they enriched the teaching methods, accumulated the experience of practical lessons, and extended the concept of (Education for Sustainable Development) Zigen advocates into the classrooms, extracurricular activities, and everyone’s heart.
Through the development of this activity, students’ awareness of “protecting the environment; diligence in conservation starts with me” is further enhanced. Wherever they go, whether on campus, off campus, or even at home, they will set themselves as examples to others and will actively influence others. This event has played a very important role in promoting the school’s classroom, academic, and campus culture. I hope we can use this as a base to further strengthen, refine, and improve the next event.
Translated by Chelsea Zhang, born in Taipei. Worked in the field of retail store design and construction in Shanghai after graduation. She is working in the digital marketing field in Shanghai.
Edited by Florence Pu, BA of Foreign Language and Literature from National Taiwan University, MS of Library Science from University of Rhode Island, currently retired from the University of California system.
山西省石楼县马村学校 教师 丁秋月