I would like to get other people’s opinion/critique/advice/suggestions for a project that I have recently started working on.
I have just finished a bachelor in Anthropology and I am now doing an EVS placement in an environmental NGO in Georgia (the country).
Within the framework of a larger project that my NGO is involved in, I am implementing an activity (with 2 of my colleagues) with school children (ages 13 to 16) from two schools one in Armenia and one in Azerbaijan. I will try to make the description of this activity as short as possible, and then I will write a few questions that I would like help with!
The activity is called: “School Student-led Research On Local Environmental Changes and Human Adaptation Strategies”:
There are two main purposes to this activity:
1) To raise the student’s understanding of concepts such as climate change, biodiversity, human adaptation, and natural disasters. To raise their understanding of the local and global dimensions of these concepts, and of the role and usefulness of ‘science’ and ‘traditional knowledge’ in understanding these concepts and interacting with these phenomenon. Through this, the aim is to enhance the children’s understanding of their role in the present situation of the environment, and therefore encourage them to be actors for positive change.
2) The second aim is to gather knowledge about the environmental changes that the student’s neighbourhood have been going through over the last 40-20 years (or so), and knowledge about the ways in which people have been adapting to these changes over the years. The aim would be that this information be useful to the people from the area, but also to the wider public in order to raise people’s awareness on the importance of local knowledge on environmental changes and means of adaptation.
This project will take the form of a school competition (starting in December 2012, and ending in June 2013), where the students will be given a number of tasks to undertake in groups in order to gather the necessary information. The idea would be that they gather the information into some sort of timeline, which would portray environmental events and changes that have happened, and which would be illustrated by text, photographs, maps, calendars, (diagrams?), etc…
At present, we are planning 4 tasks:
1) Community mapping: the students will map their neighbourhood, map out the different natural resources, and explain how these are used (ex. River is used for fishing, park is used for lying down in the grass, etc…). They will take pictures of these different places, (and describe issues people might have with these places? Ex. Not enough fish?)
2) Calendar: The students will draw a seasonal calendar, describe what happens in each season and explain what activities and events take place at different times of the year (ex. Summer: harvest, January: Christmas, …). They will try to find pictures to illustrate the different activities that they talk about.
3) Biodiversity listing: they will go around taking pictures of the different non-domesticated plants and animals of their neighbourhood, list the ones that cannot find but know are there somewhere and explain any ways in which these animals and plants may be used by people.
4) Interviews: throughout the three tasks, the students will start elaborating a list of questions that they feel they would like to ask older members of their community. Then, we will organize a workshop with the students to help them create lists of questions to gather qualitative data and a questionnaire to gather quantitative data about the way the climate, biodiversity and landscape has been changing over the years. They will record these interviews, try to find old pictures, old newspaper articles etc… and then use all of this to create the timeline illustrated by stories and pictures and maybe by a few diagrams.
To help out the students, we will organize two (maybe 3) workshops to help them gain theoretical understanding on these concepts, to help them gain skills they will need for the tasks and to help them make sense of what they find. The progress of the student’s work will be uploaded on a website and there will be a final event in each school to present their work to the wider community and to distribute the prizes.
We will evaluate the project by seeing how different the students understandings of the concepts are after project in comparison with before, and also by looking at the reflexive notes that we will encourage students to take about their research (to know what is more difficult for them, to see whether they are becoming more curious about these topics, etc…)
==> I have never done anything like this before and would really appreciate any opinion, critique, or suggestion. I welcome any reading, similar project, or vague direction from which I could get useful insights.
Questions I have (at the moment):
- I do not have much background in pedagogy and teaching and find it hard to evaluate whether what I am aiming for is way too much for children ages 13 to 16.
- Are there any other tasks that would be worth getting the students to do? Or any other components that I am missing to the existing one?
- What is the best way to get the students to start asking questions, and to get them to think of questions for the interviews?
- Do you know of any fun games to familiarize people with concepts like climate change, biodiversity, human adaptation, …?
- I haven't studied environmental anthropology, and I am not an environmental expert, are there key points that I am missing out on that front?
- What are the best ways of evaluating the progress of the project?
- Is it worth trying to gather quantitative data too, or would that just be too much?
Thank you very much for reading this!