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Why Are My Grade Seven Students Smarter Than World Leaders?


This past week seemed all about climate change at work (by the way, I’m a teacher).  Motivated by my presentation last Thursday, the grade 11 French teacher created a project revolving around lowering the school’s carbon footprint.  Each group within the class had to write an affirmation, stating a change they wanted to bring to the school, making that change a reality and then writing an argumentative text.  I got to help out on Monday and Friday as an “adviser”.

They came up with some great ideas.  Encouraging students and teachers to turn off the lights when they aren’t necessary.  Having one school day where no technology (computers, digital projectors, cell phones) is turned on.  One lunch day a week without microwaves.  One lunch day a week without any waste that isn’t recyclable or compostable.  Banning disposable water bottles from the school.  And more.  All I really did was answer their questions, encourage them to focus on education in their “plan of attack”, and to think long term: to try and change the mentality, not just having this “one day event” and moving on.  The ideas themselves where theirs.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

At the same time, in my grade 7 science class, we are talking about the carbon cycle, the greenhouse effect and climate change (I swear it’s in the curriculum!  I’m not just trying to indoctrinate my students!).  We came up with this summary of the problem:

And after explaining to them the “symptoms” of climate change, they all agreed that it was in everyone’s best interest to address it.  (I avoided the talk about 4 degrees Celsius and the bad that it brings.  I don’t see the point at their age.)

Then, I challenged them to find solutions to the problem.  We discussed how you can address climate change at various levels (for example, dealing directly with the warming, or directly with the excess of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere).  However, we all agreed that the most effective solution would be one that goes straight at the source of the problem: the use of fossil fuels.

What they came up with ranged from the ridiculous (“feeding the Earth a massive Popsicle” or “sending Brad Pitt to the Moon ’cause he’s so hot”) to exactly what is being attempted right now around the world.  And just so we are clear, none of the following solutions to climate change came from me.  I hadn’t had the chance to talk about solutions with them yet.

So, here are the solutions to climate change according to my grade 7 students, organized by the problem they address (with my comment in brackets):

1. Problem: Warming of the planet.

  • Build a big ice-making machine
  • Cause an Ice Age
  • Everyone leaves their fridge open
  • Build huge air-conditionners
  • Move the Sun back (one of my personal favourites!)
  • Block the Sun (Geo-engineering anyone?!?)

2. Problem: Too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere

  • When you cut down a tree, plant one (or many) in its place
  • Plant a lot of trees
  • Invent “vacuum cleaner” that cleans up carbon dioxide (that sounds like Carbon Capture and Sequestration)
  • Develop an artificial photosynthesis (that’s actually being worked on by a few scientists)

3. Problem: Use of fossil fuels

  • Kill all the cows (I know it doesn’t address the use of fossil fuels, but we talked about methane production in class!)
  • Burn less fossil fuels (simple, but effective)
  • Build less factories
  • Use alternatives to fossil fuels such as wind turbines and solar panels
  • Walk, take the bike, or take the bus
  • Pass a law that mandates the use of electric cars (that kid’s not gonna be a Conservative!)
  • Develop new methods of transportation that do not depend on fossil fuels (that’s already being worked on as well)
  • For companies that produce a lot of carbon dioxide, impose a limit to how much they can emit and fine them if they go over the limit (Cap and Trade, out of the mouth of a grade seven student!)
  • Develop a technology that uses salt water to make energy
  • Build more bike lanes
  • Develop roads that produce electricity (sweet!)

That’s right.  “My” kids understand the carbon cycle, the greenhouse effect, climate change and can come up with practical solutions to the problem.  That makes them smarter than many-a-world leader.

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