A few weeks ago, I pledged online through Twitter to “Go Paperless” for Earth Day. Soon after, I told my students about it and they were so excited! They immediately started to offer ideas and suggestions of how we could Go Paperless for an entire day.
“We can work on the computers,” said one student.
“We could use whiteboards!” shouted a group.
“Will we have homework?” asked a few inquisitive and hopeful faces.
“Don’t worry, we’ll have homework,” I teased, “but it won’t be on paper.”
Time went by and the week was approaching. I invited other teachers to Go Paperless too. The day we chose (since we would be on vacation on the actual Earth Day) was a library day for my class and our librarian was excited to join us. Then I told her, “We’re going hard core here…no paper books.”
After the initial shock, Mary Ann smiled, “Ok, I can do this.” And she went on to make plans to purchase an ebook and to share some stories and resources online.
Ideas floated around my own head. Talk about a type of structure! You don’t realize how much you depend on paper until you have to really do without it. But in this restriction, I found creativity in my own self and in my students. My main goal for Paperless Day was to NOT stray from the curriculum. I did not want make this a fluff day in the least. So, I started with a list (like I do for so many things!)
math – fractions, decimals, percents
LA – digital storytelling? ebook? poetry? (it IS poetry month, after all)
SS – immigration – KWL chart? gather in groups and talk?
Wax Museum – (This is a special project our 4th graders do each year. They choose an important figure, research them and become them by dressing up and giving a 1 minute speech.)
My ideas were formulating…
For LA, we would learn a poetic form, students would write them on whiteboards and then we would go up to our Computer Clubhouse and type them up…maybe as a comment to a blog I would post. link to their poems
For SS we could use whiteboards again and all do a Type One brainstorm: 10 things they have learned about immigration in library and computer class. Then we would group up, discuss, regroup, discuss and as a class come up with the main ideas of immigration, writing them on the class whiteboard.
For Wax Museum practice, their speeches would need to be memorized…no more reading them off a piece of paper. And I could record them using Audacity and post them on the school website. THAT could be the HW. Students could listen to their speeches and come back with recommendations of how to improve them. Maybe they could type those ideas up and email them to me or post them on our blog. link to their speeches
Now the math stumped me. I had a great project for the kids to do that another teacher showed me last year. Students took a cup of different colored glass bead and sorted them, finding the fractions of each color. Then they formed a circle with them and drew in lines to create a pie chart. They then used a calculator to convert the fractions into decimals and percents and labeled the pie chart with all the information. It was a great idea, but we need to draw the pie chart ON something…
So I brought the challenge to my class and, without telling them the details of the group project, we brainstormed ways we could record our results. It was wonderful to see my students sharing ideas, building off of one another and coming up with a solution. (Now that was 10 minutes of real collaboration and learning!)
Here is what we came up with…
(Sadly these pictures are lost and I’m trying to find them!!!)
Students write results on the pie chart Paperless pie chart – beads, dry erase markers and desks
Structure? Yes, actually more like restrictions. But Freedom? Yes! We were creative, innovative and free…and all the while: constructing, collaborating and learning. Imagine that!
For more pictures of the students creating pie charts, visit our school site: Mrs. Peterson’s Class
A wonderful lesson in ecoliteracy and a great way to introduce creativity and resiliency into the curriculum while teaching the children everything else you’re required to.
Now that you’ve started, what are your paperless plans going forward?
Thank you so much for your comment! Doing this for one day really has got me thinking more and more about alternative ways to teach that are ecofriendly. My kids are much more conscientious as well. We are planning on going paperless at least once a month. In addition, I have been trying more paperless activities. Next week, I am hoping to get the kids to write poems using GoogleDocs so that they can pass in their work and I can look at it without printing. (They don’t all have email, so they can’t email me their work.)
If you have any ideas to share, please do! I would love to hear more from you.
You know, Elizabeth, I left my primary school teaching aspirations by the way side long ago and now focus on adult edu, primarily property owners, managers and renters. But the funny thing is ecological literacy for all ages is a passion of mine that I can’t shake!
On my nightstand I have “Ecological Literacy” by Michael Stone & Zenobia Barlow and “”Earth in Mind” by David Orr. I’m not sure how “practical” either of these books is. Have you read either of these?
I don’t know those titles, but am now interested. Have you started them yet? I would be interested to see if they mention education: teaching the future about taking care of our planet and specifically teaching the students through public schools.
So glad to be conversing with you on this important topic!
Do you ever wish you could edit a comment for grammatical or spelling errors?
Anyway, no I haven’t read either book. I have a bedside reading list of about ten books. It’s just, as I said, education has been and is a passion of mine.
Good luck with your Eco Literacy campaign and keeping the kids involved. They are the ones who shall inherit the earth and they need to be educated about how to walk softly upon it. We sometimes forget that our emissions today will have consequences for years to come. . .
Alex Steffen over at Worldchanging.com wrote a thoughtful and moving essay about Eco Optimism that you may appreciate: http://bit.ly/bSLTBV
Thanks for the link. Definite food for thought! Looking forward to hearing more from you on the site!
Great ideas and I especially love that you didn’t want to make Paperless day a ‘fluff’ day. I feel that kids want to do work and be challenged. It’s great that you had them help you solve some of the paperless problem!
You have inspired me to try going paperless when we return from our Spring Break.
Thanks for sharing.
Thanks, Nancy! Please let me know how your Paperless Day goes. I’m also planning on doing one the week we get back from spring break. Want to do the same day and share? That would be fun… let me know and we can pick our own date!