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Parlez-Vous Sustainability?

“Imagine being an expert in a domain such as environmental conservation, and you’re able to travel the world and speak to people about it, in their language,” said Maurice Broschart, Teacher, Languages, Senior School. To give his students a sense of efficacy, he decided to give them a taste of what that might be like, now. 

Wrapping up a recent unit, Monsieur Broschart partnered with Tiffany Hui, Facilitator, Design Thinking to assign a special project. Grade 10 students used the French "future tense" to describe and present a building they redesigned using existing technology. Students were challenged to incorporate as much renewable energy and sustainability into their projects as possible, giving them the opportunity to integrate design-thinking with language skills, while also addressing a topic that's important to all of us: climate change. 

“This stems from teaching an environmental unit about three years ago to a group of Grade 9 students at another school. It was pre-Greta (Thunberg), and pre-pandemic, and I felt that at a young age, the students were already feeling defeated,” explained M. Broschart. “That’s why this project focuses on real, ground-breaking technologies that can help us feel excited and hopeful.” 

As part of their presentation, students built models, as well as digital representations and drawings, and presented in pairs or individuals. We saw stadiums, boarding schools, apartment buildings, and hotels, to name a few. Featured technologies included solar panels, water recycling, water-efficient toilets, energy-efficient glass and lighting, composting, and greenspace. The students were thoughtful about integrating multiple technologies systemically in their designs. 

“Design thinking is about being intentional and trying to understand how your work and what you do has an impact on others and the environment,” said Ms. Hui. “In this challenge, the rubric was about French speaking, but the applications and the other learning adds so much more—it’s about building models, learning technologies, and also trying to apply it in a real way.” 

In this way, students have the chance to explore future career paths, learn new ways to express themselves and their ideas, and uncover different skills or technologies they’re passionate about. Teachers are excited to collaborate this way as well, and these types of design-integrated projects often come together because of a shared spark of an idea they’re excited about. 

“I think this was quite innovative because we had a lot of freedom and we got to decide how we were going to incorporate the theme, so it turned out to be unique in the end, said Amy, Grade 10. “Doing it in another language meant we were that much more familiar with our research, since we had to practice it a lot.” “It left a lot of space for us to add ideas because it’s such a broad topic,” added Viela, Grade 10. “I really liked that we could connect it to our different skills,” said Sammi, Grade 10. “Some people are really good at speaking, some can write, some are really creative with design—everybody got to express their talents through this project.” 

Though this is the first time he has tried this assignment, it is safe to say that the experiment has been a success. “I wanted the students to explore some bigger themes in their second or third language—that’s really what senior school language teachers hope to do,” said M. Broshcart. “It’s not all verb conjugation.”