This month, thousands of students across Europe have been staging protests to demand action on climate change. By walking out of schools, students hope that politicians will start to take climate change seriously and take action to protect the environment.
Young people have a different sort of urgency when it comes to climate change. After all, they will be the generation who truly faces the effects and they know that they can’t afford another year of inaction. That’s why so many students around the world are staging protests and connecting with each other to begin to solve problems within their own communities.
One of those students is PenPal Star Raine from New Jersey, USA. She recently participated in Protecting the Planet and learned a lot about some of the biggest issues threatening our environment.
Connecting with peers around the world has an a profound impact on this 5th grade PenPal Star from Calabro School.
"Global connections impact our students by providing a universal online community to collaborate on special projects with other classrooms around the world. Students can explore and research innovative ideas, technology, and worldwide issues. This gives students opportunities to globally build relationships, gain perspectives, and empower their student online learning experience.”
-Jack Baker, Principal of Calabro School
As she reflected on environmental issues in her community and different ways that she can make a difference, Raine demonstrated excellent empathy in her writing.
An animal that is at risk of extinction in my area is the baby gopher tortoise. These small shelled animals are herbivores which means that they only consume plants. In Florida of 2003, this animals' population was at 800,000, but ever since then, it has gone down. I know this because my research states, "Do not remove the gopher tortoise from the area.". One way that we can help the baby gopher is by not taking them from their habitat. If we all work together and help the gopher tortoise one step at a time, their population could be back up and running just like it was once before.
My family and I make personal efforts to help the environment by using the least amount of cars when going places with my friends. If in walking distance, my friends and I walk to the place we want to go under the supervision of either one of our parents, or a guardian figure. Sometimes, when our destination is to far for us to walk to, my friends and I have to ask for a ride there. Since I have around 7 close friends I hangout with, we usually have to split up and take more than one car. To avoid using more than one car, we take my friend's van. This helps the environment because we are producing less toxins that harm the air.
From this lesson, I could help the environment by working together with some of my friends,and brainstorming ideas we could do at our age that could help the earth. An example of this can be meeting with each other during the weekends to bake items such as cookies, cupcakes, brownies. After baking the items, we can sell them and use the money to donate it to a company/group of people, that help the environment. We can find a group of people to donate to, by asking some of our parents to help us. As stated by Hannah Testa, "Don't ever think you're too young to make a difference, because anything is possible,'". :) :) :)
Great job, Raine, for writing such descriptive paragraphs, citing evidence from the text, and using examples from your daily life!
"Global connections are an amazing way for students to gain an understanding of other students' lives and cultures. It brings differences to the surface and makes them commonalities. Something that is everyday, like music and food, can be eye opening when learning about it globally."
-Denise Vallejo-Rodriguez, G&T Teacher at Calabro School
When she’s not learning with PenPals, this PenPal Star stays really busy! She like hanging out at the library with her friends and participates in a lot of different activities, like sewing, violin, and cooking. She told us, “In my cooking class, my friends and I buy the ingredients at a local store, for the meal that we are going to cook. Recently, my friends and I baked pull-apart cheese bread that we all enjoyed.” Raine also loves art class “because it is one of the classes where I have creative freedom when working.”
We recently caught up with Raine to learn more about her experience working with PenPals.
PenPal Schools: Which PenPal Schools project did you participate in?
Raine: The two PenPal projects that I have participated in were titled, “A World of Music”, and “Protecting the Planet”.
What has been your favorite thing about learning with PenPals?
My favorite thing about working with PenPal Schools, is that we are able to communicate with people from all around the world. We get to see each others perspectives and share our own as well. This has shown me that although we come from different parts of the world, we all can communicate and bond with one another. With all of the people from all around the world, you would expect some debating about each others opinions. However, on this website, I have not seen people cyber-bully one another. When someone disagrees with someone’s statement, they right a response back to that person in a polite way, rather than starting an argument.
Why do you think it's important to learn with other students from around the world?
I think it is important to learn from other children around the world because it helps us learn about different cultures, and different details about where they are. For example, some responses I have seen on the website talk about the weather in their area. When reading and replying to the comments, I think about how much different the weather is on their side of the world. “Maybe the sun is shining where they are, instead of it being rainy and gloomy like where I am.”This is an example of something I might think about when reading others comments.
What was the most important lesson you learned in this project?
The two most important lessons I learned from completing both of these projects was that it’s okay to state your opinion, and always say what you feel. For example, when I was filling out a question for one of the activities, I was scared to share my answer to the world, mainly because I didn’t think anyone would agree with me. Finally, I gathered the courage to post my answer on the website, resulting in very good feedback. The responses that people shared with me made me relieved to know that people agreed with my opinion. To conclude, it’s is always good to state your opinion, and say what you feel.
How has your project changed the way you think about the world?
The projects that I have been working on have changed the way I perceive the world, because it showed me that when people work together, great things can happen.
What advice do you have about being a great PenPal?
Some advice I could give about being a great PenPal, is to be yourself. I believe that it is better to show the real you to the world, rather than hiding behind a mask only trying to fit in. Everyone has their own great personality, and I believe we all should share it to one another.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
If I could travel anywhere in the world, I would choose to fly to South Korea. This is because I am a fan of the K-pop music industry.
How did you feel when you found out you were going to be featured as a PenPal Star?
When I heard that I was going to be a PenPal Star, I was filled with many emotions. The main two emotions I was feeling was excitement and surprise. This showed me that my hard work and effort on the website had a good outcome in the end.
Congratulations, Raine, and thanks for being such a great PenPal! We can’t wait to see how your writing and passion continues to develop as you keep learning with PenPals!
Your students can take action for the environment and connect with PenPals like Raine in Protecting the Planet.