G3 embraced our second of line of inquiry to the full and took great pleasure out of taking apart and dismantling unwanted pieces of technology. It was incredible to see how many types of metal were needed to make each machine function. Often, the role of each metal was closely connected to the metal's unique properties, so only certain metals could be used to perform key tasks.
After our 2 days of inquiry (destruction) we had accumulated lots and lots of metals and a very interesting selection of plastics and leftover parts from the technology. (Hopefully we will revisit these items in our final 'Sharing the Planet' unit).
So, by the end of this line of inquiry the children clearly understood the importance of metals in all technologies. This then led excellently into our third line of inquiry (below) where we were investigating where the metals were mined and which people carried out this job.
One of our important related concepts in this unit has been economics. So, we have each been issued a set number of Matt-dollars from the central bank (me). Our aim has been to increase this money by understanding which mathematical games represent the best value and provide a greater opportunity of winning. For example, a dice game was created whereby the children had to pay 200 Matt-dollars to play. If their throw landed on an 'even' number they would get their money back, plus an extra 100 Matt-dollars. Discuss with your child if this is good or bad economics for them as customers? Why? (It is bad economics, as there is a half chance of success, so for the game to be fair the prize would have to be 200 Matt-Dollars (plus the original 200 back).
Using some examples to guide them, the children then created their own games and companies. The aim to make people want to play, but for the mathematics and the economics to be in their favour.
There has been lots of excitement and drama, as some children became rich and others spent all their money. Many children have experienced many adult type problems such as being in debt, taking out loans, repaying interest on loans and negotiating solutions when the debt became impossible to control. Hopefully, this mini unit has started to make the children a little more aware about the value of money and to always be very careful about spending money until you have considered the economics behind every deal!
Children Mining Metals
Our third line of inquiry really connected the children to many of the ethical issues connected with the mining of minerals. The children saw many videos and read many articles about child labour and the life that many children had to endure so that we can all get our smart phones and modern comforts.
This line made us reflect on our own level of integrity and how principled we all are (including myself) if we are happily purchasing products made with metals mined by children.
We tried to see the issue of child mining through many different perspectives when we carried out the visible thinking routine of 'Step in, Step Out'. Also, this helped us to empathise with these children and to start to acknowledge just how lucky we all are!
G3 have been looking at the issue of mining through many eyes and through many different nations around the world. However, the most powerful connection came from a young boy in the DRC called Dequ. Below are extracts from 3C's diary accounts after they had imagined that they were living his life for one day.
G3 UN Conference
As the culmination for this unit we gathered as a whole grade level for a UN Conference on Child Labour. Each child was given the role that they had to represent in the conference. Each child was either a:
The children aimed to see the problem from each others perspective and to understand where each group was coming from. They looked to see where there may be room for compromise, change or modifications within the whole chain from child miner to consumers.
The children took the process very seriously and argued from the perspective of their group with passion and purpose. At the end of the Conference the children were able to then give their own views about what stood out for them and what chances there might be to make a difference.
WG3 have been thinking about what we can actually do about the problem of child labour around the world. Statistics that we have found online suggest as many as 1 in 7 children are connected to some form of child labour. This figure increases to as much as 1 in 3 children involved in child labour from the Democratic Republic of Congo. The video below shows the very human initial reaction when we see unfairness in the world. However, it is important that we set ourselves realistic and achievable goals. We can not (necessarily) save the world between break and lunchtime, but we can take small steps towards making a difference.
Most children were very moved by the plight of other children who do not have their opportunities and chances in life. 3C's first reaction was to 'ban' child mining immediately as it is not 'fair'. This is a very natural reaction, it is only when we start to dig a little deeper that we see that those families often rely on this income and without it would be in an even more perilous position, especially if no other work or opportunities are available to them. It is then that we start to look at what real differences and action can we do. That is where the class are at right now - wondering what changes (if any) we can actually make from our classroom in Tashkent. There are whispers from some children of putting pressure on some manufacturers (proven to be involved) via a twitter account. Other children have been exploring whether an ethical mining logo could be introduced for electronic products which meet the criteria that allows for child miners to have some education, health care and a standard wage. Lots to think about... To be continued I hope, as the children move their ideas forwards....
Next week we begin our final unit of inquiry for the year. Our inquiry is around the transdisciplinary theme of 'Sharing the Planet' and will focus on sustainability of finite resources. More information will be given on the next blog.
So, only 6 weeks to go.... It is, though, really important that we use every last day and really work together to keep the children motivated, stimulated and challenged right up until the end of the year. The end part of the year is often where the most creative and exciting pieces of work and inquiries can happen. Thus there will be no switching off until June 8th in 3C.
Have a great weekend.
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