Parichart Sonchaiya spent six weeks with us at Up4 The Challenge in the spring of 2021 as part of her Ryerson Fellowship. Here's what she wrote about her experience...
It was an amazing opportunity being able to work with Up4 The Challenge as an Education Assistant. The organization provided me with an opportunity to facilitate three workshop sessions with a grade 10 science class at John Polanyi C.I. While facilitating the three workshop sessions, the organization inspired me to work towards my goal of becoming a teacher. I was able to help students understand the theme of climate change by providing new insights on ways to improve the environment, as well as brainstorming possible solutions (for example, reuse Amazon packages and takeout containers at home).
Students were broken up into groups of 4-5 each. Each group focused on different topics related to climate change, such as Fast Fashion, Reducing Energy at Home, Designing an Outdoor Classroom, Single-use Plastic, and Online Shopping. I was given the opportunity to consult with a group that focused on online shopping during the breakout rooms. We discussed how online shopping can negatively impact an individual or a community as a whole. For instance, the consequences of online shopping are the consumption of plastic wastes and packaging. In order to reduce waste, we considered shopping at stores that value the use of sustainable packaging, as well as reducing our daily or weekly online orders.
One example of sustainable packaging I highlighted from when I grew up in Thailand was using banana leaves instead of plastic to wrap up food. This method can also be used for steaming, boiling, baking, or grilling. Southeast Asian countries like Thailand have been using this method for centuries to protect food from getting burnt, since the leaf wrap holds heat inside while food is being cooked. My account of an international perspective on sustainable packaging was able to help students brainstorm and map out their ideas. I also helped them create a storyboard to describe how their solution would reduce waste and packaging.
Although online learning experiences aren't the same as in-person, I gained new perspectives from the students themselves, their teacher, Marla Stone, and guest speakers. One of the many things I liked during the program was getting feedback from Mohamed, an ex-engineer turned designer, on students’ ideas and prototypes. For instance, Mohamed recommended that the Online Shopping group members offer a more expensive shipping option with longer delivery times. Though this initially seems counter-intuitive, the benefit for the consumer is that they would know they are supporting a more environmentally friendly shopping experience since the orders that would be made with this option would be delivered by bicycles. As an added benefit, this solution would create more jobs for bicyclists, thereby encouraging people to choose this option. Mohamed also pointed out that there is evidence to show that this prototype would work - people already pay more for higher quality, whether it is food or valuable items.
This idea of a longer shipping method came from a student’s initial insight that the quickest shipping method increases carbon emissions. Packages that must be delivered quickly are frequently carried by planes, which emit more carbon than ground vehicles such as trucks and rail transportation. With the feedback students received from Mohamed, the students were able to collect their ideas and build upon their knowledge that led towards their goals to mitigate the negative impact of online shopping on climate change.
I was also able to gain new insights with the design thinking process from Mohamed’s feedback. For example, the Fast Fashion group presented their prototype where there would be a new bin for people to donate their second-hand ‘fast fashion’ clothes. In terms of donating clothes, each individual who donated would get their money back. I was inspired by how Mohamed was able to further advance this idea simply by asking questions (e.g., “How will people get paid for their clothes?” and, “How can you tell if these clothes are fast fashion clothing?”). These particular questions broadened students' ideas on their prototype. They were able to further explain that there would be a scanner or a QR code by the bin. The individuals who donated their clothes could scan the QR code using an app which would keep track of people’s donation, their names, and billing address.
I was able to use my various essential skills as an Arts student to demonstrate my creative thinking process when discussing the issues of climate change. Many of my skills as an Arts student consist of critical thinking and analysis, teamwork and management skills, and knowledge of diverse cultures and viewpoints. In addition to these skill sets being used in practice during my role as an Education Assistant, I also gained new skills while working with Up4 The Challenge.
My newly acquired skills were gaining background knowledge in the science field - particularly when it comes to incorporating students’ prototypes with Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). As an Arts student, I was not familiar with the science field at all or anything that has to do with mathematics. Up4 The Challenge has encouraged me to not be afraid to try something new. At first, I thought that I would not be able to help students incorporate their prototypes with STEM. However, I was able to get familiar with the process from co-facilitating the workshop sessions, brainstorming ideas on climate change, and discussing the topics on which students were focusing.
I’ve learned so much about climate change and STEM from co-facilitating the workshop sessions, especially on the topics of Fast Fashion, Reducing Energy at Home, Designing an Outdoor Classroom, Single-Use Plastic, and Online Shopping. There will always be an issue with climate change, but there are also potential solutions to fix them as well. For instance, students came up with an idea that outdoor classrooms are possible - by setting up a gazebo and mosquito nets for those who may be allergic to bugs and insects. There are also other needs for an outdoor classroom, such as providing desks, school supplies, technology equipment, and access to Wi-Fi. However, it may not be possible for students to access Wi-Fi outdoors. Students were able to incorporate STEM to this idea, in which they came up with a prototype to fix this issue.
One brilliant prototype the class came up with was 3D printing solar panels at school to generate power for small devices such as cellphones. This system can also be used on a bus or at home. Solar panels function by generating electricity current from catching light particles through the sunlight called photons. This process allows the photons to collect free electrons into the cells of the solar panels in order to produce electric current, which could then be transferred into AC power.
In reflection, I believe that I am able to use my newfound knowledge about science and technology to assist myself towards my goal of becoming a teacher. I am confident that I will be able to teach any subjects in school other than Arts or English. I have also gained various teaching experiences from co-facilitating workshop sessions, as well as from my role as an Education Assistant. These various teaching and learning experiences could also be used to improve my future career and studies. I am thankful that Up4 The Challenge has provided me with this opportunity. I've learned so much from the organization through collaboration and teamwork. Hence, I am looking forward to working with Up4 The Challenge in the future to gain better knowledge and understanding of the science background, as well as STEM.