Melanie
Williams

Project: School Projects that Earn a Mark and Leave a Mark: Youth Climate Action and Leadership Incubator

Melanie is an English, history, French, and social science teacher with the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board in the GTA. Her goal with every class is to ensure that her students’ work has meaning, and that they have opportunities to gain recognition beyond the classroom for the work they do in school. She is an active contributor to a variety of youth education and involvement initiatives with organizations including the Canadian Society for Yad Vashem, the Juno Beach Centre Association, the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, and the CAS Trips Global Student Conference on Climate Change. She is currently preparing a workshop addressing the gender disparity in post-secondary STEM disciplines and fields; the workshop is scheduled for presentation at UBC’s STEM 2021 Conference in July. Melanie is completing the final year of her Master’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies at York University.

PROJECT

My project aims to increase high-school students’ participation in local climate action that directly supports Toronto’s climate action strategy as outlined in TransformTO. Additionally, through their involvement, female-identifying students will be able to demonstrate to Women4Climate their potential to be the city’s future climate action leaders.

I will create end-of-unit projects and course culminating performance tasks (CPTs) that, while achieving various TransformTO goals that involve students in climate action in their own communities, still allow students to demonstrate their learning of subject-specific skills in relevant, self-selected, real-world applications. To encourage teachers to replace their existing assignments with the new projects and CPTs, I will provide evaluation rubrics so that teachers know how the work correlates to the Ontario curriculum’s achievement objectives and levels.

I will also develop a submission process so that students can share their ideas, projects, and success stories with the City of Toronto and W4CTO. In this way, students can engage in schoolwork that truly matters, the city can keep abreast of grassroots efforts that its younger citizens are undertaking to meet its climate action goals, and W4CTO can establish relationships with potential future mentorship candidates.

More than a decade of working with students has shown me how observant teens are of their own communities, how much they care about making a positive contribution to those communities, and how passionate they are about the environment and climate action. These insights, coupled with my habit of always trying to find new ways for students to demonstrate their learning, led me to consider adapting the work my students and I did at the 2019 Global Student Conference on Climate Change in Edinburgh, but for a local audience.

MOTIVATION FOR AND COMMITMENT TO CREATING A BETTER AND MORE SUSTAINABLE PLANET

Young people motivate me to act on behalf of our planet. I wish they didn’t have to worry about environmental collapse caused by previous generations. Wishing accomplishes nothing, so instead I’ll try to fix some of the problems I helped to cause. It may seem almost impossible for any one person to contribute meaningfully to solving the world’s environmental issues. However, the current wave of climate action being led by Greta Thunberg reminds me that one person can make a world of difference.

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