post it notes

Inspiring Changemakers to Find Solutions with the Rethink Challenge

by Marsha Rakestraw

One of the most powerful aspects of humane education is its focus on positive solutions.

Educating students about global challenges is important, but it’s the integration of connection, creativity, critical thinking, and creating solutions that really feeds and enables students’ hunger for becoming changemakers for a better world.

In the Summer 2014 issue of Green Teacher middle school science teacher Elissa Brown outlines a project she created to help her students generate lots of ideas about what a sustainable future might look like and to explore some of those ideas in-depth.

She said, “I wanted to avoid the typical doom-and-gloom forecasts in favour of emphasizing the positive, empowering aspects of sustainability.”

The Rethink Challenge took small parts of each day for two months, during which students created a mosaic of Post-It Notes, each describing a possible idea or strategy, from inventions and small actions to “large-scale shifts in norms.”

Brown told the class, “The thing about rethinking is that you have to be imaginative. Anybody can throw a soda can in the recycling bin, but it takes creativity to rethink systems. We’ll need creativity to shape a future we want to live in. We’ll need to be inventive, wise, and maybe even a little crazy.”

Students explored and created definitions of sustainability, built on each others’ ideas, responded to prompts “focused on rethinking a specific aspect of the future,” and more.

In the article, Brown includes a variety of extension ideas, from interdisciplinary options to community engagement to social action.

Read the complete article here.

Brown’s Rethink Challenge offers a meaningful, authentic, and empowering learning experience for students of a variety of ages. And the concept is applicable to a variety of learning situations, not just classrooms, and not just with young people.

For a more in-depth exploration of the impact of our choices on people, animals, and the earth, check out our activities such as True Price.