April 21, 2017
Year 1 and Year 4 students have been engaged this month in an extraordinary charitable project called "Solar Buddy", which connects YCIS students with children in developing areas of Ethiopia by building and supplying them with solar powered lights.
Inspired by a conversation with a YCIS parent, a Year 1 teacher at YCIS Regency Park Campus, Ms Laura Colton, was connected with the charitable organisation, Solar Buddy. The Australian organisation seeks to end the devastating cycle of energy poverty for marginalised communities across the world. The organisation partnered with YCIS to connect the school to a community in Ethiopia where electricity is not readily available. The project began with children from YCIS writing to children at a village in Ethiopia, introducing themselves. Later, the school received a package from the Solar Buddy organisation with unassembled solar powered lights, which the students at YCIS then assembled in a group setting. The teachers expanded the project to include a broader scope by relating the activity to the students’ unit of study on electricity, by linking the project to the character education programme, and by creating “buddy time” between year levels, with the older students teaching their younger classmates how to assemble the lights.
Originally pitched as a project for Colton’s Year 1 classroom, the activity yielded interest from all of the teachers in the year level, so all Year 1 classes decided to participate in the project. Later, because the Year 4 students were studying the concept of Electricity, the Year 4 teachers also decided to collaborate, increasing the scope of the project. According to Mr Ryan Kravalis, a Year 4 Teacher at YCIS Regency Park, “Now that the year levels are collaborating, the project has an even wider scope. It ties to our electricity unit very well, and it is fantastic to see the Year 4s explaining the concepts of electricity as they buddy up with the Year 1s to build the lights. It’s a “global citizen” project which meets goals for the whole school, and it helps moves our lesson beyond ‘paper and pencil learning’ by allowing students can demonstrate their understanding. We’re very proud of all of our students”.
Colton, who has been teaching at YCIS for over 11 years, shared her enthusiasm for the project, stating “The Year 1 students are gaining so much from this project. It helps to encourage interaction with the older students, and it provides fantastic opportunities for some siblings to work together across year levels, too.”
To support the project, the school’s administration offered to sponsor the cost of the materials to build the lights. The teachers asked the school not to cover the entire expense because they saw an additional opportunity to integrate a character lesson into the project. Colton explained, “We wanted the students to also contribute to the project themselves, to give them a sense of ownership. The school subsidised much of the cost, but we also crafted student contributions as a component of the payment. We kindly asked parents to not give their children the money, but rather to craft opportunities at home where they could earn money, such as chores, projects, etc. We wanted the students to go through the experience of making money, to acquire the materials, build a cool solar light, and then donate the light to benefit someone in need. There has been such beauty in seeing the children and parents embrace this concept, and both have come together to make this school effort really shine”.
Colton went on to elaborate on the benefits of projects like this for students, saying “The school is immensely supportive of initiatives like the Solar Buddy project, which deeply enrich and impact the students’ educational experience. The staff here are also very committed to creating an education that enhances the children’s learning and which affects them deeply. It makes for families who are committed to the school for years on end”.
The students had a fantastic time learning about electricity through the hands-on project, collaborating with their classmates, and making a product that will impact the lives of others. For more about the interactive learning in the Primary programme at YCIS, please click here.