We, the 11th graders at Montessori school in Medellín suggested a project established by challenge based learning. The main goal of this project is to improve air quality and to reduce issues regarding car flow in our district through carpooling.
Firstly, we initiated our project by identifying the main problems regarding road safety around the school and its surroundings. Based on our analysis and a series of reflective activities, which helped us to find the causes of the aforementioned problems, we chose two main problems which were not only affecting the school, but also the whole city.
Regarding air quality, Medellín has been having issues with high contamination levels since the year 2012. This is due to the topography of the city, which doesn’t allow the contaminated air to leave, causing a large concentration of dangerous gases within the metropolitan area. Additionally, car flow issues both around the school and in the city happen for two main reasons: the increasing number of cars circulating and also the very narrow streets by the school.
Having all of the issues identified, several conferences and investigations were conducted in class as a way to explore more deeply the causes and possible solutions to these problems. More or less 700 surveys were conducted in order to know what students and school’s staff knew about carpooling and pollution problems at the city. The results show that before doing the activities a lot of people were ignorant on the topic or not very interested in the effects that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases might have on the environment. Nevertheless, after doing all the activities, they were more conscious about which actions to implement in order to help our environment and our planet and how easy is to do carpooling. These studies were shown and socialized in class in order to obtain greater knowledge regarding the environmental situation and the automotive industry in the city.
After studying the possible actions that could be implemented as a way to improve these two main problems, we decided that the best way to counteract them was by using a car-sharing system, often called carpooling. This method was chosen over the use of bicycles because the school is located on a steep hill, and the students do not live very far away from each other, which is an advantage for carpooling.
With a defined problem, three main groups were created to work with different audiences. One group addressed the activities for the students, the other group for the parents, and the last group for the school’s staff. Each group created an action plan with objectives and activities to develop with their target group in order to promote carpooling within the school, these actions varied with the public, and depending on our abilities, skills and interests.
Each different sector of the academic community was informed and sensitized about the problem and also taught how each of them could help in order to improve the issue.
We conducted the activity to the different sectors of the school in the following ways:
Preschool teachers: A web page promoting the benefits of carpooling.
Elementary and Middle school teachers: Different advertising campaigns (like posters, infographics located all around the school) that showcased the different health issues that pollution brings.
High school teachers and school's staff: A conference was conducted which showed the current situation of the air in the city. Additionally, informative videos and songs were made to promote carpooling.
We created, realized and conducted different activities and material for each grade in the school (conferences for the older students and okayed games for the younger students). We worked with 9 different grades and more or less 649 students. The objective was to inform the kids about the current air situation and carpooling. In the end, surveys were given to the students to verify the knowledge gained through the activities.
We did four different actions to inform and help solve the problem with the parents:
-Videos to explain the two found problematics, to define carpooling and to show its benefits.
-A webpage/app in which parents could write in their address and verify which other students live nearby. The objective of this is being able to create different contacts between parents to start using the carpooling method.
-We also made several advertising campaigns throughout the parking lots and in the report card day. Its objective was to showcase the project, the problematics and to encourage carpooling.
-The last group decided to write, record and produce a song to encourage carpooling and its importance in the community.
Regarding other entities of the academic community, the parents council gave its support to the project and took part in the advertising campaigns made in the parking lots. Additionally, the school itself decided to plant 200 trees to make up for the air pollution, like a way to reduce its carbon print. Finally, we decided to create an exposition at the knowledge center (library) with our works in order to show the problems that exist in Colombia and the world. These works had the objective of searching real information about pollution air problem and the ways to resolve it.
In conclusion, the main idea of our project was to raise awareness about real problems we have, not only in the school’s surroundings, but also in our city. After the actions, parents told us they were communicating with others parents in order to share the car. We, as students, also began to look for others possibilities in order to decrease pollution and traffic jump. We are very happy because we realized, at the parking lots, that there are a lot of families using carpooling.