Student Reflections on Consumption

In October I wrote a blog post sharing how “everyone’s an english teacher” on my eighth grade team at the Parker Middle School. Since that early October blog post the format of our initiative has changed, but the goals have remained the same. At the conclusion of first-quarter we divided students by writing skill level so that the ELA teacher could focus on our neediest writers while the rest of us could differentiate our expectations for the rest of the team.

Over the past two weeks I’ve given students the opportunity to explore their understanding of consumption and how we might categorize ourselves as consumers. Two activities opened a portal for discussion: a sustainability-rooted game called, “The Common Good” where students must slowly take tokens from a community pool while allowing them to replicate and ‘renew’ over time to collectively win, and the reading of a Boston Globe article titled, “Community Standards” by Bina Venkataraman about self-imposed fishing regulations by local fisherman.

Students were then given four consumer categories: hoarders, consumers, conservers, and preservers, and asked to brainstorm why each type of consumer may take (or not take) resources in the fashion that they do. The classroom summarization of these categories can be found on the classroom blog here. Students were then asked to answer the following writing prompt on their blog:

How would you describe yourself as a consumer? Support this description of yourself with evidence of your consuming habits. Share your personal opinion regarding consumers from another category and why you feel their style of consuming should be encouraged or why such a style of consuming is unhealthy for them, their community, and/or the world.

Overall I feel like the proverbial ball is rolling on helping students gain a more global perspective of consumption and their own place in the resource puzzle. Some students, like Amanda, Sam, and Maria gave introspective looks into their lifestyles that left a powerful image of our middle schoolers lives in a commercialized world.

Maria and Sam’s effective use of visual language also give evidence of success towards having students write more effective “grabbers” at the beginning of their blog posts to draw in their readers. A full list of our current expectations and grading scheme for our students can be seen here. It was also apparent that there remains a great deal of work to be done, particularly around such simple actions as proofreading or (even easier) running spellchecker before publication.

Image “Coins” courtesy of xJasonRogersx uploaded August 15th, 2009 and available through Creative Commons attribution licensing.

About MrMusselman

@BurlMAschools Science Specialist and @CambridgeCollg Science Methods instructor. @NSTA Professional Development facilitator and author of "Think Like a Scientist: Investigating Weather and Climate" NSTA Kids ebook.
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