When students are empowered to act on issues they are passionate about, they have the opportunity to positively change their communities and the world around them. Through the inaugural Ciena Solutions Challenge Model Schools Program, Digital Promise and Ciena supported teams of teachers and students at Notre Dame High School, Ridgemont High School, and St. Patrick’s High School in Ottawa, Canada, to create student-led projects impacting their local community.
In March 2021, Digital Promise and Ciena launched the Ciena Solutions Challenge Model School Program in Ottawa, Canada, as part of the Ciena Solutions Challenge, a global design challenge inviting educators and students to leverage Challenge Based Learning to design a solution that addresses the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals in their local community. Along with professional development and mentoring support from Digital Promise and Ciena employee volunteers, the three schools received a donation of digital fabrication, coding and robotics, and audio and video production equipment to support student creativity, innovation, and invention.
The program tapped educators Greg Zapasek from Notre Dame High School, Ryan Smith from Ridgemont High School, and Victoria Guerra from St. Patrick’s High School to guide their student teams to engage, investigate, and take action on issues impacting their community.
Students in Guerra’s information and communication technology grade 9 course were interested in prioritizing mental health for their school community. Their team created a mental health website to address Sustainable Development Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being. Their goal was to reduce the mental health stigmas in their school community.
Students created a mental health website to respond to the diverse identities that make up their school community. Students engaged in discussions and activities that helped them learn about mental health and how it impacts people in their community. The student team explained, “We took time to explore how different parts of our identities (e.g., gender, race, culture) play a role in our feelings, values, and biases towards mental health. Through the ‘Start With Myself’ activity, we noted that these elements could be limiting factors in accessing mental health support and that there was no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to addressing mental health.”
As a result of their discussions and continued research, Guerra’s class wanted to find a way to answer the question, “How can we help students at St. Patrick’s High School prioritize mental health?” Guerra’s team plans to continue bringing awareness to addressing mental health by updating the resources on their website with helpful mental health information and meditation videos that they create with their new A/V equipment.
Students in Greg Zapsek’s class addressed Sustainable Development Goal 10: Life Below Water. Teams designed a variety of solutions that address the importance of clean ocean water, raising awareness of invasive species issues in the local marine environment, and sharing the harmful effects of waste in the water.
In one project, student Allison G. encouraged the school community to help control invasive species and prevent new invasive species in Ottawa. Allison partnered with Ottawa Riverkeeper to bring awareness to invasive species affecting the environment. She printed informative brochures and stickers to help spread the word on how invasive species are threatening the environment and what students can do to help the issue.
Allison explained, “I think my campaign was effective in educating students about invasive species. By giving out stickers and encouraging students to get brochures, I ignited new conversations about invasive species in my school. I got great feedback from teachers and students! Additionally, now I have a new connection with Ottawa Riverkeeper!” To bring a voice to this undervalued concern, Allison also created a music video to push the message of saving life below water, using her creative musical flair.
Students at Ridgemont High School had a clear interest in focusing on Sustainable Development Goal 10: Reducing Inequalities, based on many of their brainstorming and planning efforts facilitated by Ryan Smith, a technological design and communication teacher. Among the projects, one group of students raised awareness of the challenges the Indigenous community and First Nations people face. The students explained, “Our team selected this challenge because during Truth and Reconciliation Day, we learned quite a bit about the First Nations peoples history, and with some research, we found out that more than 50 percent of the First Nation people live in poverty, which is unacceptable. This challenge addresses the challenges the Indigenous people face when trying to make money to survive. Some create objects and crafts to sell, they hunt and sell animal parts, all to try to make money for themselves and family.” To take action on this issue, students developed a website and custom logo for a jewelry business, founded by Indigenous youth who originate from the Dene tribe.
Learn more about students’ projects