The Ciena Solutions Challenge is a global design challenge inviting middle and high school students to design solutions addressing the Sustainable Development Goals in their community. The program includes a series of professional learning webinars where participating educators can share their tips, experiences, and best practices for facilitating the Ciena Solutions Challenge. This first blog highlights insights shared from the first webinar “Cultivating Real-World Problem Solvers: Strategies for Learner Engagement.”
How do we help students find a social purpose and connect with issues that they can take meaningful action on? A global panel of educators from Brazil, Uganda, and the United States shared how they build a foundation for their students to learn about global challenges and build skills for critical thinking and problem-solving.
Ed Gomes Jr., a literature, linguistics, and English as a second language (ESL) teacher from the E.E. Dr Secundino Dominguez Filho and Centro de Mídias da Educação de São Paulo in Brazil emphasizes that engaging learners in thought-provoking conversations is foundational for learning and solving problems: “One thing that I noticed is that real-world problems are real-world solutions. They start locally. I have to tell them sometimes I have to be realistic and not all of us are greater […] like we can’t just go around and try to solve everything. So we have to try to think locally. Sometimes we also have to educate them…and realize that education is the key issue. Many of [the] problems they have to solve [I] tell them that. That’s the starting point of many things.”
Kristie Letter, a ninth grade teacher from Peak to Peak High School in Lafayette, Colorado, highlighted the impact of problem solving by showcasing how the Challenge inspired her students to connect with their social purpose in a personal way: “We had a student whose design was entirely—and ideas for what they wanted to solve—based on the degenerative problems that they saw their grandmother having. We had to take all of these large ideas that they came up with by starting very local with the environmental damage that they witnessed and the personal issues that really activated their own empathy.”
Grace Musingo, a teacher for grade 6-12 at Ngora Girls Secondary School in Soroti, Uganda, encourages students to lead and become agents of their own learning: “Educators need to give their learners the opportunity to take the lead […] Once the learners take [the] interest, they will be able to be motivated to continue working on the project. if you dictate ideas to them, they may be resentful, because I know the students would want to own the products and they would want to own the process.”