Change Your World

Change Your World 2018

By: Nasreen H.

Photo Credit: Max Klein

On October 11th, 2018, the Faculty of Environmental Studies hosted its annual ‘Change Your World’ event. This event focuses on bringing together high school students, teachers and organizations from across Ontario to discuss social and environmental issues and how to bring more awareness into education by welcoming more sustainable ideas through student participation.

The Indigenous Environmental Justice Project partook in the event and hosted three workshops throughout the day. Each workshop was one hour long. The IEJ team began by giving an introduction of how they got interested in environmental studies and how it motivated our learning journey, the role they have on the IEJ team and what they are currently studying or working on. The students then introduced themselves and which high school they came from. This was followed by a more detailed land acknowledgement relayed by research assistant Jayce Chiblow, an Anishinaabe Master’s student. Jayce then read out the Creation story about the Muskrat who sacrificed his life when he dove deep in the waters to gather dirt to help form the earth. Students were asked to listen to the story intently, with their eyes closed and conceptualize knowledge, themes or principles that were present throughout the story. Sacrifice, determination, celebration of life and death and hard work were some of the concepts repeatedly brought up. When the students were asked if science was present throughout the story, one student mentioned biology. The student noticed that the muskrat must have been selected to dive deep because they have the ability to lower their heart rates when they are underwater.

Photo Credit: Max Klein

A ‘free word association’ activity was proposed where various words were shared on the chalkboard: 1) Sustainability 2) Eco-schools 3) Water 4) Food justice 5) Environment, were some of the words shared. Students came up with at least 10 words that help describe the word they saw. Over all, this activity was quite well received and the responses were articulate and in some cases amusing. When some students saw the word ‘water’ they associated it with ‘flow, cycles, life, resource, rain, ripples, and human right’.

Lastly, we invited students to share one significant moment or story that they experienced with nature. Students mentioned encountering animals, being in the water or going to woods for peace of mind. We appreciated all the student’s participation and involvement and the IEJ team looks forward to being involved with this event next year.

A special thanks to Deborah McGregor, Lily Piccone, Nasreen Hussain, Max Klein, Jayce Chiblow and Abdeali Saherwala for their participation and planning of the event!

Listening to the Land: An Introduction to Environmental Justice and Storytelling 

In April 2017, the Indigenous Environmental Justice (IEJ) Project team put together a workshop for approximately 100 students from schools across the GTA as part of the Change Your World conference, hosted by the Faculty of Environmental Studies (FES) at York University. 

The workshop was called: Listening to the Land: An Introduction to Environmental Justice and Storytelling. Students were asked to consider the following questions:

What do stories teach you?

How can Indigenous storytelling point to justice and environmental issues?

How can Indigenous and non-Indigenous people move toward reconciliation through storytelling?

The workshop began with an Anishinaabe origin story – the story of the flood and the recreation of the world. Youth were then asked to represent their relationships to the lands and waters through creative expression – and they didn’t disappoint! They read aloud rhyming stanzas on water, preformed a skit that illustrated the connection between consumption and land use, and made advanced connections between the way we perceive and prioritize certain animals in much the same way that we as a society perceive and prioritize certain “types” of people.

We concluded each session with a look at Indigenous art. Professor Deborah McGregor explained that the entities, in this case, animals, were physically connected to demonstrate the notion of interdependence. She also reminded the students that we are each a part of the story.

A warm thank you to IEJ team members - Meagan Dellavilla, Nasreen Husain, Monica Shafik and Salisha Purushuttam - for their help in organizing and facilitating the workshop. 

Change Your World is a dynamic one-day conference that brings together youth and community organizations from across Ontario to discuss, collaborate and learn how to make sustainable and equitable change. It is hosted annually by the Faculty of Environmental Studies (FES) at York University. In 2017, the event welcomed 800 students and 60 teachers from 29 schools across the province.

Interested in engaging in an educational workshop with us? Please be in touch!

 A poem produced by a group of students during the workshop:

Lakes so great, why so grey?
Cities and Plastic
Water our only source of life, but all that man has brought to it
Is Strife
Why would we pollute it to the point we can’t even use it?
We package and label it, sealing it with a cap.
We believe in its ‘purity’
Leading us to a false sense of ‘security’