Last week, some of the Earth Force staff journeyed up to Kapuskasing, Ontario to visit the General Motors Cold Weather Development Centre, which partners with us through the GM GREEN program. The Centre tests all types of vehicles in the elements that come with cold weather, including freezing temperatures, snow, and ice.
It was quite the trip, taking each of us three separate flights and a two-hour drive northwest to arrive at our destination. The Centre had just received its first snowfall (unusually late for them) and testing was in full swing. The visit was incredible, and, not to toot our own horn, an eye-opening look at the practical application of our Community Action and Problem-Solving Process. (Get it? It’s a car pun.)
Because the Centre in a ‘proving ground,’ experimentation and problem-solving are at the core of everything they do. They have all kinds of testing, including a driving track, cold cells (which can store a car at -45 ºC!), and a control track where they can take cars at high speeds on snow and ice. It’s important that they test cars against all of these factors so they are sure to uncover any and all issues. This is similar to our Process, in that we ask students to do a variety of environmental inventories, including water quality testing, a community walkabout, a news media search, and/or interviewing community members.
When/if GM employees uncover an issue, policies and practices strongly come into play, as environmental regulations and Motor Vehicle Safety Standards need to be considered, as do the realities of how people actually use cars in inclement weather. This information greatly affects the strategy they will select to solve the issue they uncovered.
These same factors apply to environmental problem-solving. Although I’ve come across practical applications of the Process in many professional circumstances, I was really surprised how closely the Centre uses the six steps: inventorying, issue identification, policy and practices research, strategy selection, action, and reflection. We know that our Process helps students make deeper connections to how academic and civic skills are used in the real world, but it’s always affirming to have an experience that reminds me of its practically. The Process truly drives innovative solutions, whether it’s on a school campus, or in an electric car. (Sorry, another car pun. I couldn’t resist!)
FYI: We’re hosting a virtual learning opportunity in January 2016 to dive deeper into our trip and how it translates to the Process. Stayed tuned for more information!
Author: Kristen Mueller
Kristen Mueller leads national communications, creating engagement and excitement around Earth Force, and its partners’, hands on, minds on programming. Specializing in traditional media and social media relations, she brings youth voice and leadership to the forefront of the environmental education field.