This Toronto teacher makes the world a wilder place.

Photograph Courtesy of Fiona Smith

Photograph Courtesy of Fiona Smith

Engaged young people and those kids that grow into passionate, compassionate, and hard-working adults have one thing in common; great teachers. With CoalitionWILD growing, the movement is attracting more and more young people who are making a difference in the world. From local communities to national projects, these young people are creating positive change in the world we all share and live in.

Some of the earliest submissions for CoalitionWILD's "Make A Wilder World" challenge came from one school in Toronto, Canada. Some that stand our are Will Gill's video on Canada and the Kyoto Protocol and Nathan Li's video on the Hydrogen Fuel Car. When I realized that not only were they coming from one school, but one classroom, I had to follow up with the culprit. 

Jillian Cooper is a teacher at Crescent School, and I had the pleasure of asking her a few questions recently. Having grown up in rural Ontario, Jill fell in love and learned from the outdoors. Exploring nature, from wild animals to how storms worked (much to the chagrin of her mom; storm watching isn't the safest outlet of curiosity at a young age), Jill immersed herself in nature. She extends this love and experience into the classroom at Crescent School, which she feels is a place to discuss what she loves with young minds.

Rarely touched by humans, rugged, and undisturbed was the way Jillian chose to define 'wild'. This definition translates to Jill's teaching style. As a geography teacher, she focuses on facts about the earth. Describing the processes that occur on the planet creates a platform for students to understand our earth. She follows this by case studies that affect the physical aspect of the world that they are studying.  

"When students know how things should work, and how they are now changing, this riles them up and they begin to consider how this came to be, and start thinking more critically about that issue," Jill told me.

When speaking about environmentalism, Jill acknowledges that it's a difficult concept to teach to kids. There is a difficulty for students to see how they relate/interact with the environment and why it is vitally important to them. Jill believes that this is where teachers come in. "It’s my job to help them see how we all connect with the environment. They are happy just that they have a cellphone, but they need to understand the background behind producing that cellphone from the raw resources and the impacts of this [production] on the physical world."

Speaking of cellphones, new technology has been one of the biggest changes in teaching between now and when Jill was a student. The digital revolution, along with globalization have changed the scale, scope and practice of connecting and communicating. Jillian believes that we are in a huge transition, and teaching styles need to adapt to the changes in technology and world affairs.

Looking to the future, Jillian Cooper sees the future of the classroom changing greatly in the next few years. With globalization and the technology revolution – including social media - students are changing the way they learn most effectively. More technology, more self directed studies, less lecturing, more teachers guiding the students in issues that are important to them.

I think Jill's CoalitionWILD submissions are exemplary of her wonderful approach to teaching. She has taken a personal passion, fit it into a discussion, and while using new technology to her benefit, has given her students a voice to share their thoughts, concerns, and opinions about issues that they will have to face in the future.