The Plant Experts

GEMS Dubai American Academy

Our young learners care about the planet they live on and all the unique people they share it with. The second-grade students of GEMS DAA’s Lindsay Doughty are no different.

This is the story of how her students used Solution Fluency to tackle the issue of world hunger—and learned about leadership, compassion, and feeding the world one seed at a time.

The GEMS Dubai American Academy is a vibrant international community rooted in a culture of kindness that creates and empowers leaders and independent thinkers. DAA prepares students to lead successful lives through the diversity of its community and the extra-curricular experiences that contribute to the development of the whole person.

I knew I wanted to start using the Fluencies as soon as I heard Lee’s presentation at our school. Everything he said made so much sense! Our school is moving toward integration of subjects, and this seemed like a natural way to integrate the components of the day.

Lindsay Doughty

Gems Dubai AA

Although I knew this would be a more engaging way of learning (and teaching), I had no idea the results would be this great. Students were so engaged in their projects, and parents kept telling me how excited their children were … they were jumping at the chance to get back to it!

Lindsay Doughty

Gems Dubai AA

Lee has been helpful and encouraging since Day 1. When he visits the school he takes time to meet with grade teams … he wants to know about our projects and tells us about projects being done at other schools that are related to ours, which creates such a wide network of support.

Lindsay Doughty

Gems Dubai AA

What does it take to inspire

meaningful change?

When we give our young learners the freedom to express their concerns about the world all around them, they tend to surprise us in every way. The second-grade students of GEMS DAA’s Lindsay Doughty are no different. She experienced this firsthand after being inspired by a visit from GDCF president Lee Watanabe-Crockett.

“After hearing Lee speak the first time, I was really excited to get started on a project my students were truly passionate about,” Lindsay recalls. “I was inspired by the slides he presented in which young students reported what they thought were the world’s biggest problems.”

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Spurred by the possibilities of this herself, Lindsay decided to pose the exact same opportunity to her own learners. “I was interested in getting my own students’ responses to that question,” she says. “We made a class list and marked the problems that came up multiple times.” Ultimately the students all settled on the matter of world hunger.

Where do we

begin to transform?

Lindsay’s next step was consulting Tracy Murch, DAA’s Head of Teaching, Learning, and Innovation. “She and I had a brainstorming session and came up with an outline for a project,” says Lindsay.

Next was a discussion with her learners about what they could do to abolish world hunger. From food boxes to fundraisers to sending seeds to plant, the students had many different notions of how to fix the problem. Then it came to them—the real answer was to share useful knowledge, which would mean being teachers themselves.

“They came up with the idea of educating people on how to grow crops that would survive in the climate they live in,” Lindsay explains. “They could pass the information along to larger groups of people so we would reach a bigger population.”

Considering hunger is an issue in many different regions of the world, the students had their work cut out for them. “We had an ocean, rainforest, desert, and arctic group that set out to gather information through nonfiction texts,” she says. “This was where things got really fun!”

How do we plot a

path to success?

Lindsay’s young learners began investigating what it would take to learn how to teach others. In addition to this, they were also researching their chosen region’s climate, analyzing videos, and conducting preliminary scientific experiments.

“It was wonderful to see that students were engaging in that information and taking leadership roles around teaching and learning,” says Lindsay, which freed her up to facilitate the students’ processes. “I began to take a more supportive role rather than a leading role.”

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Each student group recreated to their best abilities the correct climate for the “crops” they grew in their experiments. Language Arts, Math, and Science all came into play as the projects developed. They placed all their findings into highly creative multimedia presentations that incorporated audio, video, images, text, and their own drawings.

“It showcases their learning, starting with the parts of a plant and pollination, and then working through adaptations and the habitat they studied,” Lindsay observes.

How do we measure

growth and progress?

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  • Students are becoming better collaborators because they get regular practice working in groups.
  • They have taken a lot more control of their learning and are finding answers on their own.
  • In directing their own learning, students are going further and at times in completely new and unforeseen directions.
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  • Teachers are taking to the Fluencies concepts quickly because they are adaptable to many different topics and scenarios.
  • When students are more engaged, teachers spend less time redirecting them as they are all motivated to stay on task.
  • As students take control and their interests drive the lessons, everyone is happier.
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  • The Fluencies provide a framework for teachers to facilitate student learning, allowing the students themselves to take the lead.
  • Using the Fluencies supports the guiding philosophy of DAA which is a “Culture of Kindness.”
  • There is a huge reduction of behaviour issues when teaching and learning happens with the Fluencies.
  • Students are getting a chance to learn in the way that’s best for their needs.

How do we continue to

improve and excel?

So would Lindsay and her learners do it all over again with the Fluencies? In fact, they’ve already begun. “To be honest, this was my first Fluency project, so it definitely was a whirlwind of activity,” Lindsay confesses. “We have started another project already, and it is much more carefully planned.”

This being her first foray into using the Fluencies, she was thrilled with what her learners accomplished. “This project allowed them to explore the details of other communities, and in turn appreciate what they currently have.”

What’s next for Lindsay and her amazing second graders? “We will be analyzing types of pollution around the world and devising a plan for a solution,” Lindsay claims. “I will be working on some more of the Shifts of Practice to develop myself professionally, with the support of my grade team and school leadership.”