For the past 10 years, Grade 12 students taking Mark Beale’s Comparative Civilization class at Maple Ridge secondary have been faced with the task of tackling some of society’s most divisive topics of the day.
Genocide, modern slavery, and poverty have all been exhaustively explored, complete with transforming a typical classroom into series of visual displays to help illustrate the study.
But after a decade, it was time for a new topic.
So Beale put it to his students, 120 in total. While the usual answers followed, it became clear to the teacher, and students, that this year’s project would be something completely different.
As the 24-hour news cycle spits stories on Ebola outbreaks in western Africa, civil unrest in Ferguson following the shooting of an unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown, and reports of the icy grip of winter on eastern Canada, Beale and his students decided this year’s Epic Project would look at four of the globe’s most pressing issue’s and what our world will look like if action isn’t taken.
Global terrorism, class warfare, the environment, and global health issues are all on the agenda for this year’s Comparative Civilization students.
The class shared the sets it built with the entire school this past week. Class after class file through to listen and learn.
Jacob D’ Andrea is set to graduate in June and hopes to go on to study business at Douglas College and Simon Fraser University.
As he tackled the topic of class warfare and how it could spread, D’ Andrea said the growing gap between the one per cent and the other 99 has the potential to cause widespread havoc in Canada and the U.S.
“We already see it in countries like Africa, where people are targeted and killed because of their wealth,” said D’ Andrea. “If governments don’t do something about this, it will grow. It will spread. We’ve seen the protests with Occupy Wall Street and it’s likely going to happen more often and become more violent.”
With an eye on an economics degree, D’ Andrea feels more needs to be done to help the middle class, to boost jobs for middle and lower income families.
Rya Perry was part of the class that delved into global health issues. With the spread of more deadly diseases, she and her classmates predicted that mass outbreaks in Canada could lead to widespread havoc in major metropolitan areas like Vancouver. Large public parks like Stanley Park would be used as housing areas, separating the healthy from the infirmed.
“We’ve already seen what’s happened in Africa,” said Perry. “It could absolutely happen here.”
With the threat of random acts of terrorism, wide scale droughts, it’s easy to see why the students could predict the worst, said Beale.
But, he added, the goal of the class is to open students’ eyes to not only the possibilities, but also to the solutions.
“Almost half the graduating class ends up taking this course,” explained Beale. “They come through year after year and see the Grade 12s presentations and see what it takes to pull off a project like this. It’s a great experience for them.”
He also stressed that the course appeals to the fact that these students are about to enter adulthood, with related problems and expectations.
“The goal has always been to make it about broader social issues and have the students use critical thinking skills to find real life solutions. They’ve done a great job.”