Moving From Linear to Circular Economy

By: Noelle Roces, Middle Years’ Exonomics Teacher

In the Middle Years Programme, our students are encouraged to find interdisciplinary connections that demonstrate knowledge is not split into separate boxes. This term, students in Year 10 have been researching “Circular Economy”, combining Business and Environmental Science and Societies. Guided by Miss Noelle Roces and Miss Sinead Kehoe, they look for design solutions to some of the social and environmental issues we face today

Exploring new ways of learning, students started the unit by watching Ellen MacArthur’s inspiring TED Talk “The surprising thing I learned sailing solo around the world”. They then took on the role of inquirers and problem solvers by investigating the relationships between our current modern industrial system, consumption choices, and it’s impact on our environment. 

Drawing from various learning experiences and interdisciplinary grounding, students embarked on a “Circular Design Challenge” where they proposed solutions on how to shift business models and systems from the current linear “take-make-dispose” shifting into circular models that design out waste, keep products and materials in use, and regenerate natural systems. Students focused on three key areas of concern: e-waste, fast fashion, and food waste. 

Throughout the unit students explored new concepts and took on a range of formative activities from systems mapping, life-cycle assessment, cradle-to-cradle design, biomimicry to evaluating venture concepts. 

Synthesizing and reflecting on the learning process, students applied their creativity and research findings by proposing design solutions and circular strategies such as: redesigning business models “product as a service”, integrating smart material choices, modularity, embedding intelligence (IoT) etc. 

These inquiry-led explorations enabled students not only to make connections between ESS and Business, it also served to prepare students as “agents of change” helping them design solutions for some of the complex social and environmental issues we face today.