This semester in Global Citizenship, 7th and 8th graders examined the way we make, buy, and dispose of our clothing with our unit about How a T-Shirt Gets Made.
In doing so, we saw how the rise of Fast Fashion in their lifetimes has contributed to a global system of economic production that relies on the exploited labor power from developing countries (many of whom are young women) as well as an intense and unsustainable use of fossil fuels in the fabric itself (think polyester, spandex, and elastane) as well as shipping items throughout the global supply chain.
Students grappled with how we benefit as consumers from having cheap, trendy clothing in the short term with long term consequences and the inevitable way our consumer practices clash with our stated values.
Additionally, students undertook a hands-on project – The Closet Challenge – to tally their own clothing and make conscious choices around disposing of clothing that no longer served them. Students also learned how to make simple repairs such as patching, replacing buttons, and hemming as a means of extending the life out of perfectly serviceable items in need of a little TLC.
Ultimately students came away with the uneasy idea that for now, there are no easy answers when it comes to something as basic as acquiring and disposing of clothing. What we know is that our unconscious patterns of consumption and disposal do not serve the short, medium, and long term trajectories of Mother Earth and her citizens.
In this unit of study, we observed that often people are resistant to change their practices, and even with our newly formed knowledge, we observed the barriers, some coming from within, to making choices that align with our values. In the act of raising our consciousness about clothing, we fostered the ongoing practice of questioning and reflection at the heart of Quaker education.
Written By: Alex Zinnes