Two FSJSS Grade 11 students, Cailen Saharchuk and Amanda Geernaert, watched a documentary called “The True Cost” as part of their Social Justice course with their teacher, Mr. Cordell Ware. The film is directed by Andrew Morgan and it explores the impact of fashion on people and the planet.
“It’s about sweat shops and how people in third world countries don’t get equal pay and they don’t have equal rights, and it shows the cost to humanity for the clothing we buy. This project is to make people realise we don’t need to buy new clothes at stores,” says Amanda.
After watching the documentary Cailen and Amanda asked students and teachers to donate unwanted good quality clothing. Then after collecting a bin of clothing they advertised a Clothing Swap and invited everyone to come and take what they want. Posters around the school shared the information and “Feel free to take what you like – no cost!”
Social Justice is one of many elective courses offered at Fort St. James Secondary School. “Right now we are piloting kind of a new thing in this space where kids can take different courses. So in my class there are four students right now doing Social Justice and two of them, Cailen and Amanda, chose to do this project and the other students are doing other projects,” says Ware.
Even though the teacher facilitates the learning, it’s the students who are in the driver’s seat.
“These girls are so smart, they’re in control, it is totally their brainchild,” continues Ware. “They realised they needed a marketing campaign, so they made a video of me in a dress with high heals and shared it on Snapchat and Instagram. They came up with the hashtags #schoolswap #clothingswap #Switchthestitch – they’re hilarious!”
On Nov. 14 people came to the Clothing Swap and picked out things they liked from tables outside Mr. Ware’s classroom.
The next step for Cailen and Amanda is to take what’s left and cut the fabric up to make it into new things, to upcycle the clothes and show them off in a fashion show planned for the new year. It’s going to be a learning curve as they try their hand at sewing as they go along. But they’re ready.
The final outcome of this ‘True Cost’-inspired project is to spread an awareness about the true cost of fashion and “make people realise that change is possible,” says Cailen.
With such enthusiasm it’s easy to envision how youth inspiring simple acts of change can gain momentum and add up to a larger positive impact for the real world beyond the classroom. Way to have fun while demonstrating learning!