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Students publish children’s book to raise awareness about textile recycling

June 10, 2021
Students Irene Dinh, Sophia Nguyen, and Jesika Kula hold a printed copy of Jordan and the Magic Cape. The book, which teaches children about textile recycling, was created by 15 students in IAT 330.

Last fall, while wrestling with the challenges surrounding textile sustainability, 15 students in IAT 330 realized where they could make a difference.

The interdisciplinary and experiential class, part of SFU’s Make Change Studio program in the Chang Institute for Entrepreneurship, enabled this team of undergraduate students to propose an innovative solution to a real-world problem.

“The wicked problem of textile sustainability encompasses the negative environmental and economical byproduct of the textiles industry,” shared two of the students, Jesika Kula and Sophia Nguyen.

Sophia Nguyen

Kula, a student in the School of Interactive Arts and Technology, and Nguyen, a student in the Beedie School of Business, pointed out some of the issues in the textile industry, including use of non-biodegradable synthetic materials and unethical labour practices, as well as the high volume of clothing and textile waste in our society.

“Clothes are an essential human need, and as a consumerist society, we go through clothing at unparalleled rates,” they explained. “Yet, there is an underwhelming lack of education surrounding environmentally sustainable practices for clothing.”

Aiming to address that lack of awareness and education, the team of students designed and published a children’s book that brings these issues to the forefront. The story of Jordan and the Magic Cape offers children and their parents the opportunity to learn together about clothing production and the importance of textile recycling.

Jesika Kula

Published this spring in Open Monograph Press through SFU Library Digital Publishing, the book is openly available for free in multiple digital formats. While this is the first children’s book published through Digital Publishing at SFU, the Digital Publishing team regularly works with faculty and students on projects that enable students to share their research and knowledge openly.

"In the library we're always looking for opportunities to support students as creators of knowledge - as well as consumers of knowledge - through open pedagogy," shared Kate Shuttleworth, digital publishing librarian. “Student book publishing projects using open-source software developed here at SFU are an exciting way that the library can support students in sharing their voices and expertise beyond their classes. The children's book project is a creative example of student work which shares information openly and in a fun and impactful way.”

For instructors interested in designing similar projects, instructor Naghmi Shireen encourages them to shift their classrooms and pedagogical approaches “from teaching to learning, from lecture to interactive dialogue, from speaking to engagement, from assignments to activities.” She explained: “Engaging students to be in charge of their own learning and encouraging them to bring innovation to their processes, motivates them to think outside of the box and invent solutions that cannot be hatched in a traditional classroom.”

Kula and Nguyen shared that this student-driven project was “incredibly eye-opening.” In addition to connecting with professionals in the textile industry and in publishing, the students had autonomy to design the project and gained first-hand experience in book creation and production -- all in a remote learning environment.

A print edition of the book is in the works, and the team intends to donate 100 copies to sustainability and literacy initiatives in the Lower Mainland and beyond.

For Kula and Nguyen, raising awareness about this urgent issue of sustainability and working on a project with lasting impact was motivating. “This project was a unique opportunity for us to create a ‘living artifact’ that we can leave behind for the younger generations.”

Read and download the free ebook of Jordan and the Magic Cape through SFU Library Digital Publishing.

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