As introduced in a blog post here in March, 60 million teachers and their over 1 billion students can make this world a better place. In this second part of the blog we focus on the six steps teachers can take to get started through the infographics below and the author’s inspirational TED talk.
As many readers will know, in 2015 the United Nations published the Global Goals for Sustainable Development. They defined aims like fighting poverty and hunger, providing good health care and quality education for all and achieving gender equality worldwide. Other goals included clean water and affordable, clean energy, decent work and economic growth, progressive innovation and infrastructure, reduced inequalities, sustainable communities as well as responsible consumption and production. Deep inside we probably all know that if we do not actively work on these goals, the environment will be even more polluted, many animals will become extinct, living conditions will spiral downward, and the number of conflicts around the world will increase.
Here is a six-step plan of what we can do even in the most restrictive learning environments.
If you work in an educational context in which you are forced to follow a curriculum that leaves no flexibility and does not contain any curriculum content that could be linked to the Global Goals: Hang up a poster in the hallway, mention the Global Goals in breaks and after school activities and encourage your students to contribute. At the same time, connect with like-minded educators and advocate for more flexibility with regards to curricular content.
If you teach in a context in which you have a strict curriculum but you can make decisions about didactics and some of the materials you use, check your curriculum for anything that can be connected to the Global Goals. Your curriculum has the topic “water quality” for Biology or Science classes? Connect the work with your students to Sustainable Developmental Goal 6 (SDG 6).
Check, if there is enough flexibility in your curriculum to not only study SDGs but also take action. Invite your students to brainstorm what they could do. Let them invent a solution for cheap water filtering, encourage them to develop a plan for their own or someone else’s health improvement. Show them how to give a speech about better conditions for their own learning or how to make a video that can be used as an educational resource for someone else’s learning.
Encourage your colleagues and the school leadership to have one week every year that can be dedicated to projects that help achieve a Global Goal. Students can choose which Goal to work on and can come up with their own plans of how they want to achieve their goal. They can work on their own or in groups and get a teacher’s support. If you have plans for a school festival: Why not make the topic “The Global Goals”. What used to be the school fair or summer party now becomes a celebration of the Global Goals. Maybe you can have 17 or more booths that provide information about each goal and offer something related to the goal: For example clean water (SDG 6), something to eat (SDG 2), something educational (SDG 4), or decorations with symbols for peace (SDG 6). You could donate (some) of your profit to charity or a partner school.
Combine subjects for bigger projects over a few weeks or a school year. In their Science classes the students can come up with an idea for a filtering system. In their English classes they can write an appeal for funding for the water filtering system or design an advertisement. In their Music lesson they could study how music supports the ad and helps raise awareness for a campaign. In their Politics lesson they could learn which areas of the world might be in need of their device. In Economics they could make a plan of how to fund the project or become social entrepreneurs. Mix the curriculum in with the projects. And if it’s possible, combine subjects on a structural level too. Hold a few lessons together with your colleagues and let students choose which aspects they work on and which teacher could give them the support they need.
If you are a really free spirit and you are in a context in which curricular and assessment-related duties do not present too many obstacles, let your students lead their own learning! Ask your students what they think are the biggest problems in the world and invite them to make a mind map. Then turn the question around: If these are the problems, what would be the solutions? Let them compare their goals with the Global Goals and encourage them to do the research they are most interested in so that they can create action plans. Just stay on their side and encourage them to keep broadening their horizons and introduce them to experts inside or outside the school who can help. With your encouragement and support their self-directed learning will lead them to fantastic development and great results.
As a final step, create a culture of appreciation and growth that will foster further development and positive change. And if this is not enough to make us change our focus, attitudes and methods at school, here is an inspirational TED talk delivered by the author if this blog:
The world needs you!”
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Mareike Hachemer is a high school teacher for German, English and Drama at a secondary school in Wiesbaden, Germany and a delegate of the International Department at the Ministry of Education in Hesse, Germany. It is her mission to empower teachers and encourage them to connect learning to activities that help achieve the Global Goals. She is a UNESCO delegate for the role of teachers in Peace and Sustainable Development, a member of TeachSDGs and the Pestalozzi Programme, the Council of Europe’s programme for the professional development of teachers and education actors. Her ideas are published in articles and public speeches such as “Teaching – The Most Important Profession in the World”, given at TEDxHeidelberg. In 2015 she was chosen as a finalist for the Global Teacher Prize and has since been working on Education for Global Citizenship with distinguished international educators and the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
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