Get Involved! Or not?

So Studio Time is now ‘a thing’. It has legs. And whilst it is beginning to come together in terms of form and substance, it is also starting to flow into other areas of teaching and learning. We speak more in the collective. More than ever, I’m mindful of using ‘our’, ‘we’ and ‘us’ and it’s catching on. By bringing students into the decision-making process, a sense of ownership and personal investment in the learning community has been more palpable.

By the time we got around to another planned session of studio style learning, the students had been thinking more than I expected about how they’d spend their self-directed learning time when offered.

I’ve been thinking about workshops a lot lately. Having found this type of small group, hands-on learning to be highly engaging and effective in terms of assessing student understanding, I was keen to try it again.

So we planned another day and I offered a string of lesson-length small group workshops. This time, fewer students asked me whether I thought they needed to attend particular workshops. This time, they seemed to know. And I think this is why:

I wrote the timetable using the format of guiding questions.

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Because the workshops were worded as questions, students seemed to ponder their ability to answer them. Therefore, they either knew they didn’t need to attend at all or made a choice about attending or inquiring independently.

Credit due to Jess Morgan and Melissa Sokol (via Twitter) for inspiring this idea. We’re working on students developing and sharing their own guiding questions for their inquiries.

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One of the students asked me an interesting question: “You know how you said we can opt out if we want to come along but decide we don’t need to stay, we can go?”

“Ah…yep,” I replied, bracing myself for the next suggestion in the usual negotiation process.

“Well, can we opt in if at first we don’t think we need it but when you start, it sounds like something we’re interested in?”

PAUSE. THINK.

Sidebar: I’m having constant battles within myself about this sort of stuff. Why do I want to say no? Is it reasonable to say no? Is it reasonable to say yes? Are their suggestions purposeful or just curious? What benefits could potentially come from saying yes? Do I need to modify their suggestion to somehow make it work?

Also, I’ve gradually made this internal dialogue more external and transparent. I’ve actually asked myself all of the above questions out loud in front of the students – much to their amusement. Why? Because I want them to know that I have heard their ideas and if I dismiss them, it’s not because I haven’t thought about it. And also because modelling any decision-making process when the stakes are high is worth doing with kids. I need them to know that the stakes feel high to me and therefore really worth considering.

“Sure. As long as you don’t interrupt the flow of the session.”

“Cool. Thanks.”

So here’s my first surprise for the week.

The ‘opt-in’ option is powerful. It’s like my workshop is a non-intentional provocation in the middle of the classroom. The numbers seemed to quietly grow on occasion. Curiosity meant that some of them couldn’t help themselves. And even more interesting were the onlookers. Students who watched curiously from across the room. I wonder what they were thinking. Should I join? Do I need to join? Is what I’m doing more important?

I’m a little fascinated by this internal decision-making process and I might explore it with them.

The ‘opt-out’ option is also really powerful. The workshops provide enough of a provocation for wonderings, curiosities, and questioning which some students then want to pursue independently. I’ll be honest. I possibly find this too reassuring. I reflect that this makes me comfortable because I value the learning as ‘worthy’ because it is driven by the teacher. Food for thought…

But my biggest surprise of the week was how much I enjoyed the sessions. I was relaxed. Once again, my conversations with the students were productive, efficient and informative (for me as the collector of the all-powerful DATA). The room was settled. What a pleasure it is to teach to a group of students who all choose to be there. It felt collegial. And weirdly ‘grown-up’. They had these grins on their faces that seemed to express their understanding that they were doing something very adult – choosing to learn.

 

 

 

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Tackling Global Goals from the Classroom and on a National Level (Case-Study India) #TeachSDGs

Sustainable Development Goals

‘In 2015, world leaders agreed to 17 goals for a better world by 2030. These goals have the power to end poverty, fight inequality and stop climate change. Guided by the goals, it is now up to all of us, governments, businesses, civil society and the general public to work together to build a better future for everyone.’ (United Nations, 2015)

What are the Global Goals?

‘The Global Goals, also known as the Sustainable Development Goals, are a set of universal goals and targets adopted by 193 Un member states. They provide an outline of a vision that helps to create a better future for both the people and the planet. 

The Global Goals will be used to frame the UN member states’ agendas and policies over the next 15 years until 2030. The Global Goals have been put forward as a ‘transformative’ agenda that incorporates the needs and rights of all people and groups. They also include economic, environmental and social aspects of development. The goals are universal and will apply to all countries.

Other important issues are included, such as ending violence against children, ending gender-based violence; building peaceful, inclusive societies; decreasing inequality, and much more emphasis on environmental factors that affect global sustainability. Gender equality, and the importance of the empowerment of girls and women, also play a key role in the goals.

What is most exciting about the implementation of the Global Goals is the repeated importance of ‘leaving no-one behind. I believe that this is critical as we strive to reach the most excluded and marginalised girls, boys and young people.’

Source: Plan International 

How were the Global Goals Chosen?

The UN led an Open Working Group, comprised of Member States’ representatives,which met 13 times throughout 2013 and 2014. Accompanied by a team of technical experts on education, health, climate and other topics, this group discussed the most pressing issues facing people around the world and standing in the way of improving life for all people and the planet. At the same time, discussions were taking place around the world with ordinary people, giving them the opportunity to express their ideas on what should be in the Global Goals. From these discussions, the Open Working Group developed goals and targets that focus on a variety of different themes. For example, some of the topics covered include ending extreme poverty and hunger, and guaranteeing human rights, peace, gender equality, as well as the sustainable management of the environment and natural resources.

After the report from the Open Working Group, all of the Member States of the UN got a chance to discuss the proposal. They agreed that what the Open Working Group came up with was a good and ambitious list and decided to adopt 17 Goals. They wrote a “Declaration” to introduce the Goals to the world, as well as some ideas on how the Goals would be put into practice, and how they would be monitored over the next 15 years to see if progress is being achieved. Finally, in August 2015, the Member States agreed on the full agenda for the new Global Goals for Sustainable Development, ready to for a ceremonious commitment to them at the UN headquarters in New York on September 25th 2015.

Source: sustainabledevelopment.un.org

Why Teach the Global Goals?

The goals form a useful lens through which to look at the most pressing global issues. Hundreds of millions of people don’t have enough food to eat; women still earn less than men and have fewer rights; plant and animal species are rapidly vanishing; and the gap between rich and poor is indeed getting wider.

More than 40 per cent of the global population are between the ages of ten and 24 – the largest youth population ever. To solve the world’s problems, the next generation needs to know what those problems are. A good way to ensure this is to teach them about the SDGs.

Studying the goals is part of a broader, international approach to learning. Our research shows that this improves academic skills, helps learners’ mental and moral development and motivates them. It also helps students find jobs when they leave school.

For teachers, it’s energising to teach fresh material. It can give their professional development a boost, especially if there’s the opportunity to take online courses or to lead a programme on the SDGs.

For schools, there’s a positive influence on their ethos and relationship with the local community.

Source: Emily Reynolds, How to teach the UN’s development goals, and why.

How do we tackle these Global Goals in the Classroom?

As I have come to the end of another school year I have been left to reflect on my own achievements with regards to the Global Goals. How much impact has been achieved within my own practice? Has it been possible to make a meaningful contribution to global issues from an Early Years classroom? What impact has my school made towards supporting the Global Goals? What initiatives are happening in my host country of India to tackle these universally important global issues?

Throughout the year we have touched on many global issues within the learning and teaching of the classroom and I always remind the children ‘that we can’t expect to change the whole world but we can always make a small difference in our own way.’ I know that I have had some success with regards to the children ‘making their small difference’ but do they have an impact on the Global Goals? Are we able to contribute and make a difference? 

Within my own teaching practice I have come to think of the Global Goals as essential teaching opportunities. As educators we have a responsibility in addressing these issues and making a positive impact no matter how small. Educating on the issues we all face needs to be started with our youngest learners. It will be these learners that will be most affected by the decisions and actions, or lack of, we take now. These are the next generation that are going to face the reality of the world that we leave behind. It is for these reasons that I believe that teaching the Global Goals has to be placed at the center of our teaching and learning. I consider them to be Essential Goals for life but if we begin to face the challenges together they can become Achievable Goals and a road map to a better future. The Global Goals have become Essential Goals for the peaceful continuation of mankind. Failure to achieve these goals is unthinkable.

 ‘While people of all ages share in the goal of creating a sustainable and healthy planet, it is the youngest members of the global population who may have the most to win or lose in whether we achieve targets for sustainable living. Decisions made by individuals, countries and as an international community will have long lasting impacts that will continue affecting the lives of the members of our youngest generation, who will have more time to spend on the planet in the future than older generations, for many years to come.’ Brian Wibby.

 

Our world is changing quickly and that means we need to change with it. We are at a tipping point in our existence. It is no longer a need but a ‘must’ that we change our behaviour and thinking in how we engage the natural world and each other. The United Nations have given a set of Global Goals that have now become the responsibility of everyone if we are to succeed. Even our youngest learners have a responsibility for understanding the challenges ahead and having positive interactions with the world around them. As educators we have a responsibility to developing an understanding and awareness of global issues to our students. The tackling of these must begin in the classroom if we have any chance to succeed.

While I am realistic enough to know that solving global issues may not be something our young learners can achieve on their own I believe that helping them to develop an understanding of global issues and engaging efforts as active global citizens is incredibly valuable for individuals as well as our global community as a whole.’ Brian Wibbly

Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere.

 ‘Is this goal ambitious? Yes. But it can be achieved. By dedicating ourselves to a human-centric, rights-based approach across all the other 16 sustainable development goals will not only end poverty but also bring dramatic improvements in quality of life, the environment and governance for everyone.‘ Alexandra Lopoukhine

Around the world today, a staggering 800 million people still live in conditions of extreme poverty. With one in five people living on less than USD 1.25 a day, extreme poverty presents one of the most urgent crises of our times. While the number of people living in extreme poverty has declined by more than half since 1990, a great deal more needs to be done.

Poverty is more than just the lack of income or access to resources – it manifests itself in diminished opportunities for education, social discrimination and the inability to participate in decision-making processes. For instance, in developing countries, children in the poorest households are four times less likely to be in school than those of the richest.

Ending poverty in all its forms everywhere forms the first goal of the 2030 Sustainable Development agenda. It calls for ensuring social protection, enhancing access to basic services, and building resilience against the impacts of natural disasters which can cause severe damage to people’s resources and livelihoods.

Between 2012-2013, global reduction in extreme poverty was driven mainly by Asia – notably China and India. Despite the fact that India made tremendous progress in halving its poverty head count ratio by 2011-2012, it still remains at 21% of the population. Nearly 80% of these poor live in rural areas and eradicating poverty is at the core of India’s national priorities. The Government of India has many progressive schemes, including the world’s largest employment guarantee scheme, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, and the National Social Assistance Programme.

Source: in.one.un.org

Tackling poverty in all forms is an ambitious goal at any level, especially for our young learners. I was made more aware of the magnitude of the task while supporting an Exhibition Group tackling the issue of poverty. The group had started their journey by viewing poverty in global terms. They quickly discovered that the problems were just too wide stretching, too many causes to be able to make any real impact on our own. The group started to think more localised. They studied the causes of poverty in India and the actions that were being taken to tackle the problems. In the end, unfortunately, the group was unable to take meaningful action but were able to create awareness of the problem.

I think for our young learners developing an awareness and knowledge of the issues is probably the most important step in supporting the Global Goals, developing an understanding within themselves of the issues and then creating an awareness in the community. Also developing a greater empathy towards the plight of others and understanding our own privileges. Our success in tackling poverty will also help the development in other Global Goals. High population growth rate is one of major reasons of poverty in India. This further leads to high level of illiteracy, poor health care facilities and lack of access to financial resources. 

Many of the Exhibition groups in my school this year have brought awareness of many of the Global Goals and through positive, meaningful Action have supported success in a variety of student-led activities. It makes me more positive for the future when I see our young learners leading the charge.

Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.

‘Hunger can be eliminated within this lifetime, if we create better opportunities for farmers and focus on the needs of undernourished groups. Sustainability means using fewer natural resources to produce food and reducing food waste and loss. Improved nutrition means reducing both hunger and obesity through improved education, and access and availability of quality foods‘ Lisa Dreier

Again, another ambitious goal for young learners. However, by teaching these issues it is possible to develop responsibility and understanding within our students. Even our youngest students can begin to make a difference.

At the beginning of the year my Early Years class had been given the task of clearing their own plates during lunchtime. This had led to concern over the amount of food being wasted. These simple beginnings had unknowingly started us on a journey of meaningful, sustainable Action over the next coming months.

To begin with we started by weighing and recording how much food was being wasted on a daily basis. We recorded our results on a bar chart. We addressed certain behaviours that were responsible for the waste in an effort to decrease the amount e.g. less talking, smaller portions. There was clear enjoyment on the days we were able to reduce our waste.

But what happened to our food waste? Being Inquirers we wanted to find out more. Through investigation we discovered that much of our school’s food waste was taken to a nearby farm. On visiting the farm we discovered more about permaculture (The development of agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient).

Myriam Shankar who owned the farm is heavily involved in a charitable group, The Anonymous Indian Charitable Trust (TAICT) addressing many of the environmental issues facing Bangalore, India.

‘TAICT is an incubator and powerhouse for good ideas that create social change. TAICT believes that collective action, with the right resources and leadership, can achieve great heights. It seeks to enable and empower individuals to improve the lives of Indian citizens by offering strategic, financial and legal support while maintaining a discreet profile. Focussed on EnvironmentGovernance and Livelihood as a means to improve the everyday lives of citizens.’ (TAICT)

‘We want to take part in shaping the future of India, and bring back values taught since the time of the Baghvad Gita.  The original Indian culture has, now more than ever, relevance to our day to day life, we need to dig deep into our collective memory and follow the path of our elders, who had so much wisdom.’  Myriam Shankar

Source: http://www.taict.org

Being inspired by the actions and contributions of members of our local community motivated my class to developing our own permaculture garden in school. With the support of Ms Shankar we were able to turn this into a reality. The children loved creating their own garden and planting their first seeds. We are still waiting for our first crops but with what started as an activity addressing responsibility we had unknowingly taken our first steps towards sustainable farming. We have not eradicated hunger but throughout the process we had developed a sense of responsibility for our own actions and also an understanding of the steps that can, and are, being taken to tackle the issues.

Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.

Innovation in terms of delivery models and technology mean is bringing the goal of healthy living for all within sight. Business models based on public-private cooperation unlock crucial investment without the need for massive infrastructure investment; meanwhile, telemedicine, precision medicine and other advances are bringing dramatic improvements in terms of effectiveness and cost’ Arnaud Bernaert

Despite all the progress in India, it cannot add up to making the country a global leader unless there is parallel progress in health, social, and development sectors. Today, India accounts for a third of the world’s poor; at least 32% of India’s population lives below the international poverty line (spending <1.2 USD per day). According to the United Nations Development Program report of the Human Development Index, India was ranked 131st out of 188 countries (2016). In addition, life expectancy has doubled to 68 years (2015) – 67 years for males and 70 years for females. Since 

India’s share in the global burden of diseases is quite significant – 20%. It is interesting to note that contrary to this burden, the contribution to the global health-care infrastructure is highly inadequate – India have a meager 9% of the global community health workers, 8% of the doctors globally (from 50,000 in 1947 to 7.7 lacs in 2017), 8% nurses, 6% of the beds for patient care (from 725 Primary Health Centres [PHCs] in 1947 to 28,863 in 2017), and only 1% laboratory technicians – scarce human resource to tackle the mountain of diseases. Health-care access and quality index was 44.8 in 2015, lower than our neighbouring countries (Sri Lanka – 72.8, Bangladesh – 51.7, Bhutan – 52.7, and Nepal – 50.8 and ranks above Pakistan – 43.1 and Afghanistan – 32.5).

In addition, Indian public health financing is low, varying from 1.2% to 1% of the GDP, which is among the lowest in the world; neighbouring South Asian countries are faring much better (public health expenditure as a proportion of the total health expenditure was 2.6 times in Thailand, 1.9 times in Sri Lanka, 1.9 times in China, and 1.3 times in Nepal as compared to India in 2014).

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Source: Indian Journal of Public Health

Child Health

  • 17,000 fewer children die each day than in 1990, but more than six million children still die before their fifth birthday each year.
  • Since 2000, measles vaccines have averted nearly 15.6 million deaths.
  • Despite global progress, an increasing proportion of child deaths are in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia. Four out of every five deaths of children under age five occur in these regions.
  • India’s Under Five Mortality (U5MR) declined from 125 per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 49 per 1,000 live births in 2013.

 Maternal Health

  • Globally, maternal mortality has fallen by almost 50% since 1990.
  • In Eastern Asia, Northern Africa and Southern Asia, maternal mortality has declined by around two-thirds. But, the maternal mortality ratio – the proportion of mothers that do not survive childbirth compared to those who do – in developing regions is still 14 times higher than in the developed regions.
  • Only half of women in developing regions receive the recommended amount of health care.
  • From a Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) of 437 per 100,000 live births in 1990-91, India came down to 167 in 2009. Delivery in institutional facilities has risen from 26% in 1992-93 to 72% in 2009.

 HIV/Aids

  • By 2014, there were 13.6 million people accessing antiretroviral therapy, an increase from just 800,000 in 2003.
  • New HIV infections in 2013 were estimated at 2.1 million, which was 38% lower than in 2001.
  • At the end of 2013, there were an estimated 35 million people living with HIV.
  • At the end of 2013, 240,000 children were newly infected with HIV.
  • India has made significant strides in reducing the prevalence of HIV and AIDS across different types of high-risk categories. Adult prevalence has come down from 0.45 percent in 2002 to 0.27 in 2011.

Source: niti.gov.in

Working within an IB school we promote the idea of being a Balanced Learner. Balanced learners understand the importance of intellectual, physical, and emotional balance to achieve personal well-being for themselves and others. This concept is promoted and taught throughout the school.

Working within an Early Years classroom we have included emotional and physical well-being within our daily routine since the beginning of the year. This is an extremely important aspect of early learning. It is at these early stages of learning that the children begin to develop life habitats and it is our responsibility that we promote wellness and physical pursuits with just as much importance as language and numbers. It is widely known that physical education is important for students so that they learn how to sustain a healthy lifestyle later in life. Research has shown that early childhood physical education improves more that just physical wellness, but it also assists and improves mental and emotional developments.

As a school we provide a balanced curriculum that supports these developments. This is something that is very close to my own heart as I strive to live a balanced lifestyle which is often difficult to do with the many expectations and pressures of teaching. As much as possible I try to be a role-model to our young learners promoting a balanced life of work and play, both equally important to create a healthy world.

Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

‘Technology can help us to fundamentally transform education delivery and, with the right mix of policies and incentives, we can scale up early success stories. But we need to move beyond “first study, then work” to a model based on lifelong learning. Content and quality, too, must change, with the emphasis on critical thinking, collaboration and flexibility alongside “hard skills”. Business must play a critical role in the constant skilling, reskilling and upskilling of employees and broader communities’ Saadia Zahidi

Achieving inclusive and quality education for all reaffirms the belief that education is one of the most powerful and proven vehicles for sustainable development. This goal ensures that all girls and boys complete free primary and secondary schooling by 2030. It also aims to provide equal access to affordable vocational training, and to eliminate gender and wealth disparities with the aim of achieving universal access to a quality higher education.

Education reduces poverty, boosts economic growth and increases income. It increases a person’s chances of having a healthy life, reduces maternal deaths, and combats diseases such as HIV and AIDS. Education can promote gender equality, reduce child marriage, and promote peace. In sum, education is one of the most important investments a country can make in its people and its future.

Source: in.updp.org

It is somewhat pleasing to see the contribution that my school has made to the development in education in the local area. The ownership sponsors our neighbour government school providing a range of facilities Many student initiatives coming through our Exhibition groups work on providing funds and support to the local school. This year, for example, one group raised money to provide the school with a years worth of internet access. The PTA has raised money to provide sports and technological equipment. Although well intended I often wonder if it goes far enough? Is this just a form of tokenism or is this a real attempt to create equality in education?

Screen Shot 2018-06-12 at 10.39.15 PM‘Good teachers are essential to solving the global learning crisis and closing the gap between poor and good quality education. Therefore, it is vital that all children have teachers that are well-trained, motivated, are able to identify weak learners, and are supported by well-managed education systems.’ www.globalpartnership.org

‘If we believe an education is a prerequisite to accessing opportunities that lead to better life outcomes, we must critically examine the intended and unintended lessons of education programs for the poor. Teaching skills, while important, does not sufficiently narrow the equity gap between the poor and the privileged if the process of learning is reduced to the rote following of procedures. 

We need to:

  1. Be bold in our aspirations. Our aspirations for poor children fall short of what we would want for our own.  Think of the young children you know: expressing ideas and opinions, asking questions, being imaginative, and having a voice that matters are integral to the development of a young human being.  While the children we serve often live in dire circumstances, they have the same education needs as our own children.  
  2. Value the quality of classroom interactions. A quality education needs to value both outcomes and process, and indicators of success should reflect this. In addition to finding out how many words a child can read correctly in a minute, we need to ask ourselves questions like: Are children invited to share ideas and express opinions?  Are there opportunities for creative expression?  Are children learning skills that could empower them to challenge class barriers?
  3. Provide children access to a range of high quality books. It is possible, and desirable, to teach basic skills while simultaneously nurturing the overall development of children. A range of high quality fiction and nonfiction books can help to do this if used effectively and made accessible to children. Books can expand children’s world views, spark their imaginations, increase their knowledge, and encourage reflection, even when the process of schooling falls short of achieving these things.’   

Source: Christabel Pinto

Within my own classroom I believe I am supporting this goal by helping to create a generation of students becoming lifelong learners. It is my goal that the children continue to succeed both in and out of the classroom. The idea is to make sure that once they leave the classroom they no longer need us. My students become the teachers and the leaders and they never stop being learners. This will be an important development when my students become the next world leaders.

As educators we are responsible in helping develop a mindset of learning in our classrooms. We must encourage the children to take responsibility and independence for their learning. Create a classroom culture in which mistakes are treated as learning opportunities. 

Albert Einstein claimed ‘that anyone who hasn’t made mistakes hasn’t tried anything new.’ 

We must help support the students in recognising tools for learning. What are they passionate about and how can they research and share their knowledge and ideas. Give them opportunities to teach this knowledge to other people. These students can impart valuable lessons of learning ownership and knowledge sharing to others. These students can be an inspiration to others.

Provide time to play at any age. Through play our students learn communication, comprehension, and unique social skills. Play is an important part of learning. It’s essential that learning is fun and enjoyable. Otherwise, the learner will resist it. We must ensure our kids never see learning as a chore but as an adventure.

Set clear goals for our students so that they realise that learning should have a purpose. To have any value, it must be a meaningful and useful experience. This is especially true for our youngest learners. Goal setting is one of those lifelong learning skills that strengthens the desire to learn.

It will be by helping to support a new generation of lifelong learners that we will be able to create sustainable change on our planet.

Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.

‘We will not achieve any of our goals if girls and women are not equal partners to boys and men. We have made tremendous strides in awareness of the gender gap – from schools to boardrooms – it’s time to translate these movements and campaigns into action. Workplaces, governments and healthcare and education systems must be designed to provide a level playing field. Practices that have worked already must be adapted more broadly.’ Saadia Zahidi 

Early childhood is the most important phase of development of a person’s life. This is when cognitive, social and emotional skills are learned, influencing lifelong educational achievement, health and wellbeing. When young girls and boys are denied access to the opportunities, care and services they need to thrive and develop to their full potential, this affects the rest of their lives.

In India around 60% of women are still illiterate. Illiteracy is the root cause of socio-economic problems. Due to the lack of education women are not aware of business, technology and market knowledge. Lack of education also causes low achievement motivation among women.

In many communities, gender inequality is one important root cause of children’s poor development in the early years. Gender discrimination and women’s low status are at the root of women’s limited autonomy and of the denial of their rights to health and bodily integrity: when women suffer poor mental and physical health and limited decision-making power this, in turn, impacts negatively on their children’s survival, healthy growth and development. Gender discrimination together with son preference mean that young girls receive less nutrition, opportunities to play and access early learning than young boys. 

Furthermore,   it is during their first years that girls and boys learn gendered attitudes and expectations – from parents, caregivers, other family members and teachers – about how girls and boys/women and men should behave, their social worth and what their role is in society. As our research shows, in many countries and communities, right from the earliest age boys are prepared for their future role as provider and protector, and girls as mothers and caregivers. Learning these rules and expectations in terms of behaviours and roles can be limiting for all children – but is likely to be particularly limiting for girls.

Source: Pan International

‘Ensuring school curricula, teaching materials, and teachers reflect principles of gender equality helps to empower girls and to make them equal to boys. Additionally, when teachers explicitly teach issues of gender equality, girls gain tremendously.

Prerna, a girls’ education program in India, serves some of the country’s poorest girls, yet students outperform national and state averages on indicators of attendance, completion, and language and mathematics achievement. Gender equality is built into the school’s curriculum and taught like other subjects with the goal of developing girls’ ability to challenge and resist discrimination while rising above it.’

Source: www.malala.org

‘There is an increasing body of evidence to support the enormous benefits of having women entrepreneurs within the business world. From the Center for International Enterprise to the Harvard Business Review, business experts have agreed for several years that the world needs to support the development of women entrepreneurs. Studies are showing that when women gain access to their own financial freedom, they are lifted out of poverty, children begin to become healthier, and the overall economic status of a country improves.

Organizations like the Brookings Institute have pointed out that entrepreneurship may be a way to support women who live in extreme poverty around the world. By removing barriers to entrepreneurship (credit, training, legal restrictions on property), women are able to gain incomes, advocate for their own independence, and take on a more full societal role in their culture. Because many women are also parents, breaking the hold of poverty on the lives of women also helps to support children in nations that struggle with youth poverty.’  Margarita Hakobyan

Creating more equal educational opportunities for students begins in the classroom and with the teacher. A strong teacher is one who treats their students fairly and creates an environment where students feel equally able to take part. Within my Early Years classroom I try to challenge gender stereotypes as much as possible. I have found that gender stereotyping starts at a young age and it is here that it is the most important to challenge it. This may include the toys they play with or colour they identify with being male or female. I emphasis to the children that boys and girls can choose to play with any type of toy. Pink is not just for girls but boys can like pink to.

Since the beginning of the year many of the children have brought me flowers. As a habit I began to place the flower behind my ear. This soon became the norm for the rest of the year. Each morning one child would arrive to give me my flower for the day. At first some of the children, and other teachers to, thought it strange that a boy should have a flower in his ear. I would reply ‘Boys can be pretty to.’ By the end of the year it was not uncommon to see other boys in the class wearing flowers in their ear. This is the change that I can make to mindset. I challenge the norms and provide a positive rolemodel to the children breaking down the barriers of gender. Hopefully this will be the mindset that the children will take with them through life.

Goal 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

‘Let’s tackle wastewater, especially in towns and cities. This is a good way in, as 80% of it is currently not treated. Accelerating technology, partnership models and financing mechanisms to scale wastewater treatment solutions can create “new” reusable sources of water for industry and agriculture and free up lots more fresh water for humans and nature.’ Alex Mung

Water scarcity affects more than 40 percent of people around the world, an alarming figure that is projected to increase with the rise of global temperatures as a consequence of climate change. Although 2.1 billion people have gained access to improved water sanitation since 1990, dwindling supplies of safe drinking water is a major problem impacting every continent. Source: in.undp.org

India is facing its worst water shortage in history. Six hundred million people are dealing with high to extreme water shortage, according to a report by Niti Aayog, a policy think tank for the Indian government. The report states that an average of 200,000 Indian lives are lost every year due to inadequate supply or contamination of water. Sustainable water development has seen slow progress in India in recent years. Though 80% of the country’s states have water conservation legislation, bad data management and nonexistent pricing of water have kept the country from making significant change, the report states. Poor irrigation techniques and severe contamination of groundwater have brought India to the edge of this crisis.

Source: Swati Gupta

I have found sustainable management of water to be an especially difficult issue in an Early Years setting. Water play is such an important activity to the development of the children and is available in my own class on a daily basis. I had become concerned about the amount of water that was being used and was there more we could do. Especially when Bangalore is in real danger of running out of water. This was a very real localised issue.

We discussed this as a class and what we could do to become more responsible for our water usage. I was very pleased with the children’s responses as they were very selfless. They debated if ‘we should be using water at all’. There seemed to be more concern for the environment and our impact on it than for their own enjoyment.

If we are to tackle the global issues successfully this is the kind of mindset change we require. After some discussion it was decided that we would use less water by being more careful where we splash it. We would not refill the water until it had all gone. My favourite suggestion was that if there was any water left at the end of the day we could use it on the plants. Since our discussion the children have taken great pride in using the leftover water to give to the plants. A cycle of work and play that is helping to support our environment. Again, the mindset we will need in order to succeed.

Goal 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.

Evolution of distributed energy technology, maturity of financial tools and a greater awareness across stakeholders offer a new opportunity for solving the global issue of energy access. With technology largely available, the critical factors to overcome are the financial challenge – by making long-term investment projects both bankable and scalable – and the capability constraints. Enabling those will allow energy systems to reach their goal of affordability and sustainability today.’ Roberto Bocca

Energy is critical and people with no sustainable access to energy are deprived of the opportunity to become part of national and global progress. And yet, one billion people around the world live without access to energy. Almost three billion people, 41% of the world’s population, do not have access to clean fuels and technologies for cooking.

To expand energy access, it is crucial to enhance energy efficiency and to invest in renewable energy. Asia has been the driver of progress in this area, expanding access at the twice the rate of demographic growth. 72% of the increase in energy consumption from modern renewable sources between 2010 and 2012 came from developing regions, including parts of Asia.

India is projected to be a significant contributor to the rise in global energy demand, around one-quarter of the total. According to 2013-14 figures, the total installed capacity for electricity generation in India registered a compound annual growth rate of 7%. However, as of 2015, 237 million people in India do not have access to electricity. The government’s National Solar Mission is playing an important role in the work towards renewable energy, and interventions in rural electrification and new ultra mega power projects are moving India towards achieving universal energy access.

Source: in.one.un.org

I am unsure how much I have personally contributed to this goal. In a small way we have developed a greater sense of responsibility for our energy use within the classroom. We turn the lights off and other electrical equipment when we leave the classroom. I like to support a flexible learning culture which allows the children move freely inside and outside the classroom. We have discussed the reason that we do not use the AC is because we would waste energy. I suppose in our small way we have made a difference and the children are developing an awareness of their energy use.

Goal 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.

‘Well-functioning and transparent institutions that effectively protect property rights, reduce red tape, combat corruption and keep nepotism in check are essential. Getting this right will create a stable and predictable business environment, which will, in turn, fuel investment, create jobs and facilitate the production of higher value goods and services in an economy.’ Margareta Drzeniek-Hanouz

Over the past 25 years the number of workers living in extreme poverty has declined dramatically, despite the long-lasting impact of the economic crisis of 2008/2009. In developing countries, the middle class now makes up more than 34 percent of total employment – a number that has almost tripled between 1991 and 2015.

However, as the global economy continues to recover we are seeing slower growth, widening inequalities and employment that is not expanding fast enough to keep up with the growing labour force. According to the International Labour Organization, more than 204 million people are unemployed in 2015.  Source: in.undp.org

Within my Early Years classroom I help to provide the children with opportunities to explore a variety of different roles within our community. Role-play is always a favourite way to introduce the children to a variety of community helpers. It helps to develop an understanding of the important role that each plays in supporting our community. In our inquiries we take the time to explore the role of everyone and not just the teachers and administration. Everyone is recognised equally in their contributions.

I am fortunate to work in a school were we do show appreciation to the valuable support staff that make the smooth running of our school possible. Many of the teachers take time to make personal connections to the maids, security, drivers and gardeners around our school. As a school community we are indebted to our support staff, who contribute in so many ways to make our school a wonderful place to be. We don’t always see them, so much of their work is done behind the scenes, but it would immediately evident if they were not there. Each year the school recognizes the support of these individuals within school events.

Many of the children come from privileged backgrounds with nannies, drivers and maids so I believe that it is important for the children to develop a respect and understanding for the roles these people play. In some instances adopting the role of parent in the absence of their own. The children must develop a sense of their own privilege and recognise the importance these people play in their lives. Developing a sense of respect for all is a key motivation in this exercise as well a greater understanding of how communities are formed and connected by people’s support and involvement. It is always pleasing to see the children demonstrated greater appreciation for many of the school’s support staff by giving a simple ‘hello’ or using greater manners when speaking with them. Developing a sense of empathy for the roles people play in Early Years helps to create a generation of adults that show more understanding, better and fair treatment in the future workplace.

Goal 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.

‘Through a resilient, trusted digital infrastructure we have a unique opportunity to add 2 billion people to the innovation process. Let’s enable collaborative innovation processes focused on eliminating waste of resources instead of replacing labour with technology.’ Jim Hagemann Snabe

 

I have been unsure of how to address this global issue from the classroom to make a direct impact. I suppose in my own way creating a classroom environment that supports collaboration and innovation is a step in the right direction. For success in tackling the Global Goals we require a collaborative effort. We need to support a generation of innovators that are able to address the global issues with fresh eyes and ideas. A person that is unable to innovate cannot achieve ambitious goals. As research shows it is the development of habit, thinking and behaviour in the early stages in education that lay the foundation for future life.

‘Healthy development in the early years of life provides a strong foundation for most of the things we value for ourselves and for society as a whole: educational achievement, economic productivity, responsible citizenship, lifelong health, strong communities, and successful parenting of the next generation. Humans are not born with the capacity to fully achieve all of those things, but the appropriate supports help most of us develop those capabilities over time. It’s critical to assure the availability of stable, responsive relationships, growth-promoting experiences, and healthy environments for all young children. These essential requirements build sturdy brain architecture and promote resilience, thereby supporting the vitality, productivity, and sustainability of all society.’ Dr. Jack P. Shonkoff

Indian industry has not only been resource intensive but has also been polluting and generating billions of tonnes of solid and hazardous wastes with no proper management system. Most of these industries consume a large quantity of water and as a result the wastewater discharge is also very high. To quote some of the statistics, most major industrial sectors in India consume 25% to 100% more energy than the global best practices. And for every cubic metre of water consumed, the value addition in India is just 7.5 US$. This figure is much lower in comparison to Korea, UK, Sweden and other industrialized countries. Such a model of industrialization is not sustainable.

The sustainable industrialisation which India needs to focus on is alternate system in every field. In healthcare, for example, Ayurveda, naturopathy and yoga, renewable sources of energy such as, solar, wind, hydro, biomass. Similarly, public transportation systems, light weighting of vehicles and development of electric vehicles rather than vehicles running on fossil fuels. Organic farming, drip less irrigation are also some examples of sustainable innovation models.

Source: niti.gov.in

Goal 10: Reduce inequality within and among countries.

‘We need new policy frameworks and solutions that give economies every chance to drive growth that is inclusive and not limited to small elites. This means looking beyond redistribution to other levers that promote broad-based increases in living standards; for example, entrepreneurship, well-functioning financial systems and the upholding of ethical values in business and public spheres.’ Jennifer Blanke

The UN Global Goals are universal yet the problems and issues faced by individual nations and countries is not. In many countries it will be the breaking of cultural traditions which will be the most difficult. There will be a need for a change in mindset. The goal of equality, for instance, could be especially challenging in my host country of India were the inequality amongst the population can be ingrained in the very culture and traditions of the country. It will be the challenges to culture and mindset that will be the most difficult in achieving success in the Global Goals. The map on the right only visualises the inequality across India with regards to its energy use.

‘Ancient Indian society was divided into four varnas, or categories: Brahmins (priests), Kshatriyas (warriors), Vaishyas (merchants or traders) and Shudras (laborers). An unofficial fifth varna were the Dalits, or untouchables, a group so low that its members are assigned jobs like cleaning latrines, sweeping the streets, tanning hides and handling the remains of the dead.

India’s last caste census was conducted in the early 1930s, when the country was still part of the British Empire. It found that while Brahmins constituted only some 6 percent of the population, the other lower castes, even without Dalits and the tribal people, who are not part of the caste system, came to as much as 40 percent. It would be unthinkable in many instances for these divided groups, based on ancient tradition, to share a glass of water or even sit at the same table. It is a tradition and culture built on inequality and this will be the challenge that will need to be overcome in achieving our goal.

The modern Indian state has tried to correct the imbalances that caste creates. The Constitution bans discrimination based on caste, and the government has instituted quotas for low-caste people in government jobs and at universities. But the wound is so deep that even when this form of affirmative action throws up the odd success story, tragedy can quickly ensue.

The spread of modernity in India has certainly undermined caste, but it has also made the need to assert it more vehement. And the unfolding story in India is not one about the disappearance of caste, but rather of its resilience. Brahmins still have an outsize presence in intellectual life; the armed forces are still dominated by the martial castes; a majority of rich businessmen and industrialists are still of the mercantile castes; the lower castes still do the least desirable jobs.’ Aatish Taseer

As a guest in India I feel a little insecure speaking to loudly against traditional and cultural practices. With many of the Global Goals international support is welcomed, encouraged and can make a difference. With regards to this specific goal I believe that the change needs to come from within India itself. The rest of the world can model equality with the hope that it can change mindset and tradition.

In my own way I can express opposition by non-compliance in my own behaviour and attitude. As a role-model to the children I need to show fair and equal treatment for all regardless of social status within the community. I pride myself on building relationships with the local community through mutual friendship and respect. My hope is that the children I teach model this behaviour.

My school also does its best to help support the local community and try to bridge the divide. The ownership of the school has adopted the government school in the neighbouring village. The Parent Teacher Association in the last 2 years has contributed sport equipment, books for their library and also helped certain aspects to build computer lab in the government school. The students also do many service learning projects with this school. Many of this years Exhibition groups worked hard to raise money to support the school in a variety of ways. One of which was to raise money to provide internet access for the next school year.

I always feel that international schools can and should do more to support our local communities. In my experience the international schools do provide jobs for the local community in the form of support work e.g. cleaners, drivers, security. Although this practice does supply much needed employment it also indirectly supports the idea of inequality. As well as employment could not our privileged schools provide more scholarships to the local children. Have representatives from the local community active in the leadership of the schools, being decision makers. Provide teacher training for local teachers so that local community members can be represented amongst the teaching staff rather that just within the support staff. I feel that we need to take more action. If we really mean equal then provide equal opportunities. The local community don’t need hand outs or second class employment opportunities, they desire equality in all aspects.

Goal 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

‘A truly smart city needs multiple layers of intelligence – smart, transparent governance which devolves power to the city; a smart economy which promotes job creation and formalizes the informal; smart environmental management through the creation of intelligent infrastructure and a circular use of resources; and smart planning which creates dense, walkable, inclusive urban spaces.’ James Pennington

‘By 2050, 70 % of the world’s population will live in cities, making cities critical in achieving a sustainable future for the world. Businesses, together with governments at various levels, and civil society organizations and citizens are collectively engaged in pursuing ambitious objectives to make cities more competitive, safe, resource-efficient, resilient and inclusive. Cities seeking to realize their sustainability objectives can benefit from engaging with business early in the planning and strategy development process, leveraging the capability of business to identify innovative and cost-effective solutions to complex, cross-cutting urban sustainability challenges.’ Stefan Dimitrijevic

‘Uncontrolled rapid urbanization generally yields settlement patterns with dangerously low proportions of public space. As a result, these places are unable to accommodate safe pedestrian and vehicular rights of way, land for critical infrastructure like water, sewerage, and waste collection, recreational spaces and parks that contribute to social cohesion and protected ecological hotspots and corridors. As new cities emerge they often have reduced allocations of land for public space, especially streets.’ Bangalore Outcome Document

Bangalore, my city of residence, is one such city that has grown rapidly over the last decades. It is amazing to hear stories of older Bangalore residents that talk of green quiet spaces with an abundance of wild life. The days when Bangalore use to be referred to as the ‘Green City’ seem to be long gone. Unfortunately we have been left with an overcrowded, polluted city where the development of infrastructure has failed to keep up with demand. Thankfully there are a growing number of organisations that have developed initiatives to try and clean up the city. Through the work of volunteers and organisations work has begun to clean up the city, but will it be enough? It is a huge task that will need to support of the population and the governing parties if they are going to succeed. 

Myriam Shankar from our school community has been invloved in a campaign to clean the streets of Bangalore. She suggests that the effort will also take a change in mindset in the local residence if there is to be any progress. “Civic agencies mustn’t be blamed for all the mess. In my own locality though door-to-door garbage collection happens, lots of plastic and paper are found littered all over the drain and roads. People think they must clean their house and throw the garbage out. As long as they don’t start worrying about the hygiene factor outside their homes, nothing much can be done,” she says.

Sustainable solid waste management is essential. This implies waste reduction, reuse, recycling and composting, incineration, and disposal in landfills. Waste reduction, recycling, reuse and composting are preferred methods and should be promoted, as they reduce demand on scarce environmental resources, decrease energy use, and minimize the quantity of waste that must eventually be incinerated or disposed in landfills.

Within my class we have inquired into the organisation of communities. Learning about the basic infrastructure needed with special importance on the creation of green areas. With my young learners I have connected the organisation of communities to the feelings of the people who live there. This is an attempt to bring the issue to a level that they would understand e.g. If there were no parks or ponds would you be happy? Would a lot of noise and pollution make the people who live there happy or sad? Why? Even at this basic level I can provide the children with a simple knowledge and understanding of how a ‘happy’ community can be oragnised. It is this basic introduction and understanding within the Early Years that will create a mindset for change in the future. Again we are attempting to change the little things we can in order to make as much difference as possible.

In the planning and designing of new communities, housing projects, and urban renewal, the planners both private and public, need to give explicit consideration to the kind of world that is being created for the children who will be growing up in these settings.” Urie Brofenbrenner

Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.

‘Let’s move on from a DUD (dig, use and dump) model, which pollutes nature and wastes money. We can constantly reuse resources and turn linear supply chains into value-adding closed loops. Less a DUD and more a circular economy. Technology and the internet of things can drive this. Governments can help too, by removing environmentally harmful subsidies and pricing natural resources right.’ Bernice Lee

‘Achieving economic growth and sustainable development requires that we urgently reduce our ecological footprint by changing the way we produce and consume goods and resources. Agriculture is the biggest user of water worldwide, and irrigation now claims close to 70 percent of all freshwater appropriated for human use.

The efficient management of our shared natural resources, and the way we dispose of toxic waste and pollutants, are important targets to achieve this goal.  Encouraging industries, businesses and consumers to recycle and reduce waste is equally important, as is supporting developing countries to move towards more sustainable patterns of consumption by 2030.

A large share of the world population is still consuming far too little to meet even their basic needs. Halving per capita global food waste at the retailer and consumer levels is also important for creating more efficient production and supply chains. This can help with food security and shift us towards a more resource efficient economy.’

Source: www.in.undp.org

India has vowed to ban single-use plastic by 2022 to combat the damage throwaway plastic cups and plates do to the environment. It’s a huge move for the fastest growing economy in the world with a population of 1.3 billion people. India already has many projects to promote green energy and tackle pollution. It’s building roads from plastic waste and has rolled out trains that run on solar power. India even plans to make all cars run on electric by 2030 but the country’s pollution problem is already severe and there are questions over whether existing bans on plastic bags in individual states are effective as some are enforced more strictly than others.

 Source: World Economic Forum

From our Early Years class we are in a difficult position to make a change to the production of goods but we can make a difference in creating a change of mindset in the consumers. Through my own experience I have found that it is important to teach about global issues early. Many of our young learners engage enthusiastically in the learning demonstrating a deep empathy towards the destruction of natural world. It is something that they are naturally interested in.

During the course of my final inquiry we had been learning about animals. Soon we were learning about the harmful destruction of many of the world’s natural habitats in in particular how our use of plastic was polluting our oceans. We did go a period in our learning when my children thought that plastic was almost ‘evil’ but with some discussion they realised that it was not the material that was wrong it was what we did with it when it was no longer useful.

The personal connections that many of the children made to the learning was amazing. Almost everyday I had emails from parents highlighting action the children had been taking at home: Recycling food, reducing our use in plastic bags, reusing a variety of materials for different purposes. The response was overwhelming. Even just talking about the subject and creating greater awareness in the home is a huge start for our little learners.

It is possible, and we should, introduce global issues in a way that the youngest children can understand and begin to make a difference. It is something that they are naturally curious and enthusiastic about being part of. I believe that it would be wrong of us to underestimate the impact that we can make. In Early Years the children may lack the capabilities to make huge changes but we can make a change in mindset. My children had clearly demonstrated a mindset shift in becoming responsible consumers with a developing understanding of correct waste material management. If we can bring this change to the next generation the future may be bright.

Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.

‘It starts with Paris. An ambitious global climate agreement will accelerate climate action and low-carbon growth. Putting a value on reducing carbon will help. Then, we must move the mindset from carbon compliance to “carbon positive” solutions. There are many cost-saving, value-creating, low-carbon innovations which will make your life and your business better.’ Bernice Lee

There is no country in the world that is not seeing first-hand the drastic effects of climate change. Greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, and are now more than 50 percent higher than their 1990 level. Further, global warming is causing long-lasting changes to our climate system, which threatens irreversible consequences if we do not take action now.

India’s population and emissions are rising fast, and its ability to tackle poverty without massive fossil fuel could decide the fate of the planet. India’s vast population means that even small increases in emissions per person add up to a huge amount of carbon dioxide and India is likely to become the world’s biggest polluter.

According to an ambitious pledge by India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, every Indian will have electricity, and the education, health and business benefits that follow, by the end of 2018. But how Modi achieves that, and the development of what will soon become the world’s most populous nation, matters to the entire world.

There are signs of hope, however, driven by astonishing drops in the price of renewable energy in the last few years. Costs are falling faster than anyone predicted, with new record-low prices set this year for solar and wind. State governments can now pay less for clean energy than they pay for new coal power.

The Indian government is working hard to find greener forms of energy. The commitment, investment and initiatives vary from state to state making a universal policy difficult to implement.

Source: The Guardian

Within the Early Years classroom it is possible for the children to access the topic of climate change in terms that they understand. It is about opening up discussions about the world and making them realise that the world is changing both naturally and more importantly through the activities of humans. A changing world can be a challenging concept for some children to understand. For them the world remains constant and the changes in one part of the world, even short distances, has little impact on their own. It is our duty as educators to help them make connections.

 During our recent inquiry ‘Sharing the Planet’ we spent time learning about the animals in the Artic. I told the children that the ice was melting and that the animals were losing their homes. It was the thought of the animals losing their homes that allowed the children to makes connections, curiosity and empathy for the animals. This naturally led to conversations as to the reasons the animals were losing their homes. It is at these early stages of education that we should begin to support the children’s understanding and knowledge of wider global issues. We are helping them in their first steps towards awareness of issues that will have a direct impact on their future lives and they have a right to know.

Goal 14: Conserve and Sustainably Use Oceans.

‘Healthy oceans provide 50% of our oxygen, 20% of our protein and 30% of our oil and gas. They are suffering. We must 1) recognize the problem; 2) form new partnerships for fishing, acidification, waste, marine transport; 3) forge new forms of regional and global governance to manage our blue commons.’ Nathalie Chalmers

‘Over three billion people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods. However, today we are seeing 30 percent of the world’s fish stocks overexploited, well below a level at which they can produce sustainable yields.

Oceans also absorb about 30 percent of the carbon dioxide produced by humans, and we are seeing a 26 percent rise in ocean acidification since the beginning of the industrial revolution. Marine pollution, an overwhelming majority of which comes from land-based sources, is reaching alarming levels, with an average of 13,000 pieces of plastic litter to be found on every square kilometer of ocean.

The Sustainable Development Goals create a framework to sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems from land-based pollution, as well as address the impacts of ocean acidification. Enhancing conservation and the sustainable use of ocean-based resources through international law will also help mitigate some of the challenges facing our oceans.’ Source: undp.org

63 million people live on India’s coastline. An overwhelming majority depend on the coast for their livelihoods and the rich biodiversity that keeps ecosystem secure.

India is the second largest producer of fish in the world but fish catch is declining here too. Destructive fishing practices threaten the biodiversity of coastal areas and the livelihoods of an estimated 20 million people that rely on the seas for their sustenance.

Sindhudurg , on the coast of Maharashtra is one of 11 ecologically critical habitats in India. The region is also a major fishing centre with over a 180 fishing villages. Its beautiful coastline is a three hour drive from the popular tourist hub of Goa making it an attractive tourist destination.

Since 2011, a UNDP partnership with the Ministry of Environment and Forests and the government of Maharashtra, is supporting efforts to conserve the enormous biodiversity wealth of the coastal area. The partnership is supported by the Global Environment Facility.

The project has focused on building sustainable livelihoods for fishing communities. Close to 800,000 people in the area rely on fishing for an income. Community-based fisheries resource management has encouraged widespread adoption of several practices to enable sustainable fishing. This includes using devices that limit the by-catch (unwanted fish that are caught), and square mesh nets in trawlers protecting the oceans biodiversity.

The project has also looked at ways to encourage alternate livelihoods for fishing communities, particularly women. In Wadatar village, women manage an oyster farm and sell oysters in the local market.

Sindhudurg coastline is also home to many globally significant species like Olive Ridley turtles which are highly endangered. The project has empowered local communities to play an important role in conserving its rich heritage of biodiversity.

Suhas Toraskar is one such biodiversity champion. A fisherman, he plays the role of protector, guarding a nesting ground for olive ridley turtles. When the eggs hatch he carefully collects them from under the sand and releases them into the sea. Because of people like Suhas, there has been a five-fold increase in nesting areas protected by villagers between 2011 and 2013, demonstrating that community action is key to protecting our biodiversity heritage.

Source: undp-india.exposure.co

Although we live in a big city quite far from the nearest ocean their destruction and the subsequent killing of the many sea creatures is a topic that really connected with my young students. It seems that children have a natural attraction to the oceans, and water in general, so the news that we were polluting and killing the animals created genuine concern. It was through are discussions about the oceans and the use of plastic that stimulated the children into Action. It was the start of receiving emails from parents as their children voiced their concern about the use of plastic bags and their recycling habitats. It was a clear change in mindset that I would hope for. A genuine demonstration of care and responsibility towards our natural environment. It would be my hope that this is a change in mindset that the children will take through life. A generation of responsible adults with a care of our natural world.

Goal 15: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.

‘This is a big one. Critical solutions include: sustainable intensification and climate-proofing of agriculture; best practice landscape-level ecosystem management; scaled land-use planning with satellite observation; ecosystem economics and natural capital modelling; doubling down investment in sustainable rural development; empowering rural, indigenous and forest people; sorting land tenure and enforcing law, including for trafficking endangered species.’ Marco Albani

Human life depends on the earth as much as the ocean for our sustenance and livelihood. Plant life provides 80 percent of our human diet, and we rely on agriculture as an important economic resource and means of development. Forests account for 30 percent of the Earth’s surface, providing vital habitats for millions of species and important sources for clean air and water; as well as being crucial for combating climate change.

The Sustainable Development Goals aim to conserve and restore the use of terrestrial ecosystems such as forests, wetlands, drylands and mountains by 2020. Promoting the sustainable management of forests and halting deforestations is also vital to mitigating the impact of climate change. Urgent action must be taken to reduce the loss of natural habitats and biodiversity which are part of our common heritage.

Tropical forest cover in India has been reduced to two major areas: the coastal hills of the Western Ghats (about 55,000 square miles or 135,000 sq. km) and 14,000 square miles (34,500 sq. km) in Northeastern India. Very little of India’s forest cover is considered pristine. 

In recent years, the government has become more vigilant at protecting forest resources. The fundamental shift occurred in 1988 when India switched the focus of its forest policy from a production mentality to an environmental one and began taking steps to reduce illegal logging and encourage wood imports in an effort to conserve local supplies. Reforestation is encouraged and plantation coverage has expanded by 65 percent since 1990. As a result of these efforts, total forest cover is actually increasing in India, although degradation of natural forest is still occurring, primarily as a result of subsistence agriculture, fuelwood collection, and cutting for construction materials.  

Deforestation is perceived to be the culprit behind a number of environmental problems from floods, to soil erosion, to desertification, and today India has a particularly active environmental movement, especially at the grassroots level. Currently about 5 percent of the country has protected status under IUCN categories I-V. 

From a biodiversity standpoint, India has some 2,356 known species of amphibians, birds, mammals, and reptiles, of which 18.4 percent are endemic. Of these, 10.8 percent are threatened. The country is home to at least 18,664 species of vascular plants, of which 26.8 percent are endemic. 

Source: rainforests.mongabay.com

Within our Early Years class the children have been busy researching an animal of their choice. Many children demonstrate a natural care and curiosity towards our animal friends. It was through this research that we discovered the many threats to both animals and habitats. It was alarming for many of the children to find out that the animal that they had so enthusiastically researched was now endangered through the actions of humans.

We also inquired about the human effects on the Rainforest and their importance to our daily lives. What I have thought during much of our work is how much to the children really understand. Do they really understand the implications? I suppose at this age the answer would be no but I do get the sense that they have an understanding that somethings is terribly wrong and that we can do something about it. In the end this is more than I could ask at this stage of their learning. We are creating the first steps in understanding and knowledge all through the topics that are of personal interest to them. This has been the success in helping the children make connections and changing hearts and minds.

 Goal 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

‘Over 4 billion people, in almost all countries of the world, lack access to justice. Helping these people have their basic human rights respected means thinking creatively about how to implement reforms that enable efficient and accountable institutions that foster peaceful societies. Crowdsourcing platforms, such as www.ipaidabribe.com, for example, offer a brilliant way of raising awareness and fostering broad-based support for systemic change.’ Lisa Ventura

‘Peace, stability, human rights and effective governance based on the rule of law are important conduits for sustainable development. We are living in a world that is increasingly divided. Some regions enjoy sustained levels of peace, security and prosperity while others fall into seemingly endless cycles of conflict and violence. This is by no means inevitable and must be addressed.’ – in.undp.org

There are many approaches to early childhood education but there tends to be an universal emphasis on educating the “whole child” which encompasses understanding the importance of supporting a child in all developmental domains including cognitive, physical, language, social and emotional. The general holistic approach to early childhood education seems to create an open door to the integration of peace education within the early years of childhood. This is supported by Betty Reardon’s recognition that the “holism of early education sets learning in a context of the linkages and interrelationships between cognition and affect and among subjects of study that more closely approximates the natural learning of lived experience.” It is within this environment of interrelationships and a more natural learning process that peace education can be most fully realized – Stacey M. Alfonso

Education has been touted as one of the most powerful tools we can implement in our global efforts to promote world peace. The Human Rights conventions declare: “Education must prepare a child for responsible life and effective participation in a free society in a spirit of understanding, peace, tolerance, equality of sexes and friendships among all peoples, ethnic, national and religious groups and persons of indigenous origin.” Therefore with quality education, a child can learn the quality of empathy and understanding towards those who are different from them. And they may be more accepting of others and less likely to solve problems with violence.

It seems that we have a unique opportunity within the Early Years setting to shape the future minds of the world and change attitudes towards the way we treat each other and ourselves. By developing a culture of mutual understanding and respect we can model peace, justice and fair treatment to our children. I started this article with little hope for the impact that can be made from early education but thankfully I was wrong. We are an important first step in developing and shaping young minds. The beginnings of a generation that wish to live in harmony with the world and each other. 

‘In the classroom, students learn to respect their teachers and their peers. They are taught to let others speak and express opinions, not to interrupt, how to deal with stress, and how to conduct themselves within a group setting. Perhaps this learned respect for other humans can be practiced on a global scale, where there’s a respect for each and every life, not just those who share the same religious beliefs and backgrounds.’ centralasiainstitute.org

Goal 17: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.

‘The SDGs say “what” to do, now we must figure out “how”. We need new alliances like those described above that tap the innovation of businesses, civil society, cities and governments. We need new models of using limited public money to draw in more private finance. There is room for us all to hack and innovate across every SDG, at large or small scales. We must.’ Dominic Waughray

In the end it will be our students who are the future business and government. They are the generation with the most to gain or lose depending on our success now. It is vital that they have a knowledge and understanding of the issues they will face. We need to provide them with opportunities to take on key leadership roles in understanding, promoting and supporting efforts to help the world achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. One key role that our students can play is helping to make sure others are aware of the 2030 agenda and its importance.

The opportunities our fast-changing ‘globalised’ world offers young people are enormous. But so too are the challenges. Even very young children are already trying to make sense of a world marked by division, conflict, environmental change, and extreme inequality and poverty. Our learners are entitled to an education that equips them with the knowledge, skills and values they need to embrace the opportunities and challenges they encounter and to create the kind of world that they want to live in. We call this ‘education for global citizenship’. By definition, global citizenship involves engaging with distant places and different cultures, but this is never undertaken in isolation from our own lives and communities. The focus is rather on exploring what links us to other people, places and cultures, the nature and equality of those relationships, and how we can learn from, as well as about, those people, places and cultures.

Source: centreforglobaleducation.org

With a world population of 7 billion people and limited natural resources, we, as individuals and societies need to learn to live together sustainably. We need to take action responsibly based on the understanding that what we do today can have implications on the lives of people and the planet in future. Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) empowers people to change the way they think and work towards a sustainable future.’ UNESCO

‘Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world’ Nelson Mandela

Everyone can do something

‘As an educator, you’re in the perfect place to add even more impact. These goals fit every content area, enhance students’ academic understanding, create a stronger school culture and build relevance for your teaching.’ Kimm Murfitt

When I started to think about the Global Goals, and their magnitude, I was initially skeptical about the impact that I as an individual can make.

“They all sound like wonderful ideals but could I really make the slightest bit of difference?”

“How is it possible to involve and engage Early Years children in such global problems and initiatives?”

After some reflection I realised that I can and do make a difference in small yet important ways. It is not about involving children in some huge action but instead it is about taking steps in their understanding of the world and the problems we face. We need to start somewhere and the Early Years classroom seems to be the perfect place. If we can make the smallest amount of differences here we will be involved in making a change in mindset of the future generations to come. All over the world actions are taken to make our planet more sustainable. Everyone can and should make a difference in our small part of this big world. The 17 Global Goals guide us all towards living fair, fulfilling and healthy lives on our one planet. That in itself is a pretty impressive and worthwhile ambition. As educators we play an important role in the successful completion of these goals. We must not be afraid to teach our young learners about ‘real-life’ Global Issues. We need to make a change and they need to make a difference! All over the world actions are taken to make our planet more sustainable. It is everyones responsibility and everyone has an obligation to be involved – no excuses.

The Goals aim to make progress on the big challenges faced in our world today – but we can only reach these Goals with the help of people around the world – people like you, your family, your teachers, your friends, your community, your sisters and brothers. It is very important that all of us think about the actions we can take to contribute to the achievement of the Goals. Remember even small steps can add up to big progress if the millions of people around the world are involved!

Source: Global Movement for Children of Latin America and Caribbean 

References:

  • Brian Wibby, Michigan State University Extension, 2016.
  • Lisa Dreier, Head of Agriculture and Food Security Initiatives.
  • Kimm Murfitt, #TeachSDGs Ambassador and an Energetic National Board Certified Teacher.
  • Plan International.
  • Arnaud Bernaert, Head of Global Health and Healthcare Industries.
  • Saadia Zahidi, Head of Employment and Gender Initiatives.
  • Alex Mung, Head of Water Initiative.
  • James Pennington, Knowledge Networks Specialist.
  • Bernice Lee, Head of Climate Change and Resource Security Initiatives.
  • Alexandra Lopoukhine, Community Lead, civil Society and Innovations.
  • Nathalie Chalmers, Manager, Global Agenda Council on Oceans
  • Marco Albani, Director, Tropical Forest Alliance 2020
  • Lisa Ventura, Manager,Global Agenda Council on Justice
  • Dominic Waughray, Head of Public-Private Partnership.
  • Roberto Bocca, Head of Energy Industries.
  • Margareta Drzeniek-Hanouz, Head of Global Competitiveness and Risks.
  • Jim Hagemann Snabe, Chair, Centre for Global Industries.
  • Jennifer Blanke, Chief Economist.
  • weforum.org
  • Global Movement for Children of Latin America and Caribbean.
  • Emily Reynolds, How to teach the UN’s development goals, and why.
  • Jack P. Shonkoff Investing in Early Childhood Innovation, 2015.
  • Aatish Taseer, India’s Eternal Inequality, 2016
  • Stefan Dimitrijevic, How To Make Cities And Human Settlements Inclusive, Safe, Resilient And Sustainable?
  • Second Urban Sustainable Development Goal Campaign Consultation on Targets and Indicators: Bangalore Outcome Document.
  • Stacey M. Alfonso, Peace Education in Early Childhood Education
  • Margarita Hakobyan, Here is Why The World Needs More Women Entrepreneurs.
  • Christabel Pinto, In pursuit of equity: the unintended lessons children learn in school
  • http://www.globalpartnership.org
  • www.malala.org
  • Swati Gupta, India facing its worst water shortage in history.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baby steps: A learner and teacher journey into the world of student created inquiry.

It was a routine Friday Book Buddies period with our Sixth Grade buddies. Emma, an intrepid and courageous connection maker, sat looking at Epic Books with her buddy. She and her First Grade peers were asked to investigate our overarching question “What do I/we need to do to grow and be healthy?

Emma rushed up to me, iPad in hand. “Ms. Friesen, look, I made a connection with one of our goals. The book The Most Magnificent Thing (A. Spires), connects to our goal of learning from our mistakes.” “Wonderful Emma!” I said, chuffed that she had made a connection. To be honest, I  thought nothing of it after that initial burst of enthusiasm, however she came back again. “Ms. Friesen, Rosie Revere Engineer (A. Beaty), also connects! Rosie and her aunt fix her mistake together.”

“Ms. Friesen, we could do a some text-“skill” work with these stories.”

“How do you mean Emma?”

“We could look at stories and make connections like we did when we talked about being courageous.” Emma suggested.

“Great idea Emma! Since it was your idea, it’s your mini-unit. I am happy to advise you and help with research, but your connection, your lessons. What do you think?” In my head I was jumping up and down with excitement. After Singapore IBO global conference, all the talk of agency, here was a real chance to put it into action. Yeah! Emma, nodded and walked away to begin her research with her book buddy.

The following week, Emma and I spent time during our class library time collecting books she knew and thought would fit with her mini-unit. Some she wanted were not in our library, so Emma courageously went to the librarian to order books from our other campus. “Emma, what key words could we research to find books? I can look on my phone?” She stopped, making this face where her eyes go up and side to side. You would think Emma was about to get upset, feeling deflated, but on the contrary, this was her quiet contemplation face. This face is the face that makes me want to crawl into a learners head and see the cogs turning, and watch question/exclamation marks fly. “Mistakes or failure,” Emma said. So we carried on, even drawing the librarian into our search. We eventually left with both our arms full.

I must admit, at this point my own enthusiasm was in high gear. The hard part, not taking over or dictating task ideas. Emma wanted a collaborator, an assistant, not a teacher.

We agreed to meet after lunch, during recess, to plan out a two day mini-unit based on the ATL Social Skills: I can make mistakes and use them to help my learning.
IMG_4082

As you can see from her mind map, Emma was very clear about how she wanted her peers to share their thinking. She didn’t want it to be called text-to-self, but rather text-to-skill, making a clear connection to the goal she had initially made her own link to. I suggested to Emma, that we email a person I had talked with when we did a mini-unit on courage, Kath Murdoch. Emma spoke and I typed her thinking. Kath’s email exchange and ideas were a real boost Emma, encouraging her. It was by coincidence that the book that speared Emma’s unit was also a suggestion by Kath.

We worked together to find video clips that would show how failures are opportunities. Stepping in, I showed her scenes from “Meet the Robinsons” and “Piper”, a PIXAR short. Emma liked the idea of videos to start, and agreed to them both. She wanted her peers to do a journal job that showed a snapshot from the text that related to a time in their own learning, a failure or mistake. I shared that we needed a way to get this thinking going and having them do a T-chart in their book of a mistake and how they turned it around would help to start their thinking.

The hardest part of agency is when you’ve been teaching for 20 years, and giving up control. Not over suggesting or influencing your knowledge and ideas to the student, who wants to be in the “pilot” seat. I wanted to be the resource, but found myself taking the reigns when it came to introducing Emma’s idea to the class.

IMG_3960On day 1, Emma sat in my chair while I showed videos. Her nervousness was still evident in her quiet voice as she began to introduce how she got to her idea. Emma nodded to me to start the videos. After which, I (yes me), created a Venn diagram on the board. Emma asked her friends “What connects these two clips? What makes them different?” Very quickly, other learners began to make similar connections to Emma. She turned their thinking to our small whiteboard easel where we created our T-chart. Emma asked her peers to create the chart in their books, on the left write or draw a mistake or failure, while on the right share how they turned it around to a positive. Students were welcome to share their thinking in pairs or during whole group reflection, but only if they felt confident enough. The overlapping ideas that were shared were powerful. Emma concluded the first day of the mini-unit by reading to her friends the book that springboarded her own connections, The Most Magnificent Thing.IMG_3964 2.png

Day 2 – Emma and our Educational Assistant (EA), spread out the pile of books that we had gathered from the library. Emma stood in front of the class, “expert” vest on, and explained that we would use the books to make “text-to-skill” connections. She asked her peers to look at the variety of books and choose one that they could relate to. They would then use their journal to record their connections by using a framework created by Emma and I, based on her original idea. If they had questions or were finished, learners would visit Emma to ask for help or share their connections. Emma also wanted her peers to use concept arrows as a means of extending the activity and their thinking.  IMG_3965.JPG

IMG_3974

So that was our initial agency experience with a student created mini-unit. We had used workshopping and choice in summative activities in the past, but this was totally new. The big reflections in the end:

  • Emma, a shy and clever learner, used all her courage to stand in front of her peers and address their needs as a leader. She commanded respect and received it.
  • I, as a learner of agency, needs to “back off” more. The temptation to jump in a take control like an “old school” teacher was like an itch I needed to scratch. This is a point I will continue to develop as I grow in my teaching, even at the young age of 46.
  • Agency is messy. You need to let the learner and yourself fail to grow, pivot or persevere as things develop throughout the creative process.
  • Just like in any other unit, adding or taking away as learners work collaboratively or independently, is also key in the collaboration process between teacher and learner.

Change is refreshing. The idea of giving the keys to planning and teaching to our learners is a profound turn around from how many of us were educated. As I end this academic year, I am encouraged by the actions of Emma. She has given me the courage to let go of the reigns and pass the “pointer” to my students more. My goal for 2018/19 academic year, be less “tight”, loosen up, shake the learning tree and get rid of the pilot seat so that more Emma’s can do the planning and teaching in their own way.

 

Soaring high in to the inquiry…

Today I read such an amazing post by David Gostelow . I personally believe an inquiry class room should be noisy, at times quiet.Every one should be engaged with their own learning.

In my classroom, kids select their own inquiries. I generally encourage group work. Sometimes independent inquiry.

Quiet time only happens when kids are reading in my class. They use noise meter to check their voice level depending upon their situation. It’s really a joy to see them in collaboration.

I was actually thinking, Is Agency new to PYP? If we see our classrooms , students were always inclined towards agency. They start their inquiry with their questions “What do they want to know “? What skills will they develop in the course of time? Reflecting upon their actions.

My kids, during our class room essentials agreement, mentioned that they will bring some new learning to share with their peers every Monday, and they religiously followed up. Wasn’t that agency?

As David said that kids are born inquirers so let them pilot their own learning however I strongly believe in giving feedback.

Our job is to give them constructive feedback so that they soar high with their inquiry and Learning. They get good insight to tackle their challenges.

Sometimes I feel kids will excel for sure in future, our job is to join their learning journey as a guide, as an expert and make their journey meaningful, joyful and more over stress free.

When I connected with my learning journey I realised that my own learning helped me the most and encouragement,appreciation mattered. I believe that, for any learners appreciation works like magic. However one should learn to see their learning critically. They should move ahead with changes and new understanding. That is what a PYP teacher’s role is in students learning.

I totally agree with Mindshift ” https://www.kqed.org/mindshift/50620/how-to-ease-students-into-independent-inquiry-projects “. It was a brilliant post of a PYP student’s success journey which proves the importance of free inquiry and also how important is to acquire the necessary skills and understandings to be successful with this increased agency over learning.

I somehow connect with few lines of the post where they mentioned “we begin in a Structured Inquiry model, transition to a Controlled Inquiry, continue to a Guided Inquiry and, if all goes well, conclude with a Free Inquiry.” It seems to me journey from EY to PYP exhibition. In PYP exhibitions students mostly indulge into open inquiry.

Open inquiry is associated with high order thinking skills. Which gradually students develop during their PYP years. According to Bloom’s Taxonomy, “The ability to analyses, synthesize and evaluate information or new understanding indicates a high level of thinking.”

Building Agency

“Great leaders don’t set out to be a leader. They set out to make a difference. It’s never about the role. It’s always about the goal.” Lisa Haisha

One of my students chose to make a paper mache 3D model of a heart as part of the Who We Are unit of inquiry; The effective interactions between human body systems contribute to health and survival. Initially she was very excited about it, but in the middle of the project she struggled to put things together. “It’s a lot harder than I thought,” she said.

Seeing her perplexed, I moved closer to her and asked, “Do you need help?”

She looked at me and replied, “No, I will figure it out, remember you always say it’s ok to make mistakes, but it’s more important to try.” She managed to complete the project successfully.

20180527_222247     3d model of a heart

I was elated to receive this reply. This interaction got me thinking about my teaching practices and I decided to explore this conversation further during our class circle time, one of the many ways to receive feedback from my students.

During the class circle time, I asked my third grade students, “What are the things that I say or do that makes you feel confident, excited or nervous in the classroom?” I got some interesting answers, but the most thought-provoking reply was when some of my students said, “We feel excited and nervous when you say, today we are going to do something new and different.”

I was surprised to get this answer and asked them curiously, “Why are you nervous and excited when we try something new?”

The students said, “when we do new things it is fun, but at the same time we do not know how difficult or easy it would be for us or if we can do it correctly.”

Yes, of course! Fear of failure. Don’t we all go through the same feeling when we take a risk and try to do something different? It is a common feeling irrespective of gender, age, beliefs and values.

As rightly put by Brain Tracy- “It’s not failure itself that holds you back; it’s the fear of failure that paralyzes you. “

I have the courage to say, “Let’s try something new and different” because I am supported by a leadership team who believes in innovation and encourages constructive reflection. After all, every innovation was once a thought, an idea, and an experiment. Does it make me less nervous before trying something new?

No! Just like my students, I am excited and nervous at the same time.

Innovation requires a lot of efforts, but it also comes with a tag of uncertainty. As an educator, I can think of incidences when risk taking did not get me the desired results, yet there are occasions where I am glad, I took a different route. Sometimes the results were better than my expectations.

growth mind set

I can remember an outdoor task I planned with my students to inquire into how and why archaeologists excavate the ground. They had to take on the role of archaeologists and dig the ground to find artifacts. I was really excited about this, but was not sure how my students would respond. At one point, I expected them to complain about the weather and how difficult the task was, instead they asked for some more time to find all the pieces of the artifact. During reflection, I realised students had a better understanding of how archaeologists work. One of the student also said “It’s not an easy job to be an archaeologist”.20180115_111654
Third grade archaeologists at work.

20180115_114858Students are trying to fix the pieces together to identify the artefact.

Student Agency v/s Teacher Agency   

Student agency is such a recurring term these days. We want students to have a voice, we want them to choose, to think, to innovate, be empowered, but can we undermine the role of teacher agency in achieving the desired results. Educators would agree that one of the best ways to develop the right attributes and attitudes in students would be to model them as adults. If we as teachers are fortunate enough to have the the freedom to take risks, innovate and design our own pathway to achieve the goal, students will certainly follow.

During the journey of teaching and learning we have to remember that there are no failures or challenges, you either succeed or it’s a learning experience. There will be plenty of learning experiences, what works for one year may not work for the next year because if we encourage student agency, each individual  has different ideas and they make different choices and connections. It is an endless web of learning and growing all directed towards student empowerment and making students responsible global citizens.

When I think of promoting agency a lot of words and phrases float around my head. It often leads me to question my own practices. Are my efforts in the right direction? What is it that I can do better? How can I model agency effectively, so my students feel it is a way of life? To make this more concrete I presented all the ideas using a visual cue(see figure below). Most of the ideas are a result of my interactions with my students and other educators. I plan to use this model as a reflection for all the practices I should continue to follow regularly to empower my students. I will also  incorporate it during the planning process and classroom discussion from the next academic year. This is in no way a perfect one and I will look to enhance it based on discussions, feedback, and reflection.

I would like to conclude this article with one of my favourite quotes by John Wooden- “The most powerful leadership tool you have is your own example.” Let’s continue to inspire and make a difference.

Copy of teacher student model-8

The Science of the Individual and the Case for Agency

“If a teacher tells me what to do, I’m not really thinking” – Third Grade Student

Lately, many educators have been discussing the importance of learner agency and, as many people know, the new enhancements to the International Baccalaureate’s Primary Years Programme (PYP) will be introduced in 2018. The enhancements will offer a deeper focus on agency. I’ve read a lot of exciting blog posts and tweets regarding the upcoming changes. Many educators are naturally asking themselves WHAT these enhancements will mean for their schools and HOW they will implement them. As an educator who runs a choice-based Visual Arts programme in an IB World School, I’m keenly interested in agency. Over the past two years, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on and researching the WHY in my classroom and it has transformed my practice. As I anticipate the enhancements to the PYP, I have been curious to go deeper with the WHY for agency and I encourage other educators to reflect on and research the WHY for agency in their own practice.

New PYP Model

(IB, 2017)

What is agency? According to the International Baccalaureate,

Agency is the power to take meaningful and intentional action, and acknowledges the rights and responsibilities of the individual, supporting voice, choice and ownership for everyone in the learning community.

Agency is present when students partner with teachers and members of the learning community to take charge of what, where, why, with whom and when they learn. This provides opportunities to demonstrate and reflect on knowledge, approaches to learning and attributes of the learner profile. (IB, 2017)

Why should we focus on Agency?

For an answer to that question, a good place to start is The End of Average – How to Succeed in a World that Values Sameness by Todd Rose (2016).

The Science of the Individual

Rose (2016), in his fascinating book, describes himself as a high school dropout with a D-minus average. By the time he was 21, he was married with children and trying to support his family with a stream of low-wage jobs. One might have thought that he was on a road to a life filled with poverty and struggle. If we fast forward to today, Todd Rose is the director of the Mind, Brain and Education program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. What he has learned about the Science of the Individual and himself along the way is the secret to his remarkable transformation and the subject of his book.

Designing for No One

In his book, Rose tells how, in 1952, the US Air Force was trying to figure out why they were having so many problems with their fighter jets. At first they blamed the pilots. Then they blamed the technology. Next they blamed the flight instructors. But it turns out that the problem was the cockpit. The cockpit had been designed to fit the average pilot’s body. Lieutenant Gilbert S. Daniels was asked to conduct a new study of the dimensions of the pilots, since the last time the Air Force had conducted such a study was almost three decades prior. Daniels measured over 4,000 pilots on ten physical dimensions. Air Force researchers thought that most of the pilots would fall within the average range on all dimensions. But what Daniels found was that no pilots were within the average range on all dimensions. Not a single pilot. By designing a cockpit for the average pilot, the Air Force had “designed a cockpit for no one”. The Air Force took these findings seriously and made a bold move. They demanded that the cockpits be “designed to the edges” of the dimensions of their pilots. The final results were things like adjustable seats (we use these daily now!) and adjustable instruments. [Rose, 4]

The Average Man and the Averagarian Approach

Rose is a researcher and a specialist in the Science of the Individual. He details the fascinating timelines, historically significant events, scientists, and research findings which led to the first practices of collecting large amounts of data from many individuals and averaging them to look for ways to make sense of society, education, medicine, and industry.

Adolphe Quetelet is one of those early scientists. Born in 1796 in Belgium, Quetelet borrowed the method of averages from astronomy to form his social science and was responsible for promoting the concept of the average man, according to Rose (26-31).

The Impact of the Averagarian Approach on Industry and Education

Rose writes that Frederick Winslow Taylor was responsible for the standardization of the work environment. In the 1890s, Taylor was working at a steelworks company when he began to look for ways to improve the speed of various tasks, standardize them to the “one best way”, and time them for efficiency. Even today, anyone who has worked in a factory or production environment has probably worked within the approaches for standardization that were first introduced by Taylor. (Rose, 40-45)

By the early twentieth century, this “Taylorist” approach of standardization within the industrial world had a profound influence on education in the United States. “The educational Taylorists declared that the new mission of education should be to prepare mass numbers of students to work in the newly Taylorized economy.” (Rose, 50) By 1920, students were provided with one standardized education.

Edward Thornkike advocated for sorting students according to their ability. The fast learners (believed to be the talented students) were identified and had a clear path to college. The average learners were expected to take up jobs within the Taylorized economy. The slow learners were given little support. (Rose, 52-56)

These influences on industry and education are still present in society today in the form of employee rankings, standardized tasks, efficiency ratings, standardized tests in schools, grading systems, standardized text books, bells to signal the end of each class, IQ ratings, personality tests, etc.

The Research and the Three Principles of Individuality

What does the research tell us about things like averages, IQ tests, grades, etc. in relation to the individual? Like the story of the Air Force fighter pilots, over and over again, Rose details how averages can range from uninformative to terribly misleading when it comes to describing or trying to understand any one individual.

If the research is telling us that averages are not adequate in trying to understand the individual, what other approach might work? Rose outlines three principles of individuality: the jaggedness principle, the context principle, and the pathways principle.

jaggedness

The Jaggedness Principle

Rose (81) explains that we often simplify things in our mind to just one dimension. For example, if we think about size, we might think about a person being large, medium or small. However, the reality is that people come in all shapes and sizes, so that their dimensions create a jagged profile. See example below.

airforce-dimensions

(Rose, 2016)

A one-dimensional approach of large, medium or small fails to capture the true nature of human size (Rose, 82). Additionally, looking at the average fails to capture the true nature of size.

The same is true for talent and intelligence, according to Rose. Yet, businesses and schools continue to look at one-dimensional factors mentioned above such as employee ratings, standardized test scores, grades, IQ scores, grade-level textbooks, etc. 

The Jaggedness Principle in the Visual Arts Class

When students partner with members of the community and take charge of “what, where, why, with whom, and when they are learning” (IB, 2017), they are developing across multiple dimensions. The jaggedness principle tells us that each individual is unique across these multiple dimensions. When students approach learning from their own particular dimensions, perspectives and interests, they will grow and develop at the pace that is best for them and in a way that sparks genuine curiosity, as they follow their passions.

For the past 100 years, Visual Arts classes around the world have not changed much (Hathaway, 2013). The practice of introducing adult art to children and having them copy either the paintings or the style has become something that we expect from art programmes (Hathaway, 2013). The results of such lessons are often quite pleasing to the adult eye and we deceive ourselves into thinking that the students have been creative and interested in the learning. I used to approach my classes in the same way. After some honest reflection, I realized that cookie-cutter lessons are neither creative nor interesting for the students. Like the findings from Rose in his book, students come to the Visual Arts class with a variety of interests, passions, knowledge, skills and developmental levels. Their profiles are jagged. Giving the students agency (giving them a choice, voice and ownership of their learning) makes sense because one size does not fit all.

context

The Context Principle

“…(T)he context principle…asserts that individual behavior cannot be explained or predicted apart from a particular situation, and the influence of a situation cannot be specified without reference to the individual experiencing it.” (Rose, 106). What this means is that personality traits we often use to describe someone are not consistent in all contexts. Rose gives the example of “Jack”.

IF Jack is in the office, THEN he is very extroverted.

If Jack is in a large group of strangers, THEN he is mildly extroverted.

IF Jack is stressed, THEN he is very introverted. (106)

Yet we tend to think of people as either extroverted or introverted; honest or dishonest; aggressive or non-aggressive; or creative or not creative. The context principle illustrates that our traits are influenced by the context in which we find ourselves. Additionally, not all people respond to specific situations in the same way.

The Context Principle in the Visual Arts Class

Through the context principle, we learn that each student reacts to various situations differently. Therefore, as teachers and members of the community are partnering with students, we must understand that part of our responsibility is to create a range of opportunities so that each student will be successful. That means offering students agency to choose options that provide the best context in which the students will thrive.

In my Visual Arts class, I used to decide on the lesson idea, choose the materials and try to scaffold everything in such as way so that there would be little or no failure within the class. However, no matter how much I tried to infuse my own excitement into the class and scaffold the lesson, there were inevitably cries of “I can’t do it!” “Do we have to do this?” “Is this good enough?” Now my approach is radically different. I now use an approach that is similar to the Reading and Writing Workshop Model for children’s literacy (Children’s Literacy Initiative). The concept is simple: IF Jack is reading something that he loves THEN he is likely to read longer and think more deeply about his reading. This will have an obvious effect on his literacy development. Similarly for Art, the approach I use is called Teaching for Artistic Behavior which regards students as artists, supports different needs and interests of students, and creates choices for multiple learning opportunities. (TAB)

Now, my classroom is designed with context in mind. Students are presented with a classroom full of interesting materials to explore (cardboard, sticks, a variety of paints, coloured papers, clay, fabric, wool yarn, glue, scissors, etc.) The art room is a safe space where students are invited to explore materials and express their ideas. Mini lessons offer artists and concepts to think about, skills and tools to practice or reflection time. The rest of the time is spent supporting students to discover contexts in which they thrive. IF Jack is exploring his own passions and curiosity THEN he is likely to be more engaged and take more ownership of his learning. 

What I’ve discovered is that curiosity usually leads to something more challenging. For example, many elementary students love to make paper airplanes. One first grader recently commented to me that learning how to make a paper airplane was one of the highlights of her year. Given the freedom of choice and materials to explore making paper airplanes students might make planes until they are tired of folding papers. What happens next is important. Once they see all of the paper airplanes on the table, someone might have the brilliant idea that they should build an airport. Now a group of students is exploring architectural modeling, all the while developing spatial reasoning and collaboration skills. One second grader recently commented about an airport he built with his classmates, “I didn’t think I could build something that big. It helped my confidence grow.”

Later the same students might decide to build a model of a city or paint a map and develop a story that goes along with it. Yong Zhao said, “When a child has a reason to learn, the basics will be sought after, rather than imposed.” (Zhao, 2012) The context principle explains why the proper context helps students develop their own reasons to learn. This leads us to the next principle: the pathways principle.

pathways

The Pathways Principle

Edward Thorndike introduced the idea that “faster equals smarter” into the educational system. (Rose, 130). But, are speed and learning ability really related? In the 1980s, Benjamin Bloom conducted a research study in which two groups of students were taught a subject that they did not already know. The first group (“fixed-pace group’) was taught during fixed periods of instruction that were standard at the time. The second group (‘self-paced group’) was taught the same material over the same total amount of time, but they had a tutor who permitted each individual to go at their own pace (sometimes quickly and sometimes slowly). In the first group, 20 percent of the students achieved “mastery of the material” (a score of 85 percent or higher). In the second group, 90 percent of the students achieved a mastery score. With flexibility in the self-paced group, most of the students performed very well. (Rose, 132) 

If not all students learn at the same pace, what about sequence? Do all students learn in the same sequence? Kurt Fischer is a scientist in the field of the science of the individual. According to Rose, Fischer has studied a wide range of developmental issues, such as how young children learn to read. (137) For example, Fischer discovered that there are three distinct sequences in which a child might progress to learn to read single words. Fischer recognized that two of the sequences have similar results, however, the third sequence results in reading difficulties. As a result, now children who follow the third sequence can be identified and receive the proper support.

From his research, Fischer suggests that we use the metaphor of a “web” to describe the process in which each step we take in our development opens up a range of possibilities (Rose 138).

The Pathways Principle in the Visual Arts Class

The pathways principle teaches us that each student’s learning journey will be a unique path in which the next steps are revealed as the student makes progress in their learning. Giving students opportunities for agency will give them the power to make meaningful and intentional action as a result of their learning and such action will illuminate the path to next steps in the student’s journey as they reflect on their knowledge and approaches to learning.

In the Visual Arts class this year, there is a grade four student who started the year without much confidence in his own art-making skills. After some exploration and discussion, he started making geometric designs with a ruler on paper and then carefully colored them. Next he started a collage project cutting out geometric shapes. He immediately asked permission to abandon the collage project because he had something bigger in mind. Now he’s working on a large poster-size painting of a cityscape (using the skills he learned with the geometric designs). He asked me if I could display his painting in the room and ask students from other classes to offer him some feedback. Recently, he saw me working on two large canvases 2.5 meters tall with the grade five class. He asked if his next project could be on such a large canvas. I suspect that we have an installation artist in the making, as his projects grow larger and more complex with each step.

A third grade student has taken a very different path this year. She started the year making large expressive abstract paintings with bold, bright colors. Lately she has been exploring model making as she collaborates with a classmate to build miniature furniture models. Last week they designed and built a model car together. Two other students in the same third grade class have spent most of the year on a series of elaborately detailed drawings for shoe designs, taking breaks in between designs to do small 3-D modeling projects. “If a teacher tells me what to do, I’m not really thinking,” commented one of the shoe designers. 

All of these students can describe their learning journey in the Visual Arts class this year. Because they were given opportunities to express their agency, they each thrived as they explored different pathways.

It’s Time for Agency

The jaggedness principle, the context principle and the pathways principle provide us with answers to WHY agency is important. Like the one-size-does-not-fit-all lesson the US Air Force learned in 1952, it’s time for educators to respect student agency and partner with the learning community to fit each student’s educational experience to their own individual, multidimensional traits and characteristics. It’s time for educators to present students with opportunities to choose contexts in which they learn best. It’s time for students to be given permission to follow pathways that make sense for each individual. Knowing what we know now, it’s time for a greater focus on agency. As a Visual Arts educator, I want to be committed to helping students, as individuals, develop their learner agency, make choices that are relevant to them, express their own voice, and take ownership of their interests and learning.

Follow me on Twitter: @artwithron    or on my blog: artwithron.com

Resources:

Children’s Literacy Initiative. Reading and Writing Workshop. https://cli.org/resource/reading-writing-workshop/

Hathaway, Nan E. (2013). Smoke and Mirrors: Art Teacher as Magician. Art Education. http://teachingforartisticbehavior.org/wp-content/uploads/ArtEd_May13_Hathaway.pdf.

IB (International Baccalaureate). November 2017. The Learner in the Enhanced PYP. https://resources.ibo.org/pyp/topic/PYP-review-updates/resource/11162-46068/data/p_0_pypxx_amo_1711_1_e.pdf. Accessed 26 May 2018.

Rose, Todd (2016). The End of Average – How to Succeed in a World that Values Sameness, Allen Lane, USA/UK.

TAB (Teaching for Artistic Behavior). http://teachingforartisticbehavior.org/resources/sample-page/about-us/

Zhao, Yong (2012) “World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students.” Corwin.

Well that went better than expected…

 

IMG_20180523_120603.jpgWhat you’re looking at is the aftermath of the only planned lesson of yesterday in my class. And as you might be able to tell from the image, even it went in a different direction from where I thought it might head.

On the journey of student agency, some stuff happened this week in my class and in my head and online. We made some stuff happen.

I guess it was a series of provocations.

  • I blogged for the first time about what it was I believed about learner agency and why I believed it to be important
  • The Twitterverse returned the favour by encouraging me and addressing almost all of my concerns
  • I shared my Twitter feed with my class. Particularly, this thread with Abe Moore, in which we discussed my concerns over learners neglecting curriculum areas.Screen Shot 2018-05-24 at 12.50.44 pm
  • My students reassured me that although my concerns might be well founded, they would try and build my trust by thinking carefully about how they might schedule their time

So…

This is what we did. We planned it as a class. THE WHOLE THING. TOGETHER.

We decided the day before, that we would collapse the ‘teacher’ timetable on Wednesday. The students would have their normal specialist lessons, a lesson of geometry with me and then they could plan the rest of their day.

They each submitted a suggested timetable and to be honest, they seemed pretty sketchy.

We met again as a class and I showed them what ‘real’ planning looks like. My day planner. I spoke about how it wasn’t enough to write next to period 5, Writing. Writing what? With whom? With what literary focus? I know. I’m a tough crowd. But remember how worried I was?? Control freak.

Anyway, they rose to the occasion. Suddenly I had students writing lines of inquiry and great questions.

Next…

I offered a series of optional workshops across the sessions. Two writer’s workshop sessions, one reader’s workshop session, and one poetry performance workshop. Students signed up to the workshops voluntarily and some wanted to know if I recommended particular ones for them. I did and I told them and some decided to go with it, and some decided that despite my recommendations they’d still prefer to learn independently.

**grits teeth and smiles**

“Okayyyyy.”

So how did it all go?

It was possibly the best risk I’ve taken in a while.

What surprised me?

It REALLY mattered to them. To make it work. They wanted it to work so badly that I never once had to talk about their behaviour. They were completely invested in everything they were doing.

They asked each other for help instead of me. Maybe because we were moving towards shared responsibility.

The learning was more diverse than I predicted. The writing was BIG as predicted, but many moved on naturally into other areas.

The small group workshops were small but SO rich. I was able to target my teaching/coaching in a way that whole class lessons just don’t allow. The assessment data I was able to collect in those sessions was of a higher quality than I predicted.

Students decided that they wanted to run their own workshops for the class. How does estimating and measuring the distance of a golf ball from the hole, sound? And how the angle of the putter is crucial to golfing. There was also an idea for a workshop called ‘Learning about conflict resolution strategies’.

Questions and concerns we still have:

Much of the student-initiated learning has sprung from whole class inquiries. How do we balance the timetable to provide the right amount of everything?

Is sport a viable student inquiry? They want to go outside and do sport. Are they actually going to be learning anything? Or just playing?

We need to schedule individual sessions to assess where the learners are at. When should this happen?

How do we keep the momentum? What learning about learning and this process in general needs to happen next? How can that best be supported?

How do we ensure accurate and regular learner self-assessment?

How do we ensure the learning is rich and conceptual?

They’ve convinced me to have another go tomorrow. I feel a mutiny brewing…

 

 

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