Action has no meaning if the ‘Teacher’ plans it!

Screen Shot 2018-09-03 at 7.02.55 PMWithin my ten years of working with the IB curriculum ‘Student-Action’ has always been central to my practice, a ‘golden chalice’ at the centre of all learning. Not only to me but to many of my colleagues and administration a like. There has been so much discussion and importance placed on the idea of ‘student-action’ with, I fear, many of us not fully understanding its full implications or importance. I myself have been more than guilty of playing my part in creating myths and misconceptions in regards to student-action.

Unfortunately, to often than not, ‘student-action’ has been something very much teacher or school prescribed with little or no input from the students. In may cases it has been the teacher that has come up with the idea and then presented to the children. Once the children accept and adopt the idea it is then wrapped up and parcelled as ‘student-action’. We seemed to have lost sight in the idea of authentic student-action, something that does occur but then again may not.

To the school community when any form of ‘Action’ occurs, or even better documented, it is a demonstration of success for the school and to the programme. Due to its importance ‘Action’ is something that has needed to happen and so must be considered and planned for. Teacher’s, including myself, would plan their inquiries with ‘Action’ as its end goal without considering the importance of  ‘authentic’ or even ‘student-initiated’. Very often I have seen pre-planned allocation for ‘Action’ as part of Summative Assessment tasks. ‘Action’ that would be taken to demonstrate the success of an inquiry and then be forgotten when they begin their next.

I have even worked within schools in which the implementation of Action has been so high that it has been insisted that each grade ‘must’ be seen to be responsible for some form of ‘Action’ throughout the year. Yearly Overviews have been constructed with planned Actions for each grade penciled in at the beginning of the year before a student has even stepped foot through the door. Not only is this form of ‘Action’ premeditated it is very much meaningless to the students. I believe that this kind of thinking forces the issue of ‘Action’ in an unnatural way. It constructs group collaboration within year groups without taking into consideration the importance of individual and personal action that occurs almost on a daily basis within our class. More often than not it is the individual and personal actions that happen within a child that have the most meaning.

I have noticed that we have a tendency to miss or disregard ‘student-action’ if it is individual or personal. We seem to be waiting for the kind of ‘student-action’ that will change the world, something big and something very important. While these kinds of Actions are very nice it makes us forget and miss the small actions that are taking place within our classrooms on a daily basis.

It may seem that I place little importance in student-action at all but quite the contrary. I have come to believe that authentic student-action is possibly the only way to fully assess student understanding. No matter what the curriculum contents I believe we can never have a comprehensive assessment of student understanding unless they demonstrate in an authentic ‘real-life’ context.

For example, I could be teaching my Early Years class to be able to count 10 objects. Within the timeframe of my teaching my formative assessments show that a child can be successful in counting 10 objects but how can I be really sure that they understand? It is when they transfer this knowledge to a ‘real-life’ situation that I can fully assess their understanding. Next day, if I were to observe the child in role-play counting 10 oranges to give to his friend then I know that they not only understand but are able to transfer this knowledge to ‘real-life’ situations. Is this not an example of authentic student-action? 

Screen Shot 2018-09-03 at 7.02.29 PMThese kinds of demonstration of learning are visible in my classroom on an almost daily basis. It is these little demonstrations of knowledge that provide my assessment for understanding. Only this week I was witness a new child in my class asking ‘Will you be my friend?’ to another. It may be a coincidence that we have been having many discussions about being a good friend and making friends. We sometimes forget that Action may come in the form of personal change and does not always have to be through the planting of trees or cleaning our rivers. It may be as simple as making a friend.

Student initiated action does not have to be a change in the world but a change in the child. Taking action by using their learning in real-life situations. This is what authentic student action looks like and it cannot be planned for it has to come from the child. So to all those that worry that action is not happening in the classroom just take the time to observe and listen. It has to be the students voice, choice and ownership that shines through.

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Learning to ‘Let Go’ in the Presence of Agency.

Screen Shot 2018-08-26 at 7.16.49 AMLike many in education I have been swept away by the wave of ‘Student-Agency’.  The new era in education is seeing the voice, choice and ownership of learning being willingly transferred from teacher to student. Our young learners are enthusiastically taking charge of their learning environments, increasingly making the decisions on what, how and when they would like to learn. With the aid of the learning environment we provide they are in every sense becoming their own teachers. So where does that leave the teacher?

To many educators the change in dynamics is welcomed but then to others it can be a challenging process to give up their authority in the classroom. It may certainly cause some bruised egos with the realisation that teachers are no longer the fountains of all knowledge or the central figure of authority and learning within a classroom in which they claim some ownership.

It is my belief, and even hope, that the changes that are taking place are irreversible and represent a new direction in education. But still, I have been left with much to ponder. This new learning environment is certainly much different than the one that I entered over a decade ago. I was much more certain in my role as a teacher back then when I was allocated ‘my’ classroom and it was ‘my’ responsibility to create detailed lesson plans for the week that ‘my’ ‘good’ students would follow. I can still remember the hours spent during my evenings and weekends creating a precise learning agenda for the week. Then the wave of ‘student-agency’ swept over my world.

At first, there was a period of time that I felt a little lost. I was insecure in my new role and setting. What was my purpose if the students had taken ownership of their own learning? The classroom was no longer my own and I was no longer the fountain of all knowledge. I had even given over control of my detailed lesson plans, which at one point, I had taken so much care and pride in creating and implementing.

I found myself going through a period of self discovery as I tried to find new purpose to my role as a ‘teacher’. I began my journey by developing a deeper understanding as to the ‘why’ these changes have happened. Once I fully understood the implications and benefits to the student’s learning all that was left was for me was to rediscover my purpose. It required a change in mindset and a sense of ‘letting go’ but once I achieved this it changed my world.

Screen Shot 2018-08-26 at 7.19.20 AMWithin the learning environment I am no longer outside the learning process but I have become an active member within it. No longer the fountain of all knowledge but now working alongside the students in their journey of discovery. The joy I once had of providing students with knowledge has been replaced by the increased pleasure of being alongside the children as they discover the knowledge for themselves. In my new role I find myself being a guide, mentor, motivator, counsellor, friend, facilitator, questioner, observer, philosopher, parent, listener and learner. I feel that the term ‘teacher’ can no longer be an accurate description of my duties.

My weekends and evenings are no longer spent in the creation of lesson plans but now I am more inclined to reflect on the days learning thinking ‘where to next?’. Rather than providing planning my role is to provide opportunities for learning and developing skills. Guiding my students to the next step in self discovery. I am reminded of quotes from Seymour Papert, who said “The role of the teacher is to create the conditions for invention rather than provide ready-made knowledge.” And second, from Carl Rogers, who wrote “I have come to feel that the only learning which significantly influences behavior is self-discovered, self-appropriated learning. It seems to me that anything that can be taught to another is relatively inconsequential and has little or no significant influence on behavior.”

Throughout my journey of self discovery I have come to realise that just as the students have become their own teachers, I have made the opposite journey from teacher to learner. With a change in my own habits I have more time to pursue my own interests. During my free-time I am more inclined to research educational theory, write educational articles and blogs, connect with like minded individuals on social media and exchange ideas and practice. Do I still spend hours planning? No! Does this make me less of an educator? Absolutely not! At no other point in my career do I feel more passionate and  informed about educational issues and child development. At no other point in my career do I feel more confident in being in a position to support, engage, and develop the students within my class.

When ‘Agency’ came it did not just give voice, choice and ownership to the students but it also gave it to the educators as well. It gave us greater freedom to take ownership within our own careers and the benefits are enormous to both the students and teachers. Providing agency to our students does not have to be a challenging process in fact it should feel liberating.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Living with Agency

I believe we are living exciting times with regards to education. With the arrival of our new buzz word ‘Agency’ we are seeing educators give more value and recognition to the voice, choice and ownership of our students. Surely this should have always been good practice, but now it has a name,  ‘Agency’. With this seemingly ‘new dawn’, I see bright days ahead for the education of our Students.

But what do we really mean by ‘Agency’?

This was a question I was puzzling over as I drove home from work this evening. I suppose I had always considered ‘Agency’ in its simplest form as an approach to learning. Believing in a holistic education, I started to think about the concept of Agency and what this meant for the development of the whole-child. I started to think about the variety of ways that students could express Agency away from my narrow traditional learning concept which I had first thought. There has to be more to Agency than just learning.

I have posted some of my thoughts below.

Emotional Agency: Our students as owners of their own emotional state. They are able and capable to express their emotions, take ownership and make a choice over them. Are they are happy, sad, or excited? The freedom to express our emotions is one of our first fundamental rights. These are opportunities for students to celebrate, comfort and be empathetic to each other.

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Social Agency: Students should be made aware of their voice within a variety of social settings. Whether it be with their teacher, peers or family they have the right to speak and be heard. Students behaviour in certain social situations is often changeable but that should be by choice. They should be given equal ownership and voice within their interactions with others.

Cultural Agency: Everyone has the right to celebrate and share their culture with others. Students should be made aware of this voice. They should be given a choice to choose their own cultural identity and express it in a way that is personal to them. Very important to our Third Culture kids.

Technological Agency: In our modern and technological driven world this is an ever increasingly important one. Students need to be given a choice in their technological use. To take ownership of its use and express their voice through it.

Play Agency: Play must always be the ownership of the student. They must always be given the choice in their expression of play as this is their very first voice.

Spiritual Agency: Everyone should have ownership of their own beliefs. These beliefs should be personal and by choice. They should not be expected to adopt a set of beliefs but choose their own. And if they do they should have a place to share their spiritual understanding and have ownership of it. They have a choice to choose, a choice to change and a choice to adapt their spiritual beliefs because they are the owners. Many may choose not to have any spiritual beliefs at all but the choice is theirs.

Physical Agency: I think it goes without saying that the students should have ownership over their own bodies. Make choices about how they wish to use them. Some will run while some will walk.

Environmental Agency: Students should have ownership of their environment. Not just in the classroom but more importantly in the natural world. Again this is a very important aspect as students’ voices need to be heard and respected when it comes to the future of our planet. They need to be given the choice and opportunity to make positive change.

Creative Agency: The choice of creative expression should always be the students. The ownership of this expression is the students and it is a tool by which the can express their voice.

When I began to think of Agency in much broader terms than just learning, it gave me so much more hope for the future. By recognising and providing greater opportunities for my students to express their Agency in a broader sense I am in a better situation to support and develop the individual. The next generation must be made aware and given opportunities to express their Agency in a variety of ways. We must ensure that they have a voice and a choice and that they take ownership in all aspects of their lives.

Going forward with the thinking….

After reading Cindy Kaardal’s post ‘Feeling Backwards About Backwards Design’ I was left pondering my own practice and more recently reflecting on my current unit of inquiry. My most recent experiences have also left me a great deal to wonder but have also left me excited for the future. Is it time to rethink my approach? Most definitely yes in my opinion.

Until recently I have always been traditional in my thinking to inquiry; backwards thinking in my approach. But like Cindy I have also begun to have doubts and question my practice. Especially in light of my most recent inquiry. I have been left a great deal of wonderings. How important is the Central Idea anyway? What about the Summative Assessment? Are we teaching towards a preplanned Summative Assessment? If so, is this not restricting the children’s agency? Why don’t we follow the student’s thinking no matter where it leads? What happens if the journey leads outside our Central Idea, out side our curriculum? What will I assess?

We wish to provide agency to the children so why not follow their interests? Be taken over by their enthusiasm and independent learning?

Last year my current inquiry was not great. I found the scope too narrow, not enough depth for ‘real’ learning and to be truly honest there was not enough enthusiasm from my part to really motivate my students. There were limited resources at my disposal to support the inquiry. Some of the vocabulary and concepts too challenging for my Pre-Schoolers. I was unable to change the inquiry and I was not feeling enthusiastic for it this year. It was time for a rethink! A new approach to learning.

So let me explain. Below is my current unit of inquiry:

Central Idea: Animals and people interact in different ways in different contexts.

Lines of Inquiry:

  • The different roles animals play in people’s lives
  • Suitability of particular animals for specific functions
  • Our responsibility for the well-being of animals

I thought ‘What is the most interesting thing about this inquiry for the children? What will really get them engaged? Well it has to be the animals I thought. Let’s begin with that.

The first lesson when the children came into class I had already prepared a video showing a variety of different animals in various contexts. No real depth to the video, just animals! To my delight the children were mesmerised! Authentic, enthusiastic and passionate discussion started almost immediately. Children shared about their pets, their knowledge of a wide variety of animals. It was comfortable, it was open and it demonstrated the children’s independent thinking and knowledge.

This is great I thought, so after some discussion I asked, ‘Which animals would you like to learn more about?’ Straight away hands went up, ‘Black Panthers, Tigers, Rabbits, Ducks, Dogs, Cats, Polar Bears……’ the list went on.

The children were then asked to think of at least one question that they would like to ask and find out about the animal of their choice. This is where our inquiry really began to take shape. For this post I am going to choose just one example of how these questions have driven our inquiry and challenged my views on backwards design.

One child had wanted to learn more about Pandas. The question was ‘Where do Pandas live? As the child is a relatively new to the class and an EAL student I decided that I would use this opportunity to develop research skills through whole class participation and help support his learning. So we went on Google and found information on Pandas.

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What began with a simple question began to drive our inquiry. Other lines of inquiry naturally emerged as we researched information. More questions developed.  ‘What is a mammal? What does endangered mean?’ As we continued to research these questions we quickly found that we had more questions to answer. Is a snake a mammal? What does nocturnal mean? I web of learning had begun to form.

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We had also started to make many connections to the other children’s questions that had also started to grow and develop at the same pace. What I was discovering was that the inquiry was starting to take a life of its own. Moving away from our Central Idea and Lines of Inquiry. I was starting to panic even though I could see the children totally engaged in their learning. Was the inquiry becoming too broad? Would I ever make it back to the Central Idea and the Summative Assessment that had been planned?

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We have now moved beyond simply finding out and asking questions. A word that had started to become prominent throughout our inquiry has been ‘endangered‘. This has led to an authentic interest in finding out what the human threats are to the animals we share the planet with. We have started to think about our world oceans and the use of plastic. The children were really shocked by the amount of plastic in our oceans and demonstrated real concern. Many children are taking action by asking their parents to stop using plastic shopping bags and taking interest in recycling. Who knows where this will lead but it is surely more important to the children even if it does move away from the Central Idea.

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As I am now reflecting on the inquiry I have started to think about what is really important about the learning. The Summative Assessment that I had planned is not important. It assesses the knowledge of a Central Idea that is no longer of relevance or importance to the children.

What is important? The important words now associated with our learning from the Central Idea are animals, people, interact. These have been the driving concepts of our inquiry. These have been the corner stones so far in our inquiry.

Is it possible for me to completely change the Central Idea and Lines of Inquiry half way through. Absolutely! But how would I explain this to the school? I can’t change our POI or other documentation? Can I? Should I? or is it even possible?

The importance from my perspective is in the Transdisciplinary Theme ‘Sharing the Planet’ and if the children want to learn more about their responsibilities to our planet and our relationship with our fellow animals who am I or the Summative Assessment, Lines of Inquiry or even the Central Idea to stand in the way. Should we not be moving forward with the children’s thinking rather than thinking backwards in our design? Is our school’s documentation and procedures being restrictive to our children’s learning?

Why do I still feel a sense of dread after moving so far away from our Central Idea and the ‘plan’? We should not be afraid to modify, create and explore learning. Placing the interests, passions and enthusiasm of the students should be at the heart of our practice. Let’s allow for agency without taking it away. It surely is worth the effort.

 

Make time for the ‘why’!

“Curiosity is one of the permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous intellect.” —Samuel Johnson.

Early Years children love to ask ‘why’ but I feel often we don’t take the time to address this important step of learning and questioning. We focus on the process of learning and move towards an agenda whether this be an open ended expectation or a more specific outcome but we often do not spend the time to address the ‘why’. This may be because we deem the answers that we would have to give are not appropriate to the age group or we simply do not have the time, but for many children this is the most important part of learning. This is the part were they demonstrate their independent interest in an activity and must be considered with more importance. The ‘why’ is evidence that they are searching for a deeper understanding.

Me: Take the wooded blocks out of the water before we go for lunch.

Kid: Why?

Me: Because they will become damaged.

Kid: Why?

Me: Because they are made of wood and the water will soak in.

Kid: Why?

Me: Because wood absorbs water.

Kid: Why?

The conversation went on and as you can imagine my answer became increasingly more complicated until we were discussing the creation of the universe! I am sure the child had no understanding of vocabulary and concepts but it didn’t matter to him as he was in search of the ‘why’ and here was someone willing to take the time to try and help him in his quest for knowledge. We were a little late for lunch but the importance was the questioning and the child trying to make sense of the world.

‘Children’s innate curiosity plays a big part in their “why” questions. Their curiosity about the world around them helps to build concepts, skills, vocabulary, and understanding of the unknown. And you can help channel their curiosity and need to know why so that you help foster learning in a positive way’ (Dr. Rebbeca Palacios)

For many of our young learners this is the most important part of learning yet often we overlook this aspect or more often than not do no spend the time and focus on this most important part of a child’s learning and interest.

This entry was inspired after observing  a science lesson taught to a Kindergarten class. The children had been exploring ‘floating and sinking’. They had earlier in the day completed a practical activity and to consolidate their learning their teacher had played a ‘Sesame Street’ video all about floating and sinking. After the video had ended I was left with an empty and unfulfilled feeling as I thought ‘but what about the why?’

They had focused on the process of experiments, they had a question, made a hypothesis, tested their hypothesis, observed and recorded their results. This is were the processed stopped much to the disappointment of one child who asked ‘why?’.

Why does the paper boat float?

Teacher: Because its made of paper.

I asked the child later about his ‘why’ question to discover more about his interest. The child told me that he knew that paper floated because of the material. He had known this before the experiment. He wanted to know ‘why’ or more accurately ‘how’. He was searching for deeper meaning which the activity did not give.

Kids are natural scientists. In their own world they are always going through the process of exploration and scientific process naturally.

What happens when I push this over? They test this theory and observe what happens. They see the results but the part of their experiment that they are unable to address themselves is the ‘why?’ Why did the blocks fall over?

As we facilitate the children through their own independent play, exploration and inquiry we must always be mindful of the students ‘why’. They are more than capable of creating their own questions and hypothesis. They are more than capable of testing their hypothesis and observing the results. They do, however, need support in understanding, defining and make sense of the results to be able to completely answer the ‘why’.

When a child asks the “why” question and you know that he or she needs to know and needs to know RIGHT NOW. Take the time for this important step of learning or risk leaving the child forever wondering.

As educator’s we have a responsibility to address or attempt to address the children’s wonderings. We need to make the time to address this very important part of a child’s learning.

 

Is inquiry really a continuum?

I have always worked through inquiry or so I thought. A couple of years ago I was given an opportunity to work within the Early Years. This is when my world became much bigger and my understanding of ‘real’ inquiry began to take shape.

I had sometimes heard misconceptions, and sometimes still do, that young children are incapable of inquiry. As so many of us know this is simply untrue. Inquiry comes so natural to these young learners as they make sense of their world. They independently, without guidance, question, wonder, create and reflect.

As we are now introduced to the new buzz words ‘student agency’ my experiences in Early Years is that student agency is not ours to give it is only something we can take away. There are suggestions that we must teach inquiry, ease students into independent inquiry projects or, like other areas of the curriculum, we must view inquiry as a continuum. I have started to wonder if this is really the case. From my experience the children already know too well how to inquire. Granted they will need support along the way with their skills of observing, questioning and research being nurtured, but are we not taking away their agency when we presume to imagine that children are incapable of inquiry without our close guidance?

Everyday in my classroom I am witness to a wide variety of different forms of inquiry that each develop a variety of skills. Since the beginning of the year my greatest concern has not been to facilitate inquiry but to make the children aware of their own agency to think, choose and create independently. Once the children become aware of their learning freedom within the classroom and beyond inquiry becomes natural to the children. I allow free movement of children throughout the day as they engage in their own learning experiences. Yes it can be messy!.

Below are the forms of inquiry that I consider happening most days:

Structured Inquiry: This is were I guide the students throughout a particular inquiry to gain understanding of the Central Idea. This style of inquiry allows me to model the steps and skills of inquiry. Helping to develop the children’s interest in an area and supporting and developing their questioning. Developing their research skills as the search for answers and ultimately providing a variety of means by which the children can express their understanding. It is through this structured inquiry that I help to develop the children’s process of inquiry of a particular area from beginning to end.

Controlled Inquiry: This is where my provocations come in. With each area of learning I set up a variety of provocations often with intended learning outcomes in mind e.g. a weighing station. Quite often the children will not use the provocation for ‘my’ intended use but they are free to explore. Once a child is engaged in an activity this is my opportunity to support the children’s observations and questioning of their learning. An attempt to give more understanding to the activity they are engaged in.

Guided Inquiry: Guided inquiry often comes as a result of structured inquiry. The children are given agency on how to move forward with a topic or question chosen by me. This can also come through one of the many provocations during controlled inquiry. This is an indication that the children are beginning to use their inquiry skills with greater independence. The children are making the inquiry their own!

Free Inquiry: I find that this can often be the most meaningful to the children as they engage in activities of personal interest with no particular learning outcomes. As the inside and outside of my classroom is organised with provocations the children can choose and use resources anyway they wish. This allows the children the freedom to choose, act and reflect on their own learning experience. This may be as simple as watering the flowers, looking for bugs or building a moat in the sandpit. I have found that this kind of inquiry is more inclined to building social, collaboration and communication skills.

It is not that I believe there is no progression in the children’s skills of inquiry but I think that if we are to use the swimming pool visual as a representation of what is happening in the classroom it is much more chaotic and not as organised as the image perceives. I would argue that inquiry should be chaotic at times, noisy, quiet and never in a straight line. The image we should really see is the image I have of a swimming pool, kids jumping in all over, choosing their own style of swimming or choosing not to swim at all and sometimes even breaking the rules. This is my image of inquiry. Each child brings something unique and variety of skills, attitude and personalisation.