Teachers are busy. Curriculums are full. Parents demand results. With all of the academic, extracurricular, and daily logistic challenges accompanied with teaching, the idea of organizing social entrepreneurs to speak to students can seem not only impossible, but also impractical and irrelevant to academic requirements.
However, social entrepreneurs are critical to help students learn about local problems and begin to identify local solutions. Most importantly social innovators, particularly local social innovators, add a depth of knowledge and first-hand experience which allow students to reframe problems that they previously thought were unsolvable and inspire students to draw from their strengths to develop solutions.
Finding social innovators willing to work with students might require stepping outside your comfort zone, away from the classroom and into unfamiliar territory, but is enriching and a rewarding experience.
The Global Goals empower students by giving them permission to believe in a better world and as one Year 5 student taught me, “Our purpose is to care about the earth and each other.” But, taking this idea and helping students translate these new sentiments into action felt like a vague and uncertain journey. While there is much work to do towards achieving the SDGs, as teachers, we are often unaware of the successful innovations that occur in our own community.
I stumbled upon an answer after attending a Young Digital Entrepreneurs (YDE) conference where local youth running SDG initiatives presented their ideas. I learned from these passionate social entrepreneurs determined to bring a more inclusive and sustainable future, one project at a time. I met the founder of Project Be, an incubator for youth to bring ideas and develop projects. I also met the founders of Born to Smile, an initiative helping to educate children living in slums that was created after the founders saw street children treated poorly at a football game.
Our students identified clean water as a key area of need in our community, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Some students wanted to find ways to provide water to rickshaw drivers and another group to disadvantaged families, but finding sustainable solutions proved tricky and complicated as they experimented with the idea of leaving bottles of water outside our school and tried to build water filters from found materials. Limited by time and resources they felt demotivated from this process.
Palash Ranyal, project manager for Pedal Pure, shared an initiative that helps rickshaw pushers, or the individuals who pedal bicycles attached to passenger carriages, access clean water by attaching a device to the rickshaw that filters water as they pedal. Hearing this success story sparked hope and encouraged them to keep trying. Palash also shared contacts for other local innovators, including a professor who distributes plans for a scalable filter at an affordable cost. His story also prepared young innovators to understand the importance of having a close relationship with those you are designing for and he explained how many did not see the benefit in drinking purified water.
Hearing stories from social innovators and how they identified a problem familiar to everyone and developed a solution helps students learn how real-world problems are interdisciplinary in nature and more importantly, solvable. Connecting students with experts can be a mind shift for students. One student, who I saw had incredible potential, but did not always show his capability in the classroom, had an attitude shift after meeting Suranga Nanayakkara, an inventor and MIT alumni, whose team created the Finger Reader, a device that empowers the blind. Suranga was a speaker at our TEDxYouth event and along with his colleague, Roger Boldu, they held a design workshop for local youth where they brainstormed alternative uses for the Finger Reader. Meeting folks from MIT shocked students and following this workshop they adopted IDEO’s core values and created posters for the values that Suranga and Roger shared with them.
Unexpectedly, social innovators were also inspired as they learned about the projects youth were leading at our school, such as Habitat for Humanity (in Bangladesh H4H does not give you machinery; you get a bucket of concrete, a stick, and a ton of bricks), our afterschool art program reaching out to disadvantaged youth and upcycling projects. Many loved learning how we were embedding sustainable education in our curriculum at International School Dhaka and wanted to support our efforts.
Connecting with social entrepreneurs seemed daunting at first, but after stepping outside the classroom and attending events in the community, I was able to tap into a refreshing stream of knowledge and to my surprise, welcomed into the innovation ecosystem. My conviction in a sustainable world grew as I learned from social innovations in our community and alongside fellow inspiring educators.
How to connect with Social Innovators:
1. Reach out to your school community
Many staff at our school have close connections with social innovators, but may not have thought about inviting them to school in order to work with students. Encourage teachers to invite friends, former colleagues, or family to speak to students or lead mini-workshops. Alumni in the community are a wealth of information and support. Sending out a call for experts and identifying potential times for them to come in can help with logistics and make the process simple and fun. Thank you to our alumni, Zuhayr Reaz, who volunteers as a mentor and speaker coach.
2. Step out
Get on Eventbrite or FB events; sign up for community events that center around social innovation, sustainability, or enterprise. In some cases, these experiences can count towards professional development and you can submit the conference overviews to your Director, Principal, or HR.
Put your teacher skills to use in a new environment. I know nothing about marketing, graphic design, or coding, but I know how to write a lesson. I put this to use in developing activities for a TEDx workshop and learned so much about organizing teams and more importantly what areas I need to develop to be a better leader. I also volunteer for Fab Lab Dhaka as their Youth Engagement Coordinator and help connect youth in our community with capacity building workshops we hold at the lab.
Take a Challenge!
It takes time to build a network and find like-minded folks in the ecosystem, but once you do, these relationships and partnerships can set the stage for transformative learning experiences for students and everyone in your school. To take a first step, try a challenge below.
Contact your local TEDx organizer or TED Ed Leader and ask them if they can connect you with social entrepreneurs interested in working with local youth. Hop on Youtube and search for TEDx ____ (yourcityname) for idea sharers who can compliment your school curriculum. I found Shams Jaber, the founder of The Tech Academy, this way, his students spoke at TEDxDhaka. For extra credit, attend your local TEDx event/Salon/Workshop.
Sign up for a Start Up Weekend near you. After attending a SW, you’re qualified to organize your own startup weekend and there is a youth version for students. I attended Start-up Weekend Dhaka and became part of a close-knit startup family. In three days, I saw a group of 116 people form into teams around the best ideas and total strangers collaborate through shared passions and collaborations.
Check out IEEE events. I attended an event for young professionals and connected with many engineers committed to a sustainable future. Here, I met engineers who also are part of a Hip Hop troupe committed to peace and unity. They also are performing for us at our TEDxYouth event in June.
Go to your local coworking space, innovation hub, or makerspace. Find out when their next event is, and be sure you’re there! I went to a talent show organized at Moar and met creative technologists who later ran an inclusive design workshop at our school. At BRAC Social Innovation Lab, I met Anusha Witt, a community development expert who facilitates workshops to help youth express themselves through art. I also was connected with Sharmin, founder of Wreetu. After arranging a meeting with Sharmin and our Year 6 Coordinator, Ian Pietras, they collaborated on a World Menstrual Health Day Workshop and developed a solid partnership between our organizations. My friend Linda Lagunzad, a high school teacher, works with MakerBay in Hong Kong and Makerspaces are great places for teachers and students to learn how to use equipment, software, and get involved in community initiatives.
Make friends with the folks who coordinate accelerator programs in your local community. I attended an event on designing a pitch deck at our local Accelerator Program, Grameen Phone Accelerator Program. Here, I connected with Anup Dutta who later volunteered to mentor students on design and creating slides for a pitch to share an idea.
Learn at Google Development Fest or Google Educator Conferences. Google offers free Certification for Google Educators and Google Development Fest gathers an interesting group of tech pioneers. Also, students can get involved in Google initiatives, like Tensor Flow.
Go online! +Acumen has online courses on Human Centered Design, Social Enterprise, and other entrepreneurial skills. After finishing two courses, you are eligible to participate in a live online challenge in which you will qualify to be a +Acumen Catalyst and organize training sessions online or in your community.
Make a cake! If you feel nervous about attending an event because you’re not sure what you can offer, tell the organizers you’ll bring a cake. Cake is always appreciated.
Go on a coffee date! Reach out to a local innovator and arrange a coffee date over the weekend. Let the conversation flow and see if there are any potential areas for collaboration.
These are just a few of the ways that an educator can connect with social innovators. Teachers can’t transform education alone and no one can reform education without teachers (and shame on those who believe they can). I spent the past nine months attending every conference/workshop/event. I attended any event who would let me in. At first, I felt that others would judge me for being a teacher and wonder why I was at a workshop with them. Most warmly welcomed me and the few that did question my reasons for attending changed their tune after I shared that I was hoping to learn more about innovation to help me better prepare students for the future. I’m grateful for the connections and partnerships our school has developed with scientists, public health professionals, and artists. Together as a community, we can collaborate across organizations and create learning experiences that prepare students to believe a better tomorrow by letting them see beyond the classroom walls and learn about the amazing stuff happening around them.
By Nam Ngo Thanh, 5th Grade Teacher, MIE Fellow, Skype Master Teacher, Microsoft Teacher Ambassador
With more than 11 years of teaching experience, my teaching concept has changed a lot over time. In the beginning of my career, I felt my main responsibility as a teacher was to provide knowledge to students from textbooks. Over the years, I began to follow in the educational purpose proposed by UNESCO: learn to know, learn to do, learn to live, learn to assert yourself. To achieve this, cooperation is one of the skills I always prioritize to help students develop. In efforts to accomplish this, I have started to participate in many projects with other teachers around the globe, including We are Little Volunteers, Wai Water, Human Differences (Koen is founder), Women in History on Tour (Angels is founder). Recently, I have dedicated efforts to creating and developing the Five Safe Fingers Project to help stop child abuse.
How did the idea for the Five Safe Fingers Project originate?
In recent years, child sexual abuse has been raised as a global problem in general and in Vietnam in particular. Through discussions with teachers in many countries, I learned that children often do not have the skills needed to protect themselves in situations where they are at risk of harm. They do not understand the limits of love. This continued to trouble me, so in April 2017 I decided to call on teachers around the globe to work together on the Five Safe Fingers project. For the project, our mission is to provide children with the skills they need to protect themselves from sexual abuse and to work to support Goal 3 and Goal 16 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. I am fortunate to have received the participation of more than 30 schools from 37 countries and to have had more than 100 teachers registered to become ambassadors for the project.
From 20 students to 2500 students
At the beginning of the project, I had no idea that our work could impact so many schools around the globe. I was thrilled to receive e-mails from teachers and schools from around the globe asking how they could get involved. Some schools started with only a group of 20 students, but then whole schools with up to 2,500 students would join in. Working with this project has become an important part of my daily work, and I continue to be inspired by messages I hear from teachers on the impact of the project. "Feels truly great to be a part and touch the lives of so many children" - Nerru Mittal, India.
How has technology helped this project be more successful?
Technology plays a large part in helping 100 global teachers to work together effectively, and we continue to see great impact from using Microsoft tools.
OneNote: This great tool has helped create a unique space where participating teachers can work together anytime, anywhere. OneNote allows us to store, set up, and share a variety of information in one location. During the time using OneNote in collaboration with teachers from other countries, I also created many sessions. Some are mutually occupied, and some are designed for particular individuals. Subsequently, I assigned tasks and shared this digital notebook. We easily track progress and use the platform to plan for next steps. Students also have their own sessions for mutual communication, such as for sharing videos, presentations, and brochures or for asking questions.
PowerPoint, Office Mix, Sway: These Microsoft tools have been used by students to create many interesting projects related to the program. Tammy's students used Office Mix to create Safe Tips for kids to prevent child sexual abuse. With the combination of sound, image, and automatic run mode, this guide has become more vivid. With the advantage of ease of use, many students have used Sway, including first graders using Sway to create animated presentations with pictures, videos, and more. They can update at any time and no need to send it back to the recipient as it automatically updates. Teachers also use these tool to create presentations to share with others.
Minecraft: With the participation of Francisco Brazil, Minecraft Global Mentor, Minecraft has been included in the project. “I was scared when I received the invitation to be an ambassador of the Safe Fingers project, it is not an area that I dominate, but as an educator and citizen it is a duty to be able to contribute as I can.The north of my compass was: how can technology have a real paradigm shift that helps improve children's lives, their defense processes? Well, I came to a conclusion, technology is a factor that increases our human capacity, that makes us think, reflect, change reality.” - Francisco says. In this project, Minecraft is used as a tool for free thinking. Each country has been charged with creating an image, a construction that refers to the theme. And then, the others will try to understand what the other wanted to do. We use Minecraft as a simulator of solutions, dialogue, and humanization. Students also can create a slogan with Minecraft. The constructions are shared in OneNote and others can add comments. To conclude, the participants make personal reports describing these experiences, and all the information serves as a metric for assessing activity and impact and provides research materials to improve the activity and use of technology in the classroom. In this way we can create an activity that uses the skills and competences of the 21st century and that exercises the pillars of UNESCO. At the same time, we have created an innovative activity that can really push the barriers and create the future.
Skype: Skype acts as a key tool in the project to connect teachers to teachers, teachers to students, and students to students. Skype helps break the limits of the four walls in the traditional classroom. Just click on the connection icon in the project website and participants will be moved to the MEC site to send a Skype connection request. During the exploration knowledge, students use Skype to connect with project ambassadors who do work in preventing child sexual abuse. After completing the products, students use Skype to connect with other classes to share what they have done in the previous weeks. Through sharing, they will have an overview of the problem of sexual assault in many other countries.
What will be next?
Although "Five Weeks: One Life" is used as a slogan for the project, we do not want to limit this project to just five weeks. This project has been posted as a lesson on the MEC site, so any teachers can access and sign up for Skype collaboration to work on the project. We hope the project will continue until the problem of sexual assault is over.
Do you love global learning? Do you love contributing to share your knowledge with the world? If you are over the age of 18, apply here
By Mark Reid, Arts Educator & 2013 MusiCounts Teacher of the Year, @mmgreid
How often do we pass up on opportunities for professional growth because it “probably doesn’t apply” to what we do? It seems as though we pass up these opportunities because we’re looking for a ‘professional supplement’, a quick how-to or lesson we can take to school the next day. Don’t get me wrong, these can be helpful in many cases. Professional development, however, is about growing capacity for creative practice, innovative instruction, and emerging opportunities to connect learning to today’s world.
Thinking about Arts Education, it can be uncomfortably common for arts learning to be left out of the conversation on high-profile trends in education. It’s time for that to change. Arts learning is an opportunity for students to explore ideas and arts-based solutions to problems in our world. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) need a rich diversity of supporters and activists to facilitate their reach -- and Arts Educators are well-equipped to take action.
Thinking globally, the ideas below come from some leading arts educators around the world. Each was tasked with providing examples from their teaching area that link with the SDGs. These are topics to be woven into instruction that introduce the SDGs to your students and empower their use of the arts to change the future of our world. I also hope you’ll see these examples not as absolutes, but as possibilities that contribute to your professional development and growth!
It is important to note that ‘art’ is intended to refer to any artwork created or imagined in the context of dance, drama, music, or visual arts.
To connect with these and other colleagues, reach out on Twitter using #TeachSDGs!
●Dance - Mike Wamaya, Kenya (@mikewamaya)
●Drama/Theatre - Estella Owoimaha-Church, United States (@eochurch)
●Music - Mark Reid, Canada (@mmgreid)
●Visual Art/Design - Merit Karise, Estonia
● Discuss nutrition for dancers, with a connection to service-learning that fights youth hunger
● Engage in scriptwriting that addresses malnourishment as an issue of global equity
● Participating in the creation of music, dance, drama, and visual art has a therapeutic impact on daily life
● Physical activity in dance or drama
● Practicing body positivity in casting and piece selection
● Employ mental wellness techniques in training for dance, drama, and music (e.g., meditation, breathing exercises, etc.)
● A comprehensive education includes learning in the arts
● Investment in facilities, equipment, and resources that make learning easier and accessible for all
● How can more students access rigorous arts education opportunities?
● Current topics about equality in music - why are there so few women conducting major orchestras around the world?
● Maternal health and sustainable careers for women in dance
● Alternative casting, script adaptation, and creating roles for students of any gender
● Where does the paint go when you wash it down the drain?
● Make use of eco-friendly paint, dye, and other artmaking materials
● Equip facilities or spaces with renewable energy sources; energy efficient equipment
● Design kinetic artwork that runs on clean energy sources (e.g., wind)
● Mapping skills, interests, and career opportunities
● Combining arts learning with entrepreneurial skill development
● Maintain a collection of student work, performance, and progress
● Make connections with local creative industries for work experience and service-learning
● Habits of professionals in various arts disciplines
● Innovative artists, designers, and those who use art to respond to social issues
● Discuss public policy that support arts, policymakers who champion
● Prepare students to be arts advocates and ambassadors in the community
● Explore and exchange composer music from underrepresented regions, languages, and cultures
● Inclusive design that is mindful of accessibility challenges for students or an audience
● Create roles for all individuals and create inclusive spaces
● Employ alternative casting for classic and contemporary shows
● Incorporate leadership, community performance, and local service-learning activities into rehearsal, performance, and student travel experiences
● Pro-active maintenance to extend the lifespan of instruments and equipment
● Diverting waste materials away from the landfill by inventing instruments, props, or costumes
● Giving objects more than one purpose to reduce waste (e.g., edible cutlery design)
● Site-specific or outdoor theatre that doesn’t require energy-hungry lighting systems
● Kinetic or solar panel art/design
● Younger students can envision a healthy living environment for Raffi’s Baby Beluga
● Seek design opportunities influenced by aquatic environments
● Folk songs and folk music traditions often describe life on land
● Incorporate organic and natural materials into scenic design
● Studying and performing anthems of various nations, the Olympic Hymn, and songs of international peace
● Explore and reflect on dynamics of power, structures, systems, and the pursuit of peace and justice
● Study, produce, or write plays that prioritize notions of peace
● Create art that captures messages of social justice, peace, and a better world
● Power of music and musicians to inform their audience about changing the world
● Power of theatre, actors, and playwrights to inform audiences on global issues, opportunities for change, and participation in efforts to change the world
Mark Reid is Arts Education Coordinator at the British Columbia Ministry of Education. He is the former Director of Bands & Choirs at Vancouver Technical Secondary School, 2013 MusiCounts Teacher of the Year, and a Finalist for the 2015 Global Teacher Prize. Mark holds degrees from VanderCook College of Music (MMEd) and the University of Victoria (BMus). In 2016, Mark is pleased to be the Guest Conductor for Vancouver’s Cor Flammae, while teaching a graduate course at VanderCook College of Music. He is a global advocate of #TeachSDGs.
By Sean Robinson, #TeachSDGs Task Force Member, @sr_tutor
Connections change lives.
I am convinced of it. A simple, meaningful contact can lead to immeasurable change. It not only raises awareness, but it makes our response personal, purposeful. We don’t simply learn of a need; we feel the need.
As we use the framework of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals to guide us in meaningful work, we are inspired with the kinds of connections we can make. No poverty, zero hunger, good health, quality education. Even simply stating these goals with the lens of connection awakens action. Without a connection, our empathy has nowhere to go. With a connection, the possibilities are endless.
When my grade 9 Science class connected with an 18-year-old NYU student from Kenya, seeds of change were planted. From Karishma Bhagani we learned not only about the state of water scarcity in the world, but her solution of a low cost water purifier. Matone de Chiwit was the name she gave to her creation: Drops of Life. She had found a way to provide clean water (SDG6) to impoverished communities back in Kenya. She was excited to get the word out. My favourite moment during a connection is to turn to the students and say: now that we know the need, what are we going to do about it. My job is to let the wellspring of ideas germinate, then allow them to grow. And grow they did.
Sure, students developed collaboration and communication skills, writing and art skills, a sense of audience, digital citizenship. But this learning was coupled with action and transformation. I share the story of one budding social entrepreneur’s transformation here: http://seanrtech.blogspot.ca/2016/05/the-precarious-and-powerful.html
Here is a video of the videoconference that started it all:
When I connected via Skype with Dr. Jeff Goldstein, director of the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP), the video conference became the catalyst to something amazing. I brought the idea of the SSEP to my students: competing for a spot on a Space X Rocket to take an experiment to the International Space Station. Connections breed other connections. In order to create an experiment that is worthy of a trip to the ISS, experts must be consulted. Interestingly, many of my Science 9 students thought to do medical research (SDG3).
Students began examining:
The connection was the stimulus. It brought a reaction that would not have taken place without it. But, from that catalyst was explosive action. Students were learning about the scientific method, not because I told them to, but because they needed to. They were emailing experts, growing bacteria, conducting trials. And an experiment without meaning wouldn’t fly: they needed to find a reason why their experiment needed to be carried out. Good health and well being (SDG6) became that meaning for them.
When we connected with the Community for Learning school in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, I had an idea that the students would be ignited. I had no idea, though, how far the flames would go. Hearing about the difficulty to read and learn at night (SDG4) due to the lack of electricity (SDG7), students’ empathy was lit. This time, I asked my students: what are we going to DO about this? And: what are we going to MAKE about this? The students became excited to build solar powered 3D printed lanterns to help out. We connected with Ian Fogarty and his Engineering Brightness students in New Brunswick, Canada to get help to make this happen. Once again, students were fired up:
What a wonderful experience to be able to celebrate with Eladio from the Santo Domingo school as he shared with us the experience of receiving the lantern and supplies to make more. Gathered for the Skype chat were the prototypers, the fundraisers, the 3D printers, the assemblers, and my colleague Abraham Kang who not only delivered the materials but taught the Dominican Republic students how to make the lanterns. Different classes, different schools, different countries coming together to battle light poverty. Amazing. Immersing students in the Sustainable Development Goals takes meaningful education to the next level. Marrying the Sustainable Development Goals with a focus on Connections-based Learning leads to action. The connection is the seed, the catalyst, the spark that begins exponential growth. The SDGs provide a framework of needs. The marriage of the two transform lives, schools, communities.
I encourage you to soak deeply your practice with the Sustainable Development Goals and #TeachSDGs any and every chance you get. Allow the children you teach to make meaningful connections and then stand with them as they transform the world.
Special thanks to Sean Robinson of the #TeachSDGs Global Goals Task Force and Connections-Based Learning. You can learn more about Sean's great work with Connections-Based Learning by visiting http://www.connectionsbasedlearning.com. Connect with Sean on Twitter at @sr_tutor.