By Armand Doucet, #TeachSDGs & ADE Ambassador
Collaborative efforts across the spectrum of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and students in K-12 schools is necessary for the goals to be reached by 2030. This article highlights an interdisciplinary, cross partnership (government, non-profit and private sector) collaboration from secondary school that began in a World Issues classroom. The teacher, Armand Doucet, invites students to delve into areas about which they are passionate and create a Startup company with colleagues that tries to find solutions to one of the SDGs. Ethan and Leif are two students that are separately passionate about health sciences and the environment. Armand’s writing (in italics below) will introduce the context and the background with regards to Passion Projects Start-ups. In what follows, Ethan and Leif share on their experiences.
My goal as a teacher in the classroom is to develop skills intertwined with curriculum content. Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) and 21st century skills need to be developed not haphazardly, but purposefully. For this to happen, the culture and design of my classroom and how I approach curriculum outcomes and standards and skills development must combine with a growth mindset (Carol Dweck) and design thinking process (IDEO-Tim Brown). I try to foster and develop divergent thinking (Sir Ken Robinson) in students who will embrace the problems of the world instead of fearing them because in reality: “The world doesn’t care what you know. What the world cares about is what do you do with it" (Tony Wagner). So, I believe that connecting the curriculum to what the students are passionate about is a great way to develop my classroom. With Passion Projects Start-ups students realize the joys of learning again by following their own path and trying to solve real world issues. As you can see in Ethan and Leif’s statements below, when allowed to pursue their own goals in education, students struggle at first. I try to let them explore, discover, and create their own networks. I become an advisor they meet once a week to help them continue to develop their ideas and pitch. As they embrace the core problem of their Passion Projects, resiliency precedes enthusiasm and then enthusiasm leads to pride as students create and subsequently work to bring solutions to the SDGs. They play an important part in the future sustainability of our communities and get the opportunity to start in my classroom. The experience is unique to each student and they build a network with people from around the world, solidifying ties to possible relationships that will impact our world for years to come. Tony Wagner (Creating Innovators) states “the most important thing is allowing students to ask questions and then give them the space to find the answers.”
I believe my job as a teacher is to facilitate the development of skills for each student--personalizing the learning so they can each succeed in the future. You can visit my template for this type of classroom at www.lifelessonlearning.com. Please send any questions about the Passion Project Start-up for my World Issues class and how SDGs play a large part to my direct email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My name is Ethan Fogarty and walking into Armand Doucet’s World Issues 120 class was not what I expected. It was like entering a parallel universe, where instead of the students asking the teacher the questions, the teacher asked the students the questions. It was a very cool experience, where Mr. D. acted as a mentor and guide to our learning, and our learning was in our own hands.
My name is Leif Henrichs, and I realized in my World Issues class that the greatest global challenge was set upon us in 2015, with the hopes to build a better plan of sustainable action for citizens and the planet. Seventeen goals, ranging from abolishing worldwide hunger to gender equality, were given to us by the United Nations. These goals strive to be an indispensable requirement for sustainable development by the year 2030.
A large part of Mr. D’s class revolved around the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals, more specifically a giant semester long Passion Project. A group of us decided to tackle malaria. My personal decision to follow this path was due to my overwhelming fascination with medicine. Medicine is my passion and my future career, and it was an amazing experience for my passion and future to coincide hand in hand with my current education. All the classes I take now are about sciences or English, and it is sad to think I have gone through 12 years of education without learning about my passion directly, and still have a few more before my passion becomes what I actually learn about. Mr. D.’s class was a different experience, where I learned both about the problems in our world as well as a fair deal about myself. The key is I now believe that I play an integral part in finding solution, and know I can change my community, country, and world.
Early in the first semester of 2017, I walked into my French immersion World Issues class. My teacher set down a list of problems brought upon by the United Nations and told us as a class, to choose three different goals we would be interested in solving. I personally thought the problem of Life on Land was the most problematic for the development of humanity. The next day we were grouped by interest and were given the opportunity to identify what was the issue and the mandate to help find a solution. Real world learning by addressing a real world problem in class. As a group, we had the liberty to use anything and everything to work on this problem throughout the semester, and we were encouraged to think outside the box. Mr. Doucet enforced that the problem we found associated with the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals were not just a class project, but a life project that we could work on in other classes and in everyday life. As a group we decide to focus on the problem of deforestation and I can tell you now that I have never worked harder at anything in my life. This project almost consumed me 24/7 because Mr. D made us believe that we could truly be the change.
One of the sustainable goals created by the UN is to end the endemic of malaria. We were introduced to these goals very early in the course and told to choose one. Naturally, I instantly narrowed the choice to the health and well-being goal. From there, malaria stood out to me, and luckily to a few others as well. Now, we had a team, but what next. Another way World Issues class was different was because a lot of class time was used to collaborate as a group to use the design process to prototype our solution. We were encouraged to reach out to experts from around the world and partner up with non-profits and people that were living in the conditions we were trying to help. Research for the project was largely done outside of class, but done willingly and without complaint. I remember thinking that this project felt more like a business or organization set out to help others than simply a project, which made it more real. I realized that we were creating a business and that this could be a lifetime project. It changed the atmosphere and attitude towards learning, where a regular project’s final destination is the trash can or a land fill, this project was potentially saving countless lives, which means keeping on top of work and taking initiative was both more important than another project and easier to be engaged in because we were empowered.
We looked at every angle of the deforestation issue because it is important to have a complete perspective. Our group worked hard on researching the effects of clear cutting and tried to find the root cause of why we did this as people. We realized that is was mostly done to be able to do agriculture and mass produce coffee or something more lucrative. We believed that we wouldn’t be able to impact this one at a level that was acceptable to our group. So, we took up the second reason for deforestation which is forest fires. As our group hustled away, I was able to create an idea to speed up the succession rate of post forest fires accompanying the halt of erosion of post forest fires, and that’s just covering the two main solutions my idea entails. This project followed me through three different classes the rest of my grad year as well as two separate entrepreneurship events. I need to create an awareness campaign via a 3:00min commercial, a pitch and marketing campaign for venture capital, become an expert in my chosen field and prototype a solution.
By the end of the semester, we knew more about the subject of our choice than Mr. Doucet did, which I think is pretty special. Every other class I have ever taken, I have come out knowing less than the teacher; knowing bomb calorimetric, but unable to do it as quick as my chemistry teacher, knowing about the biology of plants while unable to go into as much depth on photosynthesis as my biology teacher. Mr. Doucet’s class was different. By the end of the semester, I had created a prototype of what I felt was a way to lower malaria rates in Africa, while having a more extensive knowledge on malaria and the specific problem than even my teacher. I was able to reach out and partner with experts from around the world, getting really good at asking the right questions to broaden my group’s knowledge base and understanding. However, in class, I was not the one asking the questions on my topics to Mr. D., but answering them; which I feel is a very beautiful moment in education.
While my idea progressed throughout the year, I made different contacts and showcased my learning throughout my school, such as to my teachers and my peers. Also, I connected with my community by attending different events and competitions to spread awareness of the deforestation issue and present my 3D printed solution. I was able to secure some venture capital with this high school project making me now a true entrepreneur. I don’t believe this is end of the journey for the UN Sustainable Development Goals for me, and I as I graduate in a few weeks, I plan to keep working away on the problem of deforestation next year at Acadia University and keep engineering a solution. Hoping one day I will be able to make a difference in the world, as well as carrying out my true passion of life on land.
After my semester in Mr.Doucet’s World Issues class, I was too enthralled with the SDGs to simply move on, so I chose to continue working with them in my second semester of school. What goal I was going to choose this time remained a mystery to me, until one day I saw the latest Honey Nut Cheerios commercial about the bees dying off. This linked to the SDG of halting biodiversity loss, so I decided to embrace the challenge of saving our honey making friends. I could not do it on my own, so within my Science 12 class the team was created. "The Bee Team" to be exact; that is our official name. We are a non-profit business trying to save the bees using three different branches of intervention. We work with our town, local businesses, and even beekeepers to create bylaws on nicotine based pesticides within town limits, use a pollination plan to increase the beauty of the town, and share bee nutrition for local restaurants incorporating rooftop bee hives. Through Mr. Doucet’s class and his voluntary help, in the past year I have worked towards solving not only one, but two of the SDGs created by the UN. Creating a business from the ground up while keeping on top of my required school related work has been a challenge, but a challenge I gladly accept. When I first began this idea, I expected it to remain as a small scale project, largely from an idea I would pull up a metaphorical Mount Everest, but I have found an overwhelming amount of support from everyone. As of right now, the project remains local, but we have received some funding, and I am hoping that eventually it becomes worldwide in scale.
Armand Doucet is a globally recognized award-winning educator, leader, and business professional with a unique combination of entrepreneurial, teaching and Innovative projects. A sought after inspirational-speaker, author, columnist and blogger in multiple fields, Armand has contributed to CBC, Education Partners, BrainStem Sympoisum, STEM Educators Symposium, Atlantic Education Summit, #TeachSDGs and Tedx. He has led, and collaborated with, teams from around the world, an across different industries, to success in health, education, non-profit and business. Armand was the president and founder of the Ironwill Foundation and was also part of a team of teachers who brought Harry Potter to life at Riverview High School, connecting the school to over 1.8 million people worldwide. He is driven to make a difference in his students’ lives and wants every student to inspire, educate and empower others to reach their full potential. Recently, Armand founded Life Lesson Learning, which is working to change teaching worldwide by giving 21st century skills development its proper place in the classroom through his Passion projects initiative. Armand received the Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence 2015, is a Meritorious Service Medal Recipient Governor General of Canada, is an Apple Distinguished Educator and has just recently been nominated in the Top 50 for the Global Teacher Prize. He currently teaches Modern History at Riverview High School, in New Brunswick, Canada and is working on a children’s Picture book series to empower girls to believe that they can do STEAM jobs and find solutions to the UN sustainable goals. As always, Armand is inspired by his incredible wife, Nicole, and his two girls. You can connect with Armand on Twitter at @DoucetArmand.
By Nam Ngo Thanh, #TeachSDGs Global Goals Educator Task Force Member, Vietnam
When I asked many teachers in Vietnam as well as around the world about teaching United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals, the answer I often got was "What is it?" or "Is it important?” I realized that teaching the goals of sustainable development for students was still a new thing to many teachers.
Why did I decide to teach #SDGs to students?
As we all know, the world is facing many problems, such as poverty, pollution, war, climate change, and more. These problems directly affect the survival of mankind. Therefore, if people are not aware of the importance of the remedy and the ways to prevent problems, the quality of life will be increasingly threatened. I think that educating on these issues needs to be started in the younger generation, namely students. That is why teaching sustainable development goals has become an important part of my teaching.
For myself, to have access to the curriculum SDGs, my professional skills have been increasingly enhanced. My teaching is not only directed to knowledge in textbooks, but also social significance and meeting the needs of life.
How did I know about the goal of sustainable development of the United Nations?
Actually, I have only known these goals since 2017. Although before, my students did many projects related to issues in life, such as traffic safety, environment, religion, and food, but I did not know that these projects were related to the goals of sustainable development. It wasn't until I had a conversation with Fran Siracusa as well as taking the Teaching Sustainable Development Goals course on the Microsoft Education site that I realized these goals clearly are already in my projects. Since then, I have started to learn more and have become really fascinated by the human values that these goals bring.
How have I started?
First, I worked to develop a clear understanding about these 17 goals and then started to find out the relationship between them and my textbook lessons. It is interesting to realize that every lesson that my students learn daily is tied to at least one of the 17 goals. After that, I started introducing #SDGs to my students. Fortunately, I found a lot of resources for the introduction, including The World's Largest Lessons. I do not impose #SDGs on students, but let them naturally take to them by letting them draw their own goals after reading a story, watching a movie, etc. For example: Water is Life project: After watching the movie about water shortage in South Africa, students will analyze and find out the sixth goal in the project. I believe that by their own self-discovery, students can understand the meaning of these goals in human life.
Technology – Let’s be Friends
In teaching SDGs, I have seen that technology has impacted students' lives in such a positive way. It has taken students to new places and allowed them to use the 4Cs of 21st century learning (collaboration, communication, critical thinking, creativity). If technology is used properly, it will help to bring the voice of students to the world. In my teaching of SDGs, technology plays an indispensable role. Students are encouraged to use technology in learning activities that demand problem-solving, decision-making, teamwork, and innovation. By using technology, students can create products such as digital storybooks, artwork, presentations, and movies. For example, in the Water is Life project, my students use Sway to tell their water using story, Microsoft Forms to conduct a water experiment using survey of people in their community, PowerPoint to create posters to call for a sense of water savings, and Skype to chat with experts on the importance of water. Sustainable development goals are right in your classroom! Let students work with technology as a friend, learning these goals will become more enjoyable and effective.
Do Not Teach #SDGs Alone
My experience suggests that teaching #SDGs is most effective if these goals are repeated over place and time. One way to do this is to connect with your school and the parents to share that comprehensive SDG teaching is an important choice. For example, when learning about the the sixth goal, we did the "I am a drop" campaign by creating slogans calling for water savings in many places in the school. At home, parents also reminded students to save water. From there, students realized that saving water was their responsibility.
Mr. Nam Thanh (@mrnamvas) is a primary school teacher in Vinschool in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. He has authored multiple articles, and he has been nationally and internationally recognized for the implementation of creativity and the integration of technology into his teaching. In 2015, he was presented with the Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert Award, and in the same year he represented Vietnam at the Microsoft Global Forum. He is Microsoft Master Trainer, Skype Master Teacher, and Microsoft Teacher Ambassador. Mr. Nam works passionately to develop creative approaches to delivering quality education to his students in ways that inspire them to learn. Twitter: @mrnamvas Website: https://mrnamvas.wixsite.com/fivesafefingers
By Karol Alejandra Arámbula Carrillo, National Operations Director & Founder of MY World México
Everytime I get the opportunity to talk about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), I like to look back at the story behind these 17 promises made in September 2015: The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The MDGs were humanity’s first global agreement to reduce poverty and human deprivation at historically unprecedented rates through collaborative action. Unlike previous efforts, the MDGs were a unique global promise of a comprehensive nature and systematic efforts to finance, implement and monitor them. This was certainly what David Hulme from the University of Manchester called in his 2009 paper on the MDGs: the world’s biggest promise.
Despite the MDGs’ greatest achievements worldwide and at the national levels, the world’s biggest promise failed to fulfill many of its purposes as a result of different circumstances. Our world changed. Humanitarian crises arrived, technological changes emerged, our environment had been significantly altered, and our world was interconnected in ways like never before. The MDGs was an agenda in need of revisions and mechanisms that would help leaders to make better decisions. They were also in great need of opening up a wider discussion that could integrate the voices of everyone, everywhere.
This is why in 2012 the international community came together to review the world’s biggest promise and reiterate its commitment towards the achievement of a fairer, healthier, and more prosperous world. The journey began everywhere--or almost everywhere--and asked everyone to participate. I found out about this process while finishing my undergraduate studies in International Relations in Jalisco, Mexico. By then I knew the world was coming together to adopt new goals that would not only cover what was left behind by the MDGs, but that would also integrate our world’s most urgent issues, such as climate change, inequality, and insecurity. From my degree, I learned that the world had been through so much in the last two centuries and that development global agreements were necessary to not only secure our place as humanity in the planet, but to live in peace for the rest of our journey here. Like no other international agreement, the MDGs and the Post-2015 process brought hope to the United Nations and the international community.
This is where my personal journey with the SDGs started. And to be honest, if I have a look at it now, I never thought I would get so involved in the SDGs and the world’s efforts to achieve them. My first encounter with the Post-2015 process was when I was still studying and participating in Model United Nations in 2006. Six years later, I got the chance to participate in the United Nations Youth Assembly that aimed to discuss the global revisions of the MDGs. In 2013, while working at the United Nations Migration Agency in New York City, I participated in the High-Level Dialogue on International Migration in Development, where I was able to realize that development is not only accompanied by economic, social, or environmental issues, but also ethical and cultural perspectives. I also realized that development should be a bottom-up effort and that without the voices of all, we would not have been able to achieve a real and reachable agreement. A year later, I decided to come back and work in the field in Mexico when I got to know a practical and open instrument to encourage people’s participation in the Post-2015 process. This instrument was the United Nations Global Survey For A Better World MY World 2015 developed by the then United Nations Millennium Campaign.
In 2014-2015, I was directly in charge of implementing MY World 2015 in my hometown Jalisco, Mexico –my country’s second largest state. At the end of the day, we were able to reach over 400,000 people from 72 different regions in Western Mexico. We were also able to reach other 28 states in Mexico and position our country as the second most active country in MY World 2015. Jalisco was able to stay as the fifth most participative entity in the world and our work received the People’s Voices Award for Best Multistakeholder Collaboration during the General Assembly’s Summit to adopt the Post-2015 Development Agenda in September 2015. While being at this summit, I knew my commitment towards the implementation of the SDGs was quite unique and a needed responsibility. This was not only based on the numbers we were able to integrate in the discussion thanks to MY World 2015, but in people’s interest in being part of the solution and actions.
A few months later, after the adoption, I had the chance to replicate what happened in Jalisco at the national level. In partnership with the United Nations SDG Action Campaign and United Nations Volunteers, MY World México was created as an initiative aimed at activating people throughout the country to achieve the SDGs. One year later, MY World México has now the participation of 150 volunteers and 60 organizations from across sectors working in at least 25 states in my country, as well as numerous partnerships worldwide.
One of the main activities while leading this project in the last nearly four years, has been teaching. Teaching people about the world’s biggest promise, the greatest promise ever made. In this journey, I have come to realize the power education has upon individuals. Education is the most important tool for appropriation of The Global Goals and without this, I certainly believe our promise to build a better world by 2030 will hardly be achieved. This is the most powerful tool I have come to get as a result of all this policy, advocacy, and mobilization efforts in the last years of my life. It is through education we will be able to lead change. A change for a world capable of achieving the 2030 Agenda and The Global Goals.
Karol is originally from Mexico. Karol serves as National Operations Director at MY World México, as Civil Society Represenative to the United Nations and as expert consultant for intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations in Mexico and overseas focusing on partnerships for Sustainable Development, Financing for Development, Development Education, Human Rights, Peace, Governance and Democratic Processes, and International Organizations and International Cooperation. She has worked in numerous projects and programs led by the United Nations, the Organization of American States and the European Union in Brasil, Uganda, Peru, South Korea, Canada, Australia and the United States. On Twitter, you can connect with Karol at @KarolArambula and MY World México at @MYWorldMexico.
TeachSDGs Team & Contributors