By Craig Jones
Developing an international mindset in children is quickly becoming a vital element of education, in the pursuit of nurturing well-rounded accountable global citizens of the future. The global challenges that we face today and that we will face in the near future will have a greater effect on the children in our classrooms than it will on us. Therefore it is necessary to educate the next generation of the major global issues that will have a significant effect on their lives and that of future generations to come.
International mindedness is a difficult concept for young learners to grasp. To have empathy for others is a personal quality that needs to be facilitated and developed. So with that in mind, the first step on this learning journey is awareness of issues such as climate change and the UN Global Goals that aim to tackle these challenges. Next, we need to ask some of the big questions surrounding these problems in order to get our learners to think more deeply about the issues. Then we can look at potential solutions and future ways forward.
For this, I have created three units of learning each consisting of six weeks. These units are based on the UN Sustainable Development Goals and are pitched at the particular age level. The way they are used at my school is as a one week focus at the beginning of each term on a two-year cycle. This sets the tone for the term and keeps the UN Goals and international mindedness in general, in the minds of our learners. Alongside high standards of academic achievement, we also need high standards of cooperation, morality, and thoughtfulness.
The younger learners focus on goals such as Life on Land as well as Life Below Water whereas the older learners focus on Responsible Consumption and Production, Climate Action and Clean, and Affordable Energy. All the goals are covered by the end of Primary/Elementary School. Linking the learning to the UN SDGs give the tasks more relevance and significance, knowing that they are part of something bigger, something real.
The units can be viewed and downloaded for free at www.craigjoneslearning.com.
Craig Jones is an international educator with over 14 years of experience. He is currently a IPC Leader/Year 6 Class Teacher at the Sakhalin International School in Russia. You can connect with Craig on Twitter at @CraigLearning.
By Jenny Kaste
I have been on a journey this past year learning how to be a great SDGs teacher. As I move forward and grow, one thing I have learned is that to truly create empowered youth, I must give them both a structure to look at world problems and a path to do something about them.
The SDGs are not a curriculum. There is no prescribed right way to embrace SDGs in the classroom. I don’t have students open to page 5 and read about activism. I don’t have students complete a unit or module and have an easy and perfectly impactful project. I don’t get my students to pass a quiz and, poof, they become aware, productive global citizens. The SDG’s are a framework for action and global learning. As an SDGs teacher, I need to pair them with my best practices, my professional learning, my curriculum objectives and my students’ needs to find a way that works. I need to balance the micro and macro prospective of the goals to achieve student civic understanding.
At the beginning of last school year, my colleagues and I chose a single SDG to focus on for the 2018-19 school year. We zoomed in on SDG #3 - good health and well being. This connected well to our STEM school focus and was something accessible and understandable to all kids. Our goal for the year was to create action to improve the health and well being of our community, as each grade defined it. All grade levels focused on this one goal; studied it and developed community projects to support it. Our littles learned about washing hands and avoiding germs, our 2nd graders wrote a book about making healthy choices, our 4th graders raised money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and made comfort boxes for kids in our local hospital. My 5th grade change makers brainstormed problems in the community, created PSAs, participated in large scale display at the state capitol and presented to law makers about changes they wanted to see. One of the law changes they advocated for even was passed by the state legislature after their presentation. They learned about other youth activists, connected with NGOs and discovered the power of their voice.
At the end of the year as our projects wrapped up and our impact was reflected on I asked students to revisit the 17 goals. I asked them to switch gears from our deep dive into Goal 3 and to take a more macro view. I asked them to consider what they had learned about activism, action, and the power of their voice. I asked them to think about what they would apply those lessons in the future. I was surprised to realize that outside of health and wellness, my change makers didn’t know what the SDGs were. This was a huge awakening for me as an SDGs teacher.
The next week I changed my bulletin board that had focused only on our work and study of good health and well being, to include a poster with all the 17 goals. The deeply unique and engaging visual of the goals helped, and I found the students were quicker now to embrace and understand these goals. They seemed to understand that these goals represented challenges they had the power to change. The work, the problem analysis, the impact they had made through out the year became an empowering new lens through which to view the whole of the goals. As we reviewed all the goals, the kids made connections between the goals and our learning and reading that I hadn’t explicitly pointed out to them, as well as some I hadn’t even seen. While I loved that they saw these connections on their own, I recognized my disservice to them by not allowing for those connections in the moment.
When we returned to reflecting on our learning and where their own personal passions would take them in the future, I was excited to find I had kids who felt very passionate about all different SDGs. I had several students who felt passionate about gender equality, affordable and clean energy, and ending poverty. These change makers wanted to dive deep into these goals. They were enthusiastic to explore the complex issues around these goals. They discovered a particular world problem that ignited a fire deep inside them, and I believe that our micro study of good health and well being gave them a play book of how to tackle a problem.
This summer I took these lessons I learned in my own SDGs teaching journey and added some amazing professional learning. I opened up the big, integrated, STEM unit plans we have built, use and actively improved and began looking for ways to explicitly connect our curriculum to the SDGs. I plan to leave my poster of the 17 goals up, and regularly ask students to make connections between their classwork and the goals. I also plan to dig deep into another goal. I think to create true change makers, my students must know what the world needs to be better and how to dig deep into the issues they care about.
Jenny has been teaching 5th grade since 2005. Throughout her career she has served in many leadership capacities and experienced a variety of teaching opportunities. She graduated from Elmira College in Elmira NY and loves living in sunny Yuma, AZ. She loves the opportunity to be creative and inspire passion in her teaching. She believes deeply in student centered, real world learning. Jenny is a wife and mother who enjoys listening to podcasts and hiking with her family. Follow her on Twitter @JennyKaste.
By Tobias Simonsen, #TeachSDGs Ambassador
Sometimes the SDGs gets criticized for being too broad and all encompassing--for being goals without tools for actions and for not being specific enough.
When I started work with the SDGs some years ago, it was crucial for me to think of the SDGs as a framework ready to add in tools and initiatives.
In the summer 2018, I had the pleasure of hosting International Centres Day, an online yearly competition created by The Goose Network for European Guide Centers and Scout Centres. For the event, individuals at the participating Centres received their assignments online and then carried out their assignments in their local areas.
Deciding a theme for the competition was a big honour and responsibility and offered an opportunity to start the SDGs conversations among the 10 participating represented countries. As the organizer, I decided to see the SDGs as individual tasks in a bigger picture and created an SDGs Bingo game.
Each SDG had its own task awarding 1-3 points depending on efforts (I was of course the judge 😉). If an individual did all tasks, they were assigned 20 extra points.
For SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production), the participants had to show how they were interacting with their local communities in their value chains. For Kandersteg International Scout Centre in Switzerland, this video was made showing how the scout centre is collaborating with a local cheese distributor.
For climate action, participants addressed a task for SDG 13. The World Organisation of the Scout Movement (WOSM), has made an environmental certification for Guide and Scout Centres called SCENES (Scout Centers of Excellence for Nature and Environment). For SDG 13 the task was to show how the participating centers are taking care of the environment at their local facilities.
Link to SCENES: https://www.scout.org/scenes
For Houens Odde International Scout Centre in Denmark which is certified with SCENES, this was solved by taking a picture of a sign in front of their firewood lockers, saying that the scouts should only take the fire for their camp fire that they needed.
After completing all tasks, the participants then had a simple framework to review which they used to assess the practices at their Guide and Scout Centers.
As a final task, the Guide and Scout Centers were asked to implement the game in their own centres. It was important for me, that the game did not only impact the staff members on this special day, but that the game was an activity that every visitor in the future could experience. The participants were therefore asked for the 18th task to design and make an implementation plan to show how they would keep focusing on supporting the SDGs in their Guide and Scout Centers.
At the end of the day, I was full of optimism and hope for our common future.
Through gamification, we created a space where new ideas were developed and best practices were shared.
You can find all materials from the day on this page: https://goosenetwork.wordpress.com/staff/upcoming-events/icd-2018/
Author: Tobias Simonsen
Ambassador & Blogger #TeachSDGs and #iLoveGlobalGoals
Board Member #VoresBidrag and #CISUdk
Public Diplomacy Manager - Future Leaders #Tunisia_Denmark
By Tobias Simonsen, TeachSDGs Ambassador
For me, nature is fundamental for all living cities, and I believe that nature has a great impact on how we are raising our children and the way we behave to each other.
When I walk through Copenhagen, I get a bit worried if we have forgotten where we come from. Clearly stressed, are we using energy drinks and cigarettes, instead of going for a walk at the harbor or run in the forest?
I grew up in a house with garden where my mother had to wash my dirty clothes each day. I was allowed to climb the tallest trees, and where my friends’ parents were yelling “Be careful!" my parents had the opinion that if I could get up there, I could also get down again. That meant, that I had to wear long sleeves to cover all my bruises so my teachers did not think I was mistreated at home.
Nature is teaching us to take responsibility and that all actions have consequences. Nature has formed my physics. Nature has sent me on so many adventures, and it has given me tools to be curious about the world around me.
Today, I see that we are more focused on creating the perfect formula for raising our children to have perfect careers instead of concentrating on the world in which we are part of. And, I know that times are changing with e-sports and social media, but in order to be ready for the challenges ahead is it crucial to be close to our roots.
And nature can help us with that.
Today, children spend only half as much time in nature as our grandparents did when they were kids. That is a frightening development; did we really reduce our use of nature to bike to work or attend festivals?
In nature, there are no winners or losers. There are no defined frames for what is wrong and what is right, and there are no boxes to fit in - which is totally opposite of our increased focus on performance and efficiency, instead of time and respect for individual needs.
We are planning our cities in the same way – rigorous and efficient. We are creating green areas by inserting grass and ornamental trees. I believe we must be reminded about our connection to the nature all through our lives. I would therefore love to see fruit trees and wild nature areas in the cities with space for biodiversity as supplement to the grass fields. I have, as an example, learned so much about not breaking the sticks where fruit are supposed to grow on.
I dream about a city where we take responsibility for each other -- for each other’s health. Where we meet each other instead of texting each other. A city where we are creating individual humans instead of creating humans to fit certain boxes.
There is so much we can learn from nature. Nature is for everybody, regardless if you are biking to work or playing football in the park. Nature is forming us and giving us strength all through our lives.
I believe we as educators are playing a fundamental role in giving the beauty and practicalities of the nature on to our students.
Therefore dear educator, next time you want an energy drink, please consider going for a walk in the forest instead 😉
By Leigh Cassell, Digital Human Library
Digital Human Library and TeachSDGs are proud to announce a new partnership that will unite the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with new Digital Human Library Experts. Our partnership brings together community organizations and businesses committed to the SDGs, with K-12 teachers and students learning, responding, and acting on the SGDs in their classrooms. These relationships not only bring together education, community and business, but create authentic opportunities for students to learn with the world, not just about it.
“This initiative is designed by passionate educators committed to creating global connections for students,” says Leigh Cassell, Founder at Digital Human Library. “The opportunity to build relationships with others around a shared passion and purpose — the SDGs — will help students develop as globally compassionate and competent learners.”
Our mission at Digital Human Library (dHL) is to deliver authentic experiential learning opportunities to K-12 teachers and students, and our partnership with TeachSDGs will help us do just that. TeachSDGs be the driving force behind a new Catalogue of dHL Experts who will be available to connect with classes around each sustainable development goal. These relationships will include virtual program offerings, inquiry support, opportunities for Q&A, career talks, mentorships and more!
“Imagine students learning about SDG 13: Climate Action and connecting with students marching in the city centre of Brussels to be part of the live Climate Strike experience through live webcam video” says Dr. Jennifer Williams, Co-Founder at TeachSDGs. “Digital Human Library is helping to bring the Global Goals to life for our classrooms — allowing them to take action for and with the world.”
Geography should not be a barrier to great conversations and meaningful experiences for all students. Our partnership will leverage simple and easily available technologies to create global connections for today’s learners so students can experience the world of learning that exists beyond the walls of their classrooms. By creating opportunities for students to learn and build relationships with others, we are inspiring the generation of passionate learners and leaders.
We Need Your Help: Please Take Our Survey
In order to inform the selection of Experts who will be featured in the dHL TeachSDGs Catalogue, we need your help. Please complete our short survey to inform which SDG Experts we contact to join Digital Human Library.
dHL TeachSDGs Survey
About Digital Human Library
Digital Human Library (dHL) was founded by Leigh Cassell in 2011 to address the urban and rural gap in education by leveraging digital technologies to broaden the K-12 student experience in ways that connect them with new people, places, and ideas from around the world.
Digital Human Library creates opportunities for K-12 teachers and students to learn with the world through social innovation projects, interactive 1:1 video conferences with hundreds of Experts, engaging live streamed educational programs from around the world, and the largest collection of educational virtual tours and virtual reality on the web. dHL is a resource that provides teachers and students with unlimited access to learning partnerships and the field trip experience, anytime, anywhere.
For more information, please visit the Digital Human Library website
TeachSDGs is a global organization of volunteer educators looking to change the world. In efforts to reach the 17 United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, thousands and thousands of teachers who have taken the pledge to teach the Global Goals bring lessons of the SDGs to their students in classrooms around the world each day through awareness, advocacy, and action. TeachSDGs was started as a task force of four educators tasked by the United Nations in 2016. Today, in 2019, there are over 30,000 global educators part of the #TeachSDGs conversation.
For more information, please visit the TeachSDGs website
Contact us if you have any questions, comments or feedback!
By Global Co Lab
The future of our world lies in the hands of the younger generations, and they are ready to start taking action to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and see a better, healthier world. That is why the Global Co Lab Network is now partnering with TeachSDGs to mobilize students and teachers around the world to work together to become global changemakers.
The Global Co Lab Network is a “do-tank” organization that brings generations together to exchange ideas on global change. Through carefully designed Co Labs, or small living room gatherings, we have engaged hundreds of teens, millennials, and adults in collaborative thinking on how to take action on issues facing our world.
One outcome of these Co Labs was Teens Dream, a project that has now reached teens in over 40 countries. Teens Dream holds an annual video competition, where teens create a two-minute video based on their dreams on how to achieve the SDGs. Winners of the competition are flown into D.C. each year and are connected to adult mentors with expertise in their field of interest. We then engage the teens in our Dream Hubs, which are virtual rooms focused on a specific SDG. The Dream Hubs connect youth around the world to develop specific action plans to make progress on that SDG.
So far, we have six Dream Hubs up and running, focused on SDG 2-Zero Hunger, SDG 3-Good Health & Well-Being, SDG 4-Quality Education, SDG 5-Gender Equality, SDG 12-Responsible Production & Consumption, and SDG 17-Partnerships for the Goals (focused on using art to promote SDG action).
These Dream Hubs are led by Teen Ambassadors, who receive support and guidance from their adult mentors. They hold regular virtual meetings that allow interested teens from anywhere in the world to join in, share their ideas, and start taking action. We advertise these meetings on our Teens Dream Co Lab Facebook and Instagram sites.
We will soon be unveiling a new incentives program that allows teens to earn points as they participate. By joining in meetings, recruiting friends, and taking action, they can move up through various levels and eventually earn the title of Global Co Lab Innovator and receive a certificate of participation that can go on their resumes or help with college admissions.
Working with TeachSDGs
We are excited by the enormous potential of our new partnership with TeachSDGs. Our Dream Hubs are ready to be populated by youth that are passionate and eager to start making a change in the world. The more students that join in our meetings, the greater the impact we can make on SDG progress. We are creating an important network that will not only produce action plans, but also connect young people to the mentors and resources that they need to strengthen their leadership skills and propel their future careers. We aim to give these teens an outlet to let their voices be heard and to turn their incredible ideas into tangible outcomes.
Our Dream Hubs also offer a great opportunity for interested teachers and adults working in these fields to become mentors for our teens. Our virtual platform allows for international and intergenerational connections that can be sustained long-term. We are seeking adults of all ages that can provide guidance and assistance, but are willing to step back and let the teens take the lead. Merging our existing network with TeachSDGs’ is a perfect formula to connect young people to teachers that are ready to provide the stepping stones students need to start making their dreams a reality.
So far, Teens Dream has seen inspiring successes. Our Gender Equality Dream Hub team created the International Movement for Resilience, Authenticity, & Activism (IMRAA), a female empowerment organization that has been implemented in several schools in the United States and Ghana. Our Good Health & Well-Being Dream Hub has started the first Our Minds Matter mental health awareness club on the West Coast and is working to inspire teens globally to start these clubs in schools. Our Partnerships for the Goals Dream Hub produced an hour-long art show on gun violence called Triggered, which brought together teen artists from all over the world. Our Quality Education Dream Hub led by teens from Romania, Indonesia and Trinidad are interested in how to make education more accessible and interesting. They are in need of adult mentors! There are many more stories like these in progress, and by connecting Teens Dream with TeachSDGs, there is unlimited potential to what can be achieved.
Join the Movement
The Global Co Lab welcomes you to join our network and help us engage teens worldwide in SDG action. Please visit our Teens Dream website for more information and follow us on social media. You can email email@example.com for more information.
How can you get involved?:
Partnership announcement on the Global Co Lab website.
First and foremost, I wish to thank you. Thank you for bravely taking your solitary stand in August. Thank you for speaking so boldly to the rich and the powerful. And, above all, thank you for inspiring millions of young people to #climatestrike alongside you.
With my own students you have been held up as an example of what youth can accomplish when they raise their voices. I have even suggested that you are, at this moment, the single most important person in the world. Many – including you – may disagree with that statement, but please allow me to make the case for those who don’t yet know what we do.
Climate change is not just about worsening fires, storms and floods that seize the headlines on a daily basis. It is also about the growing number of children who spend their days pursuing water instead of education. It is about drought and malnutrition and starvation – mostly in parts of the world that are least responsible for our thickening atmosphere. It is about the “tipping point” when melting ice will release more methane than even a zero-carbon Earth can handle. It is about the scientific consensus that we are only about a decade away from crossing this line.
Despite these facts some politicians, parents, and power brokers are telling you and your followers to return to your Friday classes. To pursue change from there. To allow the “more knowledgeable” adults to continue doing their work.
Some are worried about you. Some are anxious about their jobs or their stocks. Some are willfully blind to the realities of climate change. Some are scared. But they all have one thing in common:
They’re all wrong.
Confronting injustice has long involved bold breaks from the status quo – including the breaking of rules. Your detractors, for various reasons, seek to moderate your anger and shrink your sense of personal power. Thankfully, you and the approximately 1.5 million allies who just commanded the Ides of March seem to understand your true strength and authority. And you all have every right to be furious.
I want you to know that the vast majority of educators are on your side. To teachers everywhere I wish to acknowledge the difficult position we occupy. Entrusted with children from families of all political stripes, we are expected to separate our ideologies from our instruction. While some accuse us of indoctrinating students, others will criticize us for being unsupportive. When making your own decisions, I urge you to consider climate change action not as an ideology, but as a moral imperative that speaks to the deepest levels of common humanity.
Our students also find themselves divided. One group will die from climate change, one will fight in their names, and one will be marginally better at graphing and documenting the history of this crucial moment because they missed less class time. We, the educators, should want the second group to be larger than the third.
This does not mean that we have to organize weekly strikes; our students are doing that on their own. Some, however, will look to our faces when considering whether to participate in #FridaysForFuture. Freedom of Expression allows us to smile. Our consciences want us to dance. Our school mission statements encourage us to teach citizenship and activism. Tens of thousands of scientists and political leaders have signed letters in support of this movement. And the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, signed by every country on Earth, supersede restrictive curricula. So, yes, you can teach about climate change in any subject area.
Still, some voices will seek to silence us, too. Some voices will call for threats or punishments to students and teachers alike. But to educators reading this, please know that you can be the other voices in any setting. You can echo Greta Thunberg’s assertiveness and bravery.
You, Greta, have no doubt heard teachers say that young people can change the world. Like most adults, we love to say this. In this hypocrisy vs. heroism moment, please know that your teachers are immensely proud of you. So are the 30,000+ educators who drive the global #TeachSDGs movement. We stand united behind you. And we will encourage more of our colleagues to do the same.
Thank you again. And congratulations on the Peace Prize nomination.
Ada McKim is a co-founder of @TeachSDGs and a Canadian teacher of World Issues and Law.
By Breanna Heels
In 2009, as part of my degree in International Development from McGill University, I traveled to East Africa for a field study semester. As part of our research, we had to select a Millennium Development Goal to focus on, and I chose Universal Primary Education. Going into classrooms sparked my passion for teaching, and it was from this experience, I decided to pursue a career in education.
When I began my teaching career in the same town I grew up in, I wanted to share my global experiences with my students and connect them to the world so they could see themselves within it, I used the Millennium Development Goals as a framework for my teaching and in 2015, when they became the UN Global Goals, these 17 goals became the new framework I used, and started a Think Global, Act Local project. Throughout the year, we studied the Global Goals, and as a culminating project, each student selected a UN Global Goal to think globally, and develop a local initiative to work towards that goal, to act locally.
The Global Citizen Project is an initiative that started in my classroom because I believe that every student can change the world. I want every student to be a global thinker and a changemaker.
When I saw the impact this project had on my students, and has continued to have on those students, I knew this project had to be bigger than my own classroom. The students saw themselves as global citizens, became engaged in global and local issues, and didn’t just know about them, but wanted to do something about them. To see this project in action, you can view this video by the Ontario College of Teachers or read about it here.
"Never underestimate that kids care. You can't make them care, but you can empower them to care by educating them."
I started the Global Citizen Project as a way to share the framework with teachers in a way that is accessible and ready to use. Each month, the project focuses on one of the Global Goals.
At the beginning of each month, you will receive an email with resources and teaching ideas to help guide your class in learning about that UN Global Goal and completing the monthly challenges.
Each month, your students will complete 3 challenge that works towards the UN Global Goal. The challenges provide concrete and tangible ways for students to act locally for that Goal. You can choose to complete as many of the challenges as you like, but in order to become a Global Citizen Classroom, you must complete 3 challenges each month!
My greatest lesson as a teacher has been that kids care. You can’t make them care, but you can empower them to care. If you would like to join The Global Citizen Project and empower your students a global citizens, please join here.
Breanna Heels is a teacher adventurer. As a TeachSDGs Ambassador and Experiential Learning Teacher for Bluewater District School Board in Ontario, Canada, she believes the classroom should be a microcosm of the world and delivers her curriculum through the lens of the UN Global Goals. Breanna is a National Geographic Grosvenor Teacher Fellow, a National Geographic Certified Educator, a Royal Canadian Geographical Society Fellow and recipient of the Innovation in Teaching Geography Award. Breanna has been featured by the Ontario College of Teachers, National Geographic and Canadian Geographic. Breanna is also the founder of The Global Citizen Project. Connect with Breanna on Twitter @BreannaHeels and follow The Global Citizen Project @teachtheungoals
By Estella Owoimaha-Church, #TeachSDGs Ambassador
Let me begin by stating this post is over a month past due. The tardiness of this post does not diminish my impetice to share. I figured I should complete it before 2019 hits us.
In October, I was fortunate enough to receive an invitation to participate in the 5th annual Vatican Youth Symposium hosted by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (PAS) and the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) in Vatican City. My invitation came from Bishop-Chancellor, Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo of the PAS and Siamak Sam Loni, Global Coordinator of SDSN Youth. I was more than happy to accept the invitation as a opportunity to represent RFK Human Rights & #TeachSDGs.
The Youth Symposium is an “annual gathering of young leaders from around the world, discussing and generating solutions for the most urgent issues of humanity...It has developed into a leading global forum for young leaders in sustainable development and an intergenerational platform for building social movements.”
This year’s theme was “Youth Leadership for Integral Human Development - Laudato Si’ and the Sustainable Development Goals” which sparked dialogue and collective action towards Sustainable Development among youth around the world. The symposium featured several tracked conversations; some on education, some related to funding, and others around technology. All of these conversations can be found here.
The invitation to participate in the youth symposium came just after my 30th birthday. Forgive me, my vanity is showing, but I was all too flattered to be considered a “youth” for probably the very last time in my career. I was made even more aware of this when I met my roommate, Bugda. Me - an older Millennial. She - a member of Generation Z and current high school senior.
When we met at check-in, I was beyond shocked to find out she was in high school. A better word is impressed; a young girl, from Turkey, traveling on her own, to the Vatican, to speak and share her project in Sustainable Development. I, of course, immediately went into teacher-mom-mode, feeling as though I needed to look after her but she proved she was more than capable within the first few minutes we were together. I had to have a mental check-in and remind myself we were there for the same reasons. Clearly, she can take care of herself. She was one of the youngest participants at the symposium and had received the very same invitation.
Student voice is so imperative to my daily practice and to this global movement for sustainability. Whenever given the chance, I seek to elevate youths’ voices and concerns. As her roomie, I had the unique fortune of capturing her story. Below are some of her responses to the questions I asked her.
EC: What was your project or reason for being invited to participate in the Youth Symposium?
BG: I went..as a UN- Habitat Youth volunteer. I was the only high school student who participated in that symposium, so it makes the event even more exciting for me. The purpose I went there was to learn and improve myself as a UN- Habitat youth volunteer for the projects I’ll organize in Turkey. My aim is to build awareness for the young generation in Turkey. I want to start a movement in Turkish schools, because young people have both energy and the motivation to improve our world in many ways but they cannot take action because of the lack of belief and I want to change that.
EC: What was your favorite part of the symposium or your biggest takeaway?
BG: The most important thing I learned from the symposium was, that we need ACTION. We have a really limited time for making sustainable changes and we are still not aware of the emergency of the situation. We have so much to do- even if we [have] done a lot. There are lots of people trying to make a better place for our future with great projects from all over the world but most of them are not sustainable, which is the most important issue. Also, I learn that those sustainable development projects need great funds -which is hard to find. So, the collaboration of organizations and the humanity is really important.
EC: Why or how do the SDGs matter for you and your generation?
BG: We have only a limited time to save our world from...complex global problems. As UN mentioned, there is only 11 years left to slow down or stop...climate change and find solutions for the 17 sustainable goals. So, I think that in such a situation our generation becomes the last hope for our world. Also, I think that -sadly-, our generation is the only generation which starts feeling the consequences of theses problems, which makes us more aware. But also we have the motivation, energy end technology for a positive change.
EC: What are your plans are for future? School? Career? Life? Continued service?
BG: I’m now a senior student in Erenkoy Isık High Schools, this year I’ll make my university applications and I want to study Global Challenges and Sustainability for my bachelors. Then do my graduate studies on Media and Communication, because I want to learn more and improve myself [on] how to solve the complex global problems in our world. I believe that learning is not enough if I cannot spread my knowledge to the world. So, my current plan is after studying Global Challenges and Sustainability, spreading my learnings through effective use of communication...to the world and starting a world changing ACTION.
See what I mean? I-M-P-R-E-S-S-E-D. My interview with Bugda really sums up how I felt during the symposium and immediately after. Millennials, in my opinion, kind-of have a bad reputation. We’re characterized as either desensitized to the point of indifference, too consumed with social media or technology that we seem catatonic, or simply too cool to care. But as I sat listening to all these beautiful people from all around the world share their stories, their work, life-long projects, labors of love, and collective humanity, I felt a swelling of pride.
For, I think the first time, I was truly proud to be a millenial and a shepard, so to speak, of Generation Z. I was reminded that I am not alone in this effort. My role in the classroom is imperative and teaching the Sustainable Development Goals a non-negotiable.
Before we parted ways, she presented me with a trinket - a beautiful, blue, glass cat - from her home country. With this gift, I had a new friend and colleague in spite of generational divides and international borders. It lives in my classroom, on my desk, as a reminder of our friendship and a manifestation of my faith. My faith - always and forever - lying within the youth I serve and our shared humanity.
The morning sessions began with a message from Monsignor Sanchez:
“You will inherit the world from your elders. Young people the world is yours, you lead us into the future...Love into action...Change the globalization of indifference into globalization of love...Don't Sacrifice dignity in the name of profit.”
Profound words to kick off dialogue about collective work and humanity in a movement toward sustainability. I listened, with the utmost pride and admiration, to youth share their challenges and success in their efforts to meet the goals. Every time someone took their turn to speak, I could not help but process the same thoughts over and over again. And that is, teaching is the one profession that creates all other professions. This was even represented in how the symposium was divided into tracks.
When my theatre students prepare their college applications, there is always an awkward conversation around their major selection. Usually, my kids are afraid of hurting my feelings when they have to break the news to me that they, indeed, won't be majoring in theatre. It’s sweet but I usually respond with, “Good!” Sometimes they are taken aback and little offended but I am able to remind them of a few things. For one, their futures are not tied to my past. They must forge their own paths. Second, their skills as artists are beyond transferable and my ultimate hope is that I have helped them become empathetic-global-collaborators who are going to act in their respective fields with compassion, tolerance, and humility.
Imagine, a future where every student at some point in their early and secondary education had a teacher who prioritized community, empathy, and shared responsibility in shaping our world for the better.
This generation is the largest generation of young people ever. More and more, young Millennials and Generation Z are looking to be active. They are launching more startups and are gaining higher education degrees. Eventually, they will make up at least 75% of the global workforce.
Consider numbers in the U.S. alone. At least 3.2 million educators in in the United States. Let’s assume each has a classroom of at least 30 pupils (that classroom size would triple for most secondary educators). That would be nearly 96 million students. And, again, that’s just here in the U.S. If every child around the globe has an educator in their life who has taken the pledge to teach sustainable development, we’d end up with a legion of more than 100 million youth who will reshape the world for good.
I am lucky because I no longer have to imagine it. I witnessed it at this symposium. Furthermore, I was inspired to keep teaching for as long as I can if it means several more generations of young leaders such as those I met in October at the Vatican; such as Budga.
So, teachers in this movement for sustainable development - TeachSDG ambassadors - we are on the right track. We have to continue to prioritize SDG 4, Quality Education, and reframe how we view our work in our respective learning spaces. While our profession lacks the respect it deserves, remember that each day you show up to work is a form of direct action in this movement. We have to empower ourselves and each other in order to sustain ourselves, as well as this movement. As countries change leadership throughout the years, teachers will most likely remain in their learning spaces regardless of who is in power.
Our students are on their way to change the world, one industry sector at a time; one global goal at a time. We are on our way to creating a lasting impact in this movement one lesson plan at a time; one student at a time; one day at a time.
Possibilities for Collaboration(s)
Below are just some of the individuals and organizations that were represented at the Vatican Youth Symposium. If we are going to be successful in the movement towards Sustainable Development then synergy will have to take form and bring our collective efforts together. We cannot continue to work in silos and isolation, which is where we teachers end up far too often.
Hugh Evans & Global Citizen
Sam Loni & SDSN Youth
Dr Anthony Annett & International Monetary Fund
Tabitha Mpamira-Kaguri & EDJA Foundation
Tomas Insúa & Global Catholic Climate Movement
Jose Maria Del Corral & Scholas
Camille Bangug & Millennium Campus Network
Yi Jun Mock & SDG Students Program
Professor Fernando Reimers & Harvard University
Amanda Abrom & Global Schools Program
Kinsu Kumar & Kailash Satyarthi Foundation
Yesika Aguilera & Tespack
Christina Myers & Omni Institute
Filippo Veglio & World Business Council on Sustainable Development
Dario Piselli & Youth Solutions Program
Facundo Lugo & La Alameda Foundation
Thomas Preiss & Common Goal
Vanessa Fajans-Turner & Sustainable Development Solutions Network
Djaffar Shalchi & Human Act
Lynn Zovighian & Nexus
Estella Owoimaha-Church was recently named a Global Teacher Prize Finalist (2017). She holds an M.A. in Education: Language Arts & Literacy from Loyola Marymount University and a B.A. in African-American Studies: Urban Education from California State University, Northridge. Estella teaches theatre in Los Angeles, helping youth to employ performing arts as a community service tool. Mrs. Church is an education consultant, as well as a reading, curriculum and pathway specialist. Though in the classroom full time, she remains active with several community organizations, including Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, training teachers in human rights and social justice education. “The arts are a transformative tool; when paired with the SDG’s, the arts can heal communities and build bridges, cultivate youth into global citizens, and usher in the SDG’s by 2030.” She is humbled and looks forward to serving her community as an #TeachSDGs & Varkey Teacher Ambassador. Connect with Estella on Twitter at @eochurch.
By Tracy Williamson
Welcome to Room D138
Room D138 at Gorham Middle School is not your average music classroom. Steel drums, guitars, buckets, and choral music lines one half of the room, while the other side houses computers, laptop charging stations, headphones, USB mics, and MIDI keyboards.
Students with varying musical backgrounds burst into this room every day, eager to create fun, dynamic music. They combine traditional instruments and voices with cutting-edge music technology through collaborative student-driven projects.
Record Deal: Collaborating on International Album
I first learned about Project S.U.S.T.A.I.N.—Students Using Soundtrap To Accomplish International Necessity – after coming across a Facebook post. Grades 6-12 technology teacher, Ben Kelly was asking music teachers to join him in creating a collaborative international album to support the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs) by contributing one or more tracks. I immediately saw the bigger picture of how this project could offer a dynamic venue for students to work together regardless of time and place on a project that could have real-world implications.
Hook, line, sinker. I signed onto this exciting new project for my students.
Changing Policy, Changing Technology
Over the past 15 years, I have built a solid middle school general music curriculum that integrates efficient, high-quality student technology use. Through a one-to-one device partnership with the Maine Learning Technology Initiative, each student was issued a MacBook loaded with GarageBand, a digital audio workstation, which previously formed the cornerstone of my technology-based music curriculum.
I learned a valuable lesson last school year—the technology we use in schools can change quickly at the whim of the school budget.
In 2016, we introduced the use of Chromebooks, a change that led me to search for a new Digital Audio Workstation (DAW), a platform that allows users to create music electronically that would offer even more flexibility. That’s when I discovered Soundtrap, the first-of-its-kind web-based, cross-platform, collaborative music-recording studio, which would allow me to continue teaching my curriculum across multiple devices.
Best Laid Plans
By September 2017, I had a group of 7th- and 8th-grade students signed onto Project S.U.S.T.A.I.N. Each brought a variety of different musical interests that ranged from opera training, a passion for pop singing, virtual instrument experience, and electronic composition.
During our first meeting, students were introduced to the Sustainable Development Goals that the United Nations has set forth as a call to action for all countries to strive to improve the overall health of our people and planet.
Students starting by using Google Classroom to upload songwriting resources, gather information on the SDGs, brainstorming lyrics, and creating a chart in which they identified personal strengths that each would bring to the project. By the time we completed these steps, they had created three Soundtrap project templates in which all students were collaborators and were ready to start creating! Or, so we thought.
The Missing Puzzle Piece
Like many new projects, we did not get through it without our share of challenges. In fact, by the beginning of December the students had accomplished very little. Despite having a group of extremely talented and passionate music students, they were having trouble committing time to the project outside of school.
The solution came in the form of designating a 20-minute block during the school day as a regular weekly meeting period, which we later identified as the missing step needed for the project to truly take off. During this time, the students decided to focus their efforts on writing a single song. After many discussions and brainstorming sessions to define the goal of the project—and what people can do to create more efficient and cost-effective energy—they began writing lyrics and outlining the form of the song.
Working in Sync
Once they were ready to start recording, I carved out a couple of hours on a Friday afternoon for everyone to meet. They produced the music using MIDI keyboards, headset microphones, and other resources. We began with the students meeting together to coordinate their musical goals, and then splitting off into separate spaces to work.
By leveraging Soundtrap’s collaborative workspace and text chat capabilities, the students were able to work in separate groups, each devoted to recording distinct sections of the track at the same time. While some recorded melodies, others worked on bass guitar parts, with a third group developing chords and MIDI string sounds. Every time a student saved his or her work, the others received a notification and were able to sync their parts together. Their overall progress was monitored on a big screen and sound system in the music room. By May, just five months after implementing planning meetings, the students had successfully completed their song!
Throughout the project, students were creative, collaborative, and resourceful, as they discovered a variety of ways to use Soundtrap and the other digital tools at their disposal. Moving forward, I plan to use the lessons we learned through this process to inform my work with this year’s students. For those teachers who are interested in joining me on this journey, here are some strategies for success:
My students were thrilled when their song was included on Ben Kelly’s Project S.U.S.T.A.I.N. album. They also proudly presented their work at a district-level Gifted and Talented Visual and Performing Arts showcase in early May.
Indeed, this EdTech-driven project proved to be a highly engaging way to motivate students to not only improve their music creation skills but also connect their work to important global issues that resonate far beyond the walls of the school.
About Tracy Williamson
Tracy Wheeler Williamson is General Music Teacher, Choral Director, and Steel Band Director at Gorham Middle School in Gorham, Maine. She is an Apple certified teacher, certified Soundtrap Educator and Expert and is working on her Google Educator certification. Tracy holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Flute Performance from Boston University and a M.M. in Music Education and Flute Performance from Boston Conservatory. Connect with Tracy on Twitter @GorhamMS_Music.
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