Whilst it can take governments a few years to catch up on science I think it’s fair to say that we’re all now in agreement that the planet is in a pretty dire state, apart from a few shoddy ‘trump’ cards.
But, how can we inspire younger generations to take action, and at the same time, do better in school, value the importance of education, and become better global citizens?
There are so many problems; it’s hard to know where to begin. When we look at the biggest issues such as poverty, hunger, gender inequality, global warming, deforestation and overpopulation, it can be even harder to relate this back to students in first world countries that, as a majority, seem so far removed from these issues.
Schools are tackling their own issues (staff, funding, parental engagement, ofsted); whilst teachers are trying to keep on top of their planning, preparation and marking, students are trying to hit their grades. So, what’s happening?
- The students are stressed, resulting in depression, anxiety, disengagement, bullying and a range of other horrible issues that young, developing individuals shouldn’t need to deal with.
- Teachers are stressed, resulting in less time to plan creative and innovative lessons, therefore not inspiring students the way they’d like to.
- Schools are stressed, as grades and key metrics aren’t being hit and teachers are taking more time off work resulting in more cover, lower quality teaching and higher expenses. And,
- The planet is stressed, because we don't have the time to enjoy, understand, respect and play in these environments the way we should!
“I felt ill, overworked, and powerless to change my situation. I stopped doing the things I loved….In the end, in desperation, I called in sick to give me time to finish the marking. The kids wouldn’t have their teacher in their lessons, but I believed a cover teacher could do just as good a job as I would do in my current state. I felt lethargic and couldn’t sleep. I spent three days, working 10 hours a day, to clear the backlog.”
When we try to tackle these issues the difficulty is that individuals, organisations, governments and countries have a very different set of values, priorities and concerns. How can I sit here and talk about long term sustainable goals over the next 24 years when another individual, the other side of the world or even right here in London, is thinking about how they are going to eat in the next 24 hours?
However, if we can create an environment to connect students to these issues, think innovatively and develop empathy and inquisitive thought, we can build the next generation of global citizens who can be the gamechangers of our future!
UNESCO’s approach to this is through a three phase strategy:
Basically, if we can educate individuals about these issues, create a connection to recognise shared values, and develop an element of responsibility, we can create behavioural changes.
We follow these basic methods in a range of subject areas; whether that's through a theoretical and practical approach or work-based learning. But is the experiential phase as inspiring as it could be? And, how can we engage the students that don’t care?
“An increasing number of students are depressed or anxious and are disrespecting teachers, withdrawing, refusing to do classwork or belittling other students.”
By connecting students to the outdoors and encouraging them to play in these environments, they’ll grow to love and respect them. More importantly, they will want to become ambassadors to protect them. Furthermore, by educating them about global issues - which can integrate and sit alongside their current curriculum - they will become more aware of their social and environmental impact whilst developing invaluable life skills that could positively affect their behaviour and engagement in school. Through experiential learning they learn and understand about:
- Teamwork - build confidence and tackle issues such as bullying and Isolation.
- Structure - value the importance of punctuality and routine.
- Problem Solving - develop innovative ways to tackle issues.
- Adventure - discover boundaries and build courage.
- Play - value the importance of learning through engaging activities.
- Responsibility - to each other and their environments.
In an ever-changing world it’s difficult to prepare students for life after school; who knows what the economy is going to look like in a year, let alone 10, or truly what effect we have had on our planet by abusing it for so many years. Either way, we need to constantly inspire and collaborate to ensure that younger generations become the change we want to see.