In 2015 the UN published the Global Goals for Sustainable Development, in which they define aims like fighting poverty and hunger, providing good healthcare and quality education for all, achieving gender equality, clean water and affordable, clean energy. The Global Goals also strive for decent work and economic growth, progressive innovation and infrastructure, reduced inequalities, sustainable cities and communities, responsible consumption and production.
It goes without saying that to reach these goals – and other goals that students and teachers define for making the world a better place — humankind needs to strongly support awareness for human rights, empathy, creativity, cultural understanding, transversal skills, problem-solving skills, critical thinking and media-literacy as well as participation.
I provided a lesson plan for The World’s Largest Lesson, an initiative that tries to introduce the Global Goals to our classrooms. You can find plenty of material for teaching about the Global Goals on their website. I want to challenge all teachers to join the movement and connect as much learning as possible to the Global Goals and take action towards achieving them. There are 60 million teachers in the world, and 1.2 billion students – more than one sixth of the world population. We can take on a key role in achieving the Global Goals. Our students have the potential to come up with solutions or part-solutions for the goals. And student numbers are growing.
The aim of Global Goal Education is to show students that their actions matter. This way our students have plenty of possibilities to understand that social activities are appreciated. They’ll want to help shape a world in which the actions of social activists and social entrepreneurs are valued. Using education to strengthen social participation, academic skills, creativity, critical thinking and transversal skills will help prepare our students for a quickly changing future with unpredictable expectations in the professional and private world.
Establishing the Global Goals at your school
Here is a six step plan of what we can do even in the most restrictive learning environments.
1. If you are in a school background in which you are forced to follow a curriculum that leaves no flexibility and doesn’t contain any content that could be linked to the Global Goals, there are other ways to help your students participate. For example, you could hang up posters in the hallway, mention the Global Goals in breaks and after school activities and encourage your students to contribute, and connect with like-minded educators and advocate for more flexibility with regards to curricula and testing.
2. If you teach in a context in which you have a strict curriculum, but you can make decisions about didactics and material, check your curriculum for anything that can be connected to the Global Goals. Does your curriculum cover the topic “water quality” for Biology or Science classes? Connect your work with students to SDG 6.
3. Check, if there is enough flexibility in your curricula to not only study SDGs but also take action. Let them brainstorm what they can do. Let students invent a solution for cheap water filtering. Let them develop a plan for their own or someone else’s health improvement. Show them how to give a speech about better conditions for their own learning or how to make a video that can be used as educational research for someone else.
4. Encourage your school to choose week to be dedicated to projects that help achieve a Global Goal. Students can choose which Goal to work on and come up with their own plans of how they want to achieve their goal. If you have plans for a school festival, why not make “The Global Goals” the main topic. What used to be the school fair or summer party, now becomes a celebration of the Global Goals. Together, your class can create booths that provide information about each goal and offer something related to the goal. For example clean water (SDG 6), something to eat (SDG 2), something educational (SDG 4), or decorations with symbols for peace (SDG 16). You could donate (some) of your profit to charity or a partner school.
5. Combine subjects for bigger projects over a few weeks or a school year. For example, students can come up with an idea for a filtering system in the science class. In their English classes, they can create an appeal, or an advertisement, to fund the water filtering system. In their Music lesson, they could study how music supports the ad and helps raise awareness for a campaign. In their Politics lesson, they could learn which areas of the world might be in need of their device. In Economics they could make a plan of how to fund the project or become social entrepreneurs. If it’s possible, let students choose which aspects they work on and which teacher could give them the support they need.
6. If you are in a context in which testing and curricula don’t play a role, let your students lead their own learning and activity! Ask your students, “What do you think are the biggest problems in the world.” Let them make a mind map. Turn the question around, “If these are the problems, what would be the solutions?” Let them compare their goals with the Global Goals, research the problems and create action plans! Encourage them to keep broadening their horizons and introduce them to experts inside or outside the school who can help. Their self-direction and your support will foster fantastic development and great results.
A new school culture
If we teach towards the Global Goals, we will need every student to contribute the best they can and support their individual strengths and their progress rather than measure their “talent” or shortcomings. We can’t afford to leave any child behind, because our goal, the common good, is far too precious to exclude anyone. We will naturally work with our students’ interests. We will praise them for relevant achievements. We will make them proud of supporting others and their world.
Fellow educators, please get on board. The world needs you!
Do you and your students have creative ideas on how to achieve the Global Goals? Be sure to share your ideas on Creatubbles!