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CELEBRATING JANUARY’S GLOBAL SCHOOLS ADVOCATES OF THE MONTH

Written by Abigail Chifusa, Global Schools Project Officer.


The Global Schools Program (GSP) welcomes you all to January 2024 as we proudly shine a spotlight on eight Global Schools Advocates who have passionately championed education on a global scale. These advocates have demonstrated exceptional dedication and innovation in their efforts to promote Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in their respective schools. 


Join us in celebrating their impactful contributions as we look into their inspiring stories and the transformative initiatives they have undertaken to make a positive difference in the world of education.


Erkan Sağnak (TURKEY)



As soon as he assumed his role, Erkan Sağnak, a Global Schools Advocate and teacher based in Turkey, presented his role to school leadership and fellow teachers to acknowledge his strong commitment to fulfilling his Advocate mandate. Since then, Erkan has facilitated  Global Schools Workshops with his colleagues and school leadership, integrating ESD activities within the classroom and at the school-wide level. 


For organizational purposes, Erkan promoted education on sustainability through five different activities. Firstly, he carried out classroom activity number  1, titled “Analyzing Environmental Literature,” to enhance literary analysis skills through the exploration of texts dealing with environmental themes to his students. Throughout this activity, his students read and analyzed poems and short stories focused on nature and environmental issues, followed by class discussions and written reflections in English, which improved their analytical and critical thinking skills and heightened their awareness of environmental issues through literature.


The second activity, which was focused on climate change debate, was conducted to develop argumentative skills in English for the students. For this activity, Erkan’s students prepared and participated in debates on topics such as carbon footprint reduction and renewable energy, using English for all communication. This activity not only enhanced students’ language skills but also provided them with a deeper understanding of issues related to SDG 13 Climate Action.


Regarding the third activity, “Documentary Review Writing,” students took over practicing writing skills by reviewing documentaries on environmental topics, which allowed them to

focus on content comprehension and expression and discuss targets from SDGs 14 and 15, Life Below Water and Land on Life, respectively.


On the other hand, classroom Activity 4 on vocabulary building through ESD was conducted by Erkan to expand vocabulary related to topics in this area. He used a wide range of interactive activities for his learners, such as word games, crossword puzzles, and group discussions using ESD-related vocabulary, such as global citizenship or social justice. Finally, the fifth activity was based on Sustainable Solutions Presentations. Erkan allowed his students to research sustainable practices and present their findings in English, using visual aids and clear articulation while developing their public speaking abilities. 


Alternatively, when it comes to school-wide activities, the organized activities include the Eco-Awareness English Essay Contest which encouraged school-wide engagement for the learners in ESD through writing, or the implementation of a monthly newsletter to keep raising awareness and keep the school community engaged. Additionally, Erkan has also undertaken several initiatives to further integrate ESD principles into their educational environment. One significant effort was the initiation of a 'Green Club' at his school, which was aimed at encouraging students to actively participate in environmental conservation activities. Some examples include a tree-planting event to implement SDG15 or starting a recycling program within the school premises to practice SDG 12, Responsible Consumption and Production.


To promote sustainable-friendly activities to other departments, he also collaborated with colleagues and helped them integrate ESD topics into their curriculum. A notable example is the science department, where Erkan worked with other teachers to incorporate modules on sustainable technologies and renewable energy sources. This interdisciplinary approach has not only enriched the students’ learning experience but also fostered a more cohesive and comprehensive understanding of sustainability across different subjects.


Reflecting on his journey as a Global Schools Advocate, Erkan describes it as incredibly rewarding, and he looks forward to further contributing to this vital initiative.



Irena Biba (ALBANIA)



Irena Biba, a passionate GSP Advocate from Albania, has been working on promoting the SDGs for the last year. With the help of her students and fellow colleagues, she successfully conducted a wide range of activities to implement ESD in their school. For example, Irena and her students have conducted 17 episodes of podcasts on the 17 SDGs to discuss the importance of each and how they can work to achieve them. Other activities conducted include tree planting projects or activities on waste of food and management awareness by writing articles on this topic.  


However, one activity for which Irena is incredibly proud is the activity on a water plant with micro:bit, a small and versatile computer that is programmed to water the plants. This activity not only taught the students how to resolve problems by taking advantage of technology, but it also helped them develop STEM skills while learning about the importance of caring for the environment. What’s more, his activity scooped them a top 3 position at the UNICEF Albania Inspire Awards 2023 Innovation & Creativity Sustainability, which is an incredible achievement. 


Other activities carried out by Irena and her students include an art exhibition focusing on green and renewable energy, gifts presented to students with disabilities by the Council of Students to raise awareness, the creation of a green city in Minecraft developed  3 students, the viewing of the film to educate on technological advancements, or a storytelling project by grade 8 students that discussed the topic “My sustainable future school, a debate on how war is affecting in education.” Thanks to all these activities, Irena was able to focus on almost all the SDGs, including  SDG 4 Quality Education, SDG 7 Affordable and Clean Energy, SDG 10 Reduced Inequalities, SDG 12 Responsible Consumption and Production, and SDG 16 Peace Justice and Strong Institutions.


Looking ahead, Irena will be collaborating with the Albanian team of UNICEF and is planning to do more activities with students. 



N. Merve HATIPOĞLU(TURKEY)



Since starting her Advocacy journey, N. Merve HATIPOĞLU, a GSP Advocate from Turkey, has successfully brought sustainability to her school. Working at both the classroom and school-wide levels,  Merve has focused on utilizing art to promote sustainability. One of the most notable in-classroom activities includes the designing of posters and slogans. While 5th-grade students created posters on the vitality of reducing plastic use and avoiding water pollution which promotes SDGs 12 and 6, grade 6th focused on preventing climate change and the results of human actions. After completing their slogan and poster activities, the students hung them on the walls of the school to raise awareness on such important topics. 


Additionally, another relevant activity conducted was the Living Science eTwinning project with the school’s partners from Poland. Students from both countries enjoyed the virtual exchange while completing scientific activities and talking about nature and the targets of SDG 15. This activity represented an incredible opportunity, as thanks to it, students were able to understand the importance of global cooperation and other skills related to global citizenship.


As for the school-wide activities, Merve and the students applied to volunteer for TEMA, a foundation focused on protecting nature in Turkey, which included activities to learn about soil, water, and other aspects of biodiversity, which the students highly enjoyed. What’s more, to recognize the efforts, learners received their volunteering bracelets from the center of TEMA at the end of their volunteering program. 


The second notable activity that Merve carried out at the school-wide level was the so-called "Collect-Transform-Design" activity, where students organized an event in cooperation with the foreign languages group within the scope of the Zero Waste program. In this regard, the students produced environmentally friendly designs using waste materials and gained experience in sustainability and creativity, all while practicing SDG 12. In the end, after being judged by students as part of the school’s “Eco-team,” some groups were awarded for their initiatives. This event, as well as the rest of the activities by Merve, marks an important step in instilling sustainability awareness in students, developing their creativity, and making learning fun.



Sajan S (INDIA) 



For Sajan S, a physics teacher for senior secondary students, working as a Global Schools Advocate has been equally interesting and challenging. However, since the beginning, he has had the clarity of his purpose and confidence in his school community that he could empower them to integrate ESD into their curriculum. Being a leader in promoting awareness of sustainable development, Sajan has organized various activities that are small steps to a better future. Some of the activities he led included the celebration of several UN days to promote various SDGs related to that day, like World AIDS Day. 


As for the methodologies used by Sajan, he mainly focused on two. Firstly, with a passion for including creativity in his projects, he adopted the art-integrated activity method as an instructional method for implementing the SDGs into the curricular topics. Secondly, he took advantage of the project method to achieve his goals. For example, one of the most notable projects for his grade 12 students was food waste management within the school, which consisted of leading the learners in developing sustainable solutions for food waste management at home and school. On the other hand, another remarkable project was the climate action project for grade 11. By incorporating the topic of the greenhouse effect and global warming with education on environmental pollution, Sajan was able to educate the children about the importance of cleaning their environment and recycling, which resulted in students cleaning the school backyard, making a medicinal plant garden, and learning to make compost bins.


Finally, other school-wide activities include the science exhibition discussing several SDGs, weekly quizzes on sustainability topics during the school assembly, donation drives, notice board to display new information related to SDGs, collaborating with his colleagues for implementing GSP’s lesson plans, preparing lessons on SDGs 8 and 11, and more. Thanks to these efforts, Sajan has made hundreds of students understand and develop skills as global citizenship, conflict resolution, collaboration, creativity, and values like empathy and compassion. 



Rosanna Chatterton-Sparks (UK)



Since learning about the SDGs and ESD earlier last year,  Advocate Rosanna Chatterton-Sparks from the UK has had the chance to refresh her knowledge and put it into action with her advocacy journey. She recapped the SDGs and provided resources for the teachers and students. Rosanna recapped the ESD competencies and also provided examples for each, especially for some of her colleagues who were unsure what they meant or how they could be embedded into the learning.


Rosanna then introduced ESD competency-based targets for the students, allowing the teachers to write some targets and plan how they will be achieved within their lessons. The discussions were around incorporating ESD into the curriculum and ensuring cross-curricular links. However, encouraging the implementation of this and ensuring it is incorporated into the existing curriculum rather than in addition to it was met with very positive responses. 


The Advocate also wrote some ESD targets that could be tracked alongside the curriculum-based targets so that the teachers and students become more familiar with the setup. These targets were added to the target tracker. Finally, within this workshop, the participants discussed projects based on the unit topics and mapped out which SDGs these topics related to.


On the other hand, to find project ideas linked to the SDGs, Rosanna introduced the primary teachers and students to a platform called Earth Cubs, which provides project ideas linked to each of the Goals. She completed the training to become an 'expert facilitator' and gave the opportunity for the primary students to have a full 3 weeks of project-based learning linked directly to these activities and the SDGs.


Being a  small online school, Rosanna’s school is able to have lessons in the metaverse. The students went into a VR platform and built their own coral reefs and added the relevant assets for each scene. They also looked at mangroves, afforestation, and the oceans. They created their own digital stories using Canva.


The senior students at Rosanna’s school continued to develop their ESD competencies in the virtual world of FrameVR. They designed and built their own immersive spaces, where they invited other learners in order to allow them to share their building and learning.


Additionally, Rosanna attended the Summit of the Future Virtual Consultations and submitted written input for the Zero Draft of the Pact for the Future. The main area of focus focused on 'When you want to change the world, start with education.' Within the submission, she continues to call for ESD and GCED to be a required area within all curriculums, with a focus on ESD competencies and future skills development.


Rosanna has also been asked to present at a conference to international educators and stakeholders about the ESD work she has been doing with the students at her school. 


December also saw Rosanna begin the journey of the Ted Ed student talks program, which she and the students were thrilled to be taking part in.


Furthermore, Rosanna also submitted an application for the school to become a Climate Action school as they have joined and taken part in the Climate Action project and the LEGO Build the Change project.


Jackie Namakula (UGANDA)



With innovation at the forefront of her work, Jackie Namakula, a GSP advocate from Uganda, has successfully implemented ESD in unique and particular ways. One of her most notable works is her and her colleague’s work in leading their students to actively participate in the First LEGO League Robotics Training and competitions. By bringing together participants aged 9 to 16 from nine different schools, the event involved a two-week training program focused on competing in robotics construction and the performance of designated tasks. For the occasion, Jackie and her colleagues put together a team of three girls and one boy in an effort to encourage more females into STEM fields, aligning with SDGs 10 (Reduced Inequalities) and 4 (Quality Education). Successfully, Jackie’s Team Mengo Senior was honored with a trophy for the Best Organized Team Operation, highlighting the success of their collective efforts. The competition and training sessions not only served to enhance Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) but also helped the students cultivate skills and values such as confidence, teamwork, communication, and critical thinking. What’s more, the experience demonstrated that learning extends beyond the classroom, emphasizing character-building, values, and skills.


Besides the aforementioned project, Jackie has also worked in several other activities, one of them being a  speech competition centered on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. By inviting students from all levels to share their perspectives under the theme "A World Through My Eyes," participants researched and addressed SDGs, focusing on national and global scores while proposing solutions. The objective was to develop public speaking skills, along with fostering communication, analysis, creative thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, organization, self-drive, confidence, and a sense of responsibility. The SDGs discussed included No Poverty, Good Health, Quality Education, Gender Equality, Reduced Inequalities, Sustainable Cities and Communities, Climate Change, and Peace and Justice.


The competition showcased a blend of statistics and compelling public communication, leading to the selection of three finalists who will compete at the next level in the upcoming term of 2024. Despite the challenges posed by the tight exam season, the school administration's support ensured the success of this impactful activity at Jackie’s school, with all participants set to receive certificates of merit in Public Speech.


Dr. Johnson Palakkappillil (QATAR)



Having the chance to travel internationally, Dr. Johnson Palakkappillil, a Global Schools Program (GSP) Advocate from Qatar, has successfully brought ESD to other countries. For example, during an extended visit to India, he successfully introduced a millet garden at Sacred Heart Degree College in Sitapur, Uttar Pradesh, aligning it with SDGs 1, 2, and 15. His other impactful engagements included sessions at two national conferences in India, emphasizing Environmental and Sustainable Development (ESD). Additionally, reflecting on his experiences, Dr. Palakkappillil shared insights from an international trip to Georgia, where discussions on SDGs were held with Georgian students. 


On the other hand, in his home country, he commended the pronounced integration of ESD elements in the Rajagiri Fest, recognizing his role in fostering SDG thinking on campus. The fest showcased various programs aligning with SDGs, such as the KG program "Chrysalis" addressing climate change (SDG 13) and the 7th graders' "Harvest of Hope" directly related to SDG 2 of 'zero hunger' and 'climate action.' Additionally, the 9th  graders explored global outlook through literary journeys, touching upon SDGs 14 and 15 (diversity) and global cooperation for goals (SDG 17). A strong emphasis on sustainability continued on the second day, featuring a program by fourth graders that looked into global warming and the impact of individual actions. The fest served as an enriching experiment in talent and skill development for children, with nearly 60% of students making stage appearances. This provided a significant milestone, breaking barriers and showcasing the potential of school education despite its limitations.


Finally, in his address, Dr. Palakkappillil highlighted the school's value orientation, emphasizing global citizenship as a core value that aligns with SDGs. He expressed the need for training, action, and parental involvement in realizing these goals, fostering a continued dialogue with parents and teachers.


Hafsa Khan (INDIA)



Hafsa Khan, the Academic Director of Learners Academy and the Principal of Enaraa High School Suncity stands as a guide of educational innovation and social impact. Her dedicated efforts as a Global Schools Advocate have brought change to 15 Primary and High Schools across Hyderabad, South India. Introducing and championing the SDGs with the help of her mentor, Neetu Luthra, she has created a narrative of global awareness and local action.


However, Hafsa's initiatives extend beyond the classroom, reaching communities through workshops on quality education and community outreach programs. Some of her activities include leading her school's student cabinet team, organizing health camps, and fostering holistic well-being. 


But for Hafsa, her proudest moment was organizing STEMTATION, a captivating science fair inspiring young minds. Focusing on different topics for different grades, students were able to learn different topics related to sustainability. For example, while grades 1 & 2 learned about the "Wheel Cycle of Life," clarifying the marvels of nature, plants, animals, and the seasons, grades 3 to 5 embarked on a global adventure with "Around the World," exploring continents and presenting captivating country projects. Alternatively, for grades 6 to 10, "From Stone Age to Solar Age" stole the spotlight, featuring awe-inspiring displays, including a model of the recent Chandrayaan launch and insights into ISRO's satellite launches. The fair summarized a journey through knowledge, sparking curiosity at every turn.


Additionally, Hafsa organized several other activities, including a heritage walk, a Nutrition Week highlighting the importance of well-balanced lifestyles,  the celebration of National Girl Day, and a charity initiative where students distributed woolens and blankets to the less fortunate, spreading warmth and hope. This last act not only aligns with SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-being) but also addresses SDG 10 (Reduced Inequalities) by fostering inclusivity and care within our community. 


As we see, Hafsa’s inspiring endeavors not only benefit the community but promote core values as empathy and collective responsibility, embodying the true essence of a global citizen. 

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