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Global Schools Hosts Webinar at UNESCO Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)-Net 2030

Written by Brielle Ruscitti

On Wednesday, 31 May, the Global Schools Program (GSP) held a breakout session at the Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)-Net 2030: Learning Webinar on ESD Pedagogy. The event was titled: Incorporating ESD into Primary Education: an Interactive Playbook Approach. The webinar series brings together a global community of practice, including key institutional partners, education stakeholders and organizations, for mutual learning. The breakout session was hosted by Santha Nair, GSP Project Officer for Partnerships and Events and Gabriela Chacon-Ugarte, GSP Research Assistant. The recording can be found at the following link.

Sam Loni, GSP Program Director, kicked off the session with an overview of the GSP and the imperative to empower teachers to transform their communities. Sam explained that GSP wants to bring ESD to communities around the world and was built around the notion of not only giving teachers the skills, values, and attitudes to deal with global challenges, but also empowering teachers to be able to shape more sustainable and prosperous societies. Sam closed by saying that “Around the world, we don't see ESD in curriculum, but this is a missed opportunity. ESD is a major contributor to other facets to education; we have seen it can increase attendance, teacher engagement, literacy and numeracy scores. It's a win-win.”

Gabriela and Santha transitioned into team introductions and Santha discussed the Deria playbook, which was a guiding resource for the session. The Deria playbook was made by teachers for teachers and specially curated for primary school learners to communicate climate science issues from the IPCC report. This Environmental Education Playbook was one of the Top 5 grant recipients from the British High Commission Kuala Lumpur in conjunction with Pre-COP26, in partnership with Ecoknights MY. The playbook includes elements of multi-sensory engagement for online and physical learning. Santha then discussed the framework for the session, introducing the importance of play-based learning, setting the creation of an activity as the goal of the session.

The results of a meeting poll on the main characteristics of ESD.

Following this, Gabriela transitioned the session to discuss the ESD principles, which include being learner lead, participatory, inclusive, collaborative, and action-oriented. She emphasized that ESD is focused on creating specific and real change.

During the presentation, there was a key discussion on ESD pedagogies. Gabriela began the discussion with an explanation of critical pedagogy, an approach that tries to criticize the current system and empower learners to bring about social change. Under this model, teachers act as a part of the team, not the owner of knowledge, but rather a facilitator.

Santha shared an example in which students broke down a complex topic for easier learning about food disparities and insecurities. Santha reviewed some of the key guided questions teachers can ask students while they work through the issues. Students can be guided to discuss the root causes of systemic issues and the questions can be adapted to a local context.

Gabriela added that these questions help students learn about complex topics such as social inequalities and the current system so that students can think critically about the topics and students can create their own solutions to change the current political or social systems. This tied in the use of the critical pedagogy and how it can be utilized in the classroom.

Following the example, Gabriela then moved the session to review problem based learning. She explained that students and teachers across the world face problems and these problems can be used as a learning tool to have students create solutions. Problem based learning is based upon real problem content, requires interdisciplinary learning, and involves incorporating many perspectives to create solutions, helping to show students different skills can contribute to their learning in different ways. Gabriela emphasized that team work is a major component as problem based learning requires students to work together.

Santha then shared an example of a simulation where students pretend to be farmers in order to understand the challenges faced in that sector and to create solutions based on their experiences. Teachers can then ask the students about their experiences to dig deeper on how they would solve the problem at hand, using the guiding questions, which can be modified based on student ages.

Next, Gabriela explained that collaborative learning goes beyond just working together, as the participants must agree on a strategy. This pedagogy seeks to engage students in changing practices that are meaningful to all. Students have to organize themselves and create their own strategy based on the group's abilities. Under collaborative learning, teachers once again do not hold all the power, but act as facilitators. Additionally, this pedagogy offers a way to increase stakeholder engagement as they can participate and find common solutions, allowing students to learn to work with various other groups.

Santha transitioned to an overview of play-based learning, in which learners are immersed into five critical superskills which are 1) physical, 2) social, 3) cognitive, 4) emotional, and 5) creative learning. Teachers can use any supplies that they have in hand to initiate this learning. Santha then discussed how to incorporate ESD into play based learning and discussed how the GSP materials can be applied and used.

Santha and Gabriela then began instructing the participants on completing the activities. In activity one, participants gave a brief introduction of themselves, and chose one SDG and one pedagogy and one objective change that they would like to work on in their classrooms. The second activity combined play based learning from theory to practice, and involved problem solving and creating an activity. Participants could use the ideas they listed in the first activity to guide their activity creation. Participants created ideas around topics such as creating a healthy plate, taking climate action, access to medical care and gender equality.

The event ended in reflection. Participants shared plans and reflections on bringing ESD into their own classrooms as well as suggestions for best practices. Participants discussed ways to build enabling systems that allow teachers to bring ESD into their curriculum, specifically when it isn't regularized or included in assessments. Participants reported that they would take away some of the implementing strategies and materials to their classrooms and share them with colleagues and learning communities, especially in teacher training scenarios. The closing comments from the group were about the importance of ESD for youth, in order for them to incorporate these skills into their daily lives and build their habits ESD learning from an early age.

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