Let’s Talk Science and the Royal Society of Canada have partnered to provide Globe and Mail readers with relevant coverage about issues that affect us all – from education to the impact of leading-edge scientific discoveries.
Kendra Brown is a writer and editor at the Ontario Science Centre. She is also the author of Small but Mighty: Why Earth’s Tiny Creatures Matter and a contributing writer on the Let’s Talk Science team.
We all want to make the world a better place. But how do we do that? It can certainly feel overwhelming—especially for parents raising young people in a pandemic that has exposed so many of our planet’s most urgent issues, from climate change to human rights. Where do we even begin to effect change?
We start small, taking the initial steps at home and in the classroom. First, learn about the issues. Then, brainstorm how to help. And finally, take action. Remember: Even the smallest actions matter.
Get to Know the Goals
Many educators around the globe are learning, brainstorming and taking action with their students by incorporating Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into their teaching curriculum. These goals, developed by the United Nations (UN), are part of a blueprint for—yes—making the world a better place.
In 2015, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was adopted by the UN as a “plan of action for people, planet and prosperity.” It includes 17 goals to be achieved by 2030 through the committed action of countries around the world. Some of the goals include combatting climate change, halting biodiversity loss, ending hunger and poverty, achieving gender equality, and creating sustainable cities and communities. The SDGs are an urgent call for action, recognizing that all countries must come together in a global partnership for the future of our planet and its people. We must work collectively. Because we are all—humans and nature—connected on this Earth.
Peace, Prosperity and Power to the Youth
One of the most important ways we can work towards this peaceful and prosperous future is by engaging and empowering youth. The SDGs can be used as a framework to help guide us, whether at school or at home.
“I feel that SDGs are a great motivator and support students to come up with solutions to real world-problems,” says Joanna Sanders, Director of Professional Programming at Let’s Talk Science. “By coming up with their own answers, students can develop a better understanding of themselves which gives them a sense of purpose.”
Since incorporating SDGs into her curriculum, Meghan Polowin, a Grade 8 science teacher and Let’s Talk Science Teacher Leader, has watched her students learn how to become global citizens. And she is paving the way for other educators to do the same. Polowin suggests that you start by looking at the UN’s goals online and seeing how they are linked to what you are already doing in your class or daily life.
· Does your family cook meals at home using local ingredients? You’re contributing to Goal #2: Zero Hunger.
· Maybe you recently donated books to your local library? You’re supporting Goal #4: Quality Education.
· Have you participated in a tree-planting event in your community? You’re working towards Goal #14: Climate Action.
Polowin also advises to think about what you and the young people in your life are most passionate about. And don’t forget to ask them directly—kids and teens want to share their ideas and opinions. Go through the goals together and talk about them. See which ones spark the most engagement. Listen to each other and learn together.
Preparing for a Successful Future
The learning benefits associated with the SDGs are far-reaching, setting up students to develop the knowledge, skills and values they need for success:
· Critical thinking and problem solving
· Innovation and creativity
· Collaboration and communication
· Empathy and compassion
· Global citizenship and sustainability
“Sustainable Development Goals support educators in their mission to effect positive change in the classroom and beyond,” says Joanna Sanders. “At Let’s Talk Science, we recognize that. SDGs are a vital part of our Cross-Curricular Learning Pathways.” The new professional learning program, Learning Pathways, links STEM education across the curriculum, from history and mathematics to geography and language, to develop a well-rounded approach to teaching. The result is holistic education, which better prepares students to be engaged citizens.
“The cross-curricular nature of the SDGs is great,” says Meghan Polowin. “Of anything I’ve taught, this has been the most important. And it gets the best feedback from the students. Because it’s relevant and action-oriented, and they love being part of positive change.”
If given the chance—along with the right education, resources and support—these young students will transform society. They can be the positive change we need in this world.