Building Kindness and Empathy

Creating global projects got me thinking about the groundwork that should be covered before the connections with strangers can become a viable means to exploring global perspective. Finding global projects to explore the world through experiences that spark curiosity and intercultural opportunities is not difficult. The challenging part is building inter and intrapersonal skills beforehand; the skills to ensure mutual kindness, empathy, and deep learning.  If trust and respect are not formed, collaborations are destined to be somewhat superficial and shallow attempts to build global competency.  This requires considered preparation.  I found a website that is designed to foster meaningful connections among students, by doing just that-attending to the soft skills that are essential for successful global collaboration.

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Plate PioneerZ for SDG impact

Are your students Plate PioneerZ who make food choices to positively impact on the Goals? From healthy eating to reducing wastage, eliminating plastic packaging, sourcing closer to home and checking on the practices of food producers, children can roll up their sleeves and dig into Goals 2, 3, 13, 14, and 15. And not forgetting a call to them to fearlessly stand up for the children that are hungry right now and need our help.

Delving into sustainable agricultural practices, the impact on health, well being and having livelihood that enables choice, social interaction, economic independence, cultural longevity, all come from and provide healthy eating.

Bethink Global  offers more about global citizenship. If you would like further information about the use of the SDG’s to enhance global citizenship contact Marilyn or should you like to receive the Bethink Global newsletter let me know by filling out your details below.

from The World’s Largest Lesson 

 

The New Plastics Economy and the classroom

In 2015, 193 countries committed to achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations.  The extent to which that vision becomes a reality will in no small way depend on what is happening in today’s classrooms. Indeed, it is educators who hold the key to ensuring that the SDGs become a real social contract with citizens.

Today my discussion is about plastics.  The topic is enormous as is the issue for our planet. It’s too big for any one country to tackle and requires a global partnership.

There’s plastics and the ocean. Plastic pollution poses a threat to human health, kills and harms marine life, damages and alters habitats, and can have substantial negative impacts on local economies. Check out plastic pollution resources from World Ocean’s Day. 
Then there’s microplastics. Another useful resource is the UN Environment’s comprehensive six-minute video about the problem, including microplastics, and the role of global partnership efforts can play in the solution.

Students could pose questions from a viewing of this video and discuss actions they and their families could take. Could they create a community awareness program for their school?

Students might find this challenge from the Ellen Macarthur Foundation an exciting opportunity posed to scientists, designers and other innovators. Perhaps they could look at the award winners and discuss the results. Could they see themselves in the position of the those who took on the challenge?

Finally, here’s is a lesson from the World’s Largest Lesson on redesigning plastic packaging.

For secondary students,  this could be adjusted for younger learners and provides open ended, project based opportunities to enhance global competences towards global citizenship.

Marilyn Snider can be contacted at marilyn@bethinkglobal.com.au

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Grow good kids

Most parent I know want their children to grow up kind, caring, honest, generous and respectful of differences. It’s good for them and for our world. Fortunately, solutions are not complicated.

This article stems from the US scene but its relevance is global. It has some simple steps for parents to take to grow empathy in their children whilst combatting the negative influences that seem to hover over our shoulders on a daily basis.

Take Action to Step Outside Our Bubbles – And Grow Good Kids

SKYNESHER VIA GETTY IMAGES

Among the big lessons the U.S. election of 2016 taught the world, it’s that Americans don’t understand each other. Polls and pundits hadn’t figured out what was under our noses all along: that we have been living in separate bubbles, with little or no experiential overlap.

Within each bubble, one side is deemed ignorant, irrationally religious, or racist; while the “other side” is viewed as elitist, too soft, or morally lax. You know who you are – or who you aren’t.

When we fail to get to know those who look, dress, speak, cook, worship, work, have fun, see the world, spend money or consume media differently than ourselves, it’s hard to build empathy for them. They become a statistic, a member of a confounding group, objectified. Our treatment of others is more likely to be informed by generalizations, not personal experience.

Separateness even affects us neurologically, as parts of our brains fail to light up when someone we don’t relate to suffers. The result might be apathy, as well as fear, anxiety and loneliness, just to name a few side effects.

This isn’t how I want to raise my children. Despite the antagonism, divisiveness, and greed that seems to dominate the headlines, I want them to grow up kind, caring, honest, generous and respectful of differences. It’s good for them and for our world. Fortunately, solutions are not complicated.

Small Steps Toward Empathy Make a Big Difference

I’ve been researching the most effective means for thriving in a global economy and how to raise global citizens for almost two decades.

Despite the complexity of the big picture, time and time again, the solution seems to lie in the little things: How we treat the cashier at the grocery store and the types of stories we choose to read at bedtime spill over into how we see the whole world.

Since our children are watching us, these small gestures become their model of behavior, shaping our kids’ wider social environments. Indeed, a pro-social, empathy-rich environment doesn’t just feel safer to be in, it’s been shown to enhance children’s cognitive ability.

With years of exposure to acts of kindness and images of diversity, the ability to think creatively, communicate more effectively, analyze, and empathize beyond a limited bubble is enhanced significantly. This is how “soft” skills become the sought-after skills of 21st-Century learning and global problem solving.

5 Ways to Step Outside Our Bubbles and Grow Good Kids

Approaches for stepping outside our bubbles might be as diverse as a family’s daily routine, so I offer these ideas as a simple beginning.

1. Start with stories. The fact that a great story can transport us to a new adventure or a far-off locale points to the power of stories for breaking out of our shell.

President Obama recently told the New York Times: “At a time when so much of our politics is trying to manage this clash of cultures brought about by globalization and technology and migration, the role of stories to unify — as opposed to divide, to engage rather than to marginalize — is more important than ever.”

For Multicultural Children’s Book Day, Black History Month or any day, make a conscious effort to choose stories to read or listen to as a family that start with a perspective that might differ from yours.

Consider posting a world map on a wall, or keep a quality World Atlas handy, and mark all the places you’ve read stories from. Conscious of the travels of your imagination, you might not only stretch your curiosity, but also your geography.

2. Gain a sense of being part of the larger human family. It’s difficult to imagine beyond our confines if we never think about it or “see” what it looks like.

Family-friendly films from around the world, as well as picture books showcasing the diverse lives of children from classic Children Just Like Me to my new favorite, The Barefoot Book of Children, allow readers of any age to step inside the homes, foods, games and interests of children around the world. Vivid images help create connections and light up that region of the brain that triggers empathy for others.

3. Gently peek into the practices and teachings of diverse faiths. As I’ve discussed elsewhere, you don’t need to attend a long or unfamiliar religious service to start to appreciate a different faith.

Visit an art museum with collections inspired by those traditions. Listen to their music or chanting. Read short passages of their sacred texts. Learn perspectives of various parents through blogs or ideally, in person, informally. Read children’s stories like Prince of Fire: The Story of Diwali, Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns, and many others for a gentle introduction.

4. Enrich libraries near or far. When my friend Maggie saw The Barefoot Book of Children for the first time, she decided to donate copies to area libraries around her rural hometown in central Pennsylvania, an area where few residents travel outside the United States or get exposure to global cultures.

Reading a beautiful book shouldn’t be just for privileged children, and it might have the power to start bursting some bubbles. Helping “seed” a school or public library with diverse and multicultural books is powerful; involving our children in the project can also get them excited about choosing titles to donate.

5. Show moral courage/Be an upstander. With the rise in anxiety and tension within schools and public places since the 2016 U.S. election, there is a critical need to show moral courage, to stand up for those who may be targeted for their differences. How can we and our children have empathy for and stand up for those who might be different from ourselves?

You might ask this at the dinner table or in morning meeting at school. This short video recounts what it might look like for an adult to use one’s privilege in a daily experience. Good stories, like The Boy Who Grew Flowers, also can illuminate moral courage. This literature list for all grades includes additional helpful titles.

As we embark on a journey of growing our understanding about diverse cultures and ways of thinking, we’ll discover many more creative steps for breaking out of our bubbles, at any age. It’s good for our kids and it’s good for our world.

Science allows me to look at approaches to solve the real-world problems

  I become excited when I read of young global citizens coming up with inovative solutions to a global issue affecting people. Here’s an example fg a positive outcome driven by the inspiration of a student barely out of primary school.

HIGHLANDS RANCH, COLO. — In many ways, Gitanjali Rao is a typical 11-year-old: energetic and chatty, with a smile that lights up her face. She can also talk easily about carbon nanotubes, Arduino processors, the reactions between lead acetate and chloride, and how to think through a long-term design process – from concept to experimentation and building. Plus, she’s driven to come up with real solutions to big problems.

Last month, Gitanjali earned the top prize at the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge. She invented a portable device that can test for lead in water, which she presented to a panel of scientists and school administrators from around the country.

Project Sparked By Water Crisis In Michigan

The city of Flint, Michigan, has been facing a water emergency because there was too much lead in its water. This story inspired her work.

Kathleen Shafer is a researcher in plastics technologies at 3M, a company that makes thousands of different products, from post-it notes and scotch tape to medical devices and software. Shafer was paired with Gitanjali over the summer as a mentor. She says that Gitanjali has a “passion for making a difference through her innovation.”

Inspired To Solve “Real-World Problems”

For Gitanjali, coming up with an innovative solution is the reason science is her favorite subject. “Science allows me to look at approaches to solve the real-world problems out there,” she says.

Gitanjali focused on water testing as she learned more about the situation in Flint, Michigan. She heard about how limited the options were for people to determine if their water was contaminated.

“I hadn’t thought about creating a device until I saw my parents try to test for lead in our water,” Gitanjali says. “I realized it wasn’t a very reliable process, since they were using test strips.” Some strips labeled their water as safe and others showed that lead was present. The more accurate option was both expensive and time-consuming. It involved collecting samples and sending them to be looked at by professionals.

“I wanted to do something to change this not only for my parents, but for the residents of Flint and places like Flint around the world,” says Gitanjali.

Brainstorming The Best Solution To Problem

She started with brainstorming. She quickly realized that her initial idea – coming up with a way to remove lead from water, possibly by finding a bacterium that could remove it – wasn’t very practical and might introduce other hazardous chemicals into water.

She stumbled onto the idea of carbon nanotube sensors – chemical sensors at the atomic scale – after reading about them on a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) website. She discovered an article about how useful the sensors are for detecting hazardous gases. When an atom loses or gains an electron, it becomes an ion. This means it has a positive or negative electric charge. These ions are put into the tiny nanotubes with certain gases in them. The ions and the gases then interact, combining together to form compounds, which can be tested.

A Work In Progress For Girl

The article got Gitanjali thinking. Why couldn’t she use the same idea to test for lead in water? She started researching carbon nanotubes as well as the properties of lead and what sort of chemical would react with it. She also considered options to receive and transmit the data before settling on an Arduino processor, a programmable computer chip.

Gitanjali then moved from brainstorming to experimentation. She decided on lead acetate as the most common compound of lead found in water and chloride as the ion she would introduce to react with the lead acetate. Also, she chose to work with “buckypaper,” a thin sheet made from carbon nanotubes that she could fold and cut. Gitanjali then started making the first model for her project.

Device Named After A Greek Goddess

The result: Tethys, named for the Greek goddess of fresh water. It’s a small blue housing that Gitanjali built using her school’s 3-D printer. It has computer chips and a battery inside, a disposable cartridge that can be dipped in water, and a Bluetooth device that transmits the data to a phone. A free app, which Gitanjali designed with support from her computer science teacher, gives instant results.

The process wasn’t always easy, though, and that’s what Gitanjali says she emphasizes most to other children who might want to invent or innovate. Failure is part of the process. “Failure is just another step to success,”she says.

A  Few Roadblocks Along The Way

In the course of developing Tethys, Gitanjali hit numerous roadblocks. But Shafer, her 3M mentor, helped with developing the device and cutting her presentation down to five minutes, which Gitanjali says was a challenge.

Shafer notes that she’s a big fan of competitions like this one, because they make connections between children and working scientists. It allows students to envision what a career could look like and see that scientists aren’t one-dimensional.

11-Year-Old Also Awarded $25,000 cheque

Gitanjali is quick to credit not only her teachers with helping her, but also her parents, who she says have constantly supported and encouraged her “crazy ideas.”

Along with the honor of winning the competition, which is open to fifth- to eighth-graders, Gitanjali received a check for $25,000, which she plans to use to further develop her device and get production started (her goal is for it to be commercially available within a year). She also wants to donate to the Children’s Kindness Network and save for college.

She already has big plans for the future, studying diseases and genetics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.

For now, she’s already thought of the next challenge she wants to try to solve: the growing problem of adolescent depression. And she has a working concept for what she wants to create. She calls it a “happiness detector.”

Newsela

http://bit.ly/2AW6Y48

BUMS HIGH RANK SUBMISSION TO CLIMATE CHANGE REVIEW 2017

Source: BUMS High Rank Submission to Climate Change Review 2017

Sometimes highly politicised issues need another platform to allow us ordinary folk to digest the nitty gritty, the base elements that affect us all.

Coral Bleach, on behalf of the Billionaires United Mining Service, writes for those who know that climate change is real and affects people, not just ordinary people but those in the 1% of the world’s population who garner most of the world’s wealth.

“This is a paradigm example of coal investile dysfunction”

“We will @TurnbullMalcolm, but only if the research focus is on to protect our effluence!”

Follow Coral @TheCoalDiggers for more incite and illuminating discussion

What makes a great global project?

As part of Global Leadership Week I’m took my first steps to enter the real time world of connected learning.

I was to start a Twitter Chat on Global Projects  using the hashtag @globalprojects   

Now if you’ve hosted a real time chat you’ll know that countdown time is quite a tense one.  Is everything in place. Will I sound cool? Will I have followers?

But just 15 minutes before my start time I decided to search my hashtag.  Yes, it had already been used, which meant I’d be bringing people into the discussion who would have no idea what I was doing. Mad rush to change that hashtag to … #glopro  This one sounded on trend! Continue reading

Switched on Schools

Being the change you wish to see in the world.
Mahatma Gandhil.

Two schools across the country are showing leadership in environmental ansd sustainable change. Agents of societal change, students from Freemantle Senior High School and Melbourne Girls College are partnering with local community, influencing policy makers and through change leadership, are intrinsically motivated to make a difference. Pedagogical transformation to an otherwise outdated and uninspiring curriculum has led these students to deeper learning and more ambitious expectations about their own future.

In 2012, Freemantle SHS became the first Carbon Neutral High School in Australia by reducing their fossil fuel use, implementing renewable energy projects and capturing carbon emissions through tree planting and using a ‘whole-school’ approach and with the help of community partnerships, Freemantle SCS, cut their carbon emissions by over 15% in the first three years of the Carbon Neutral Project.

Watch their video: Champion, audit, partner, action, repeat 

With the aim of making their school carbon neutral

Melbourne Girls’ College is an award winning sustainable school, proudly partnering with the City of Yarra with the ambition to be Carbon Neutral by 2020. MGC is the 2015 recipient of the Zayed Future Energy Prize, receiving funding to put plans into action and now boasts an interactive PV solar array, pedal and ergo generators, a microhydroturbine and solar powered seal fountain with a strategy to reduce energy use to achieve their goal.

I had the pleasure of visiting Melbourne Girls’ College during a student led sustainability conference late last year. The passion, co-learning and collaborative culture among students from a number of schools involved in the conference was inspiring.

The MGC students also held an action to celebrate their school’s pledge and send a message to decision makers to follow their lead and power all schools and Australia with 100% renewable energy !

Huge congratulations to the MGC environment team, students, staff and parents for leading the way and adopting the pledge !

Victorian schools are encouraged to adopt renewable energy practices with the help of Sustainability Victoria, but so far none have achieved carbon neutral status.

The Victorian Department of Education and Training said two-thirds of schools’ total energy use was consumed outside of school hours. It also estimated that as much as 40 per cent of all energy use in schools is not essential.

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What is most impressive is that both schools have leadership teams that enable student led deep learning.  The students experience the CNP at South Fremantle SHS in all learning areas. It is embedded deeply in the school curriculum, for example in sustainability themes in Science, Marine and Ocean, and Earth and Environment studies. It is embedded in qualifications such as our students’ achievements and hands on experience in conservation through endorsed community programs such as the Rio Tinto Earth Assist Program. It is equally embedded in community service; since 2008 South FreemantleSCS students have propagated and planted over 29,000 trees in the school grounds, in the Wheatbelt and in bush-fire affected Toodyay via our ‘Seed to Tree’ project.

Tree planting in the wheatbelt

Tree planting in the wheatbelt

By involving students in deep learning they become active in caring for our planet’s future, applying their learning in meaningful ways inside the school and outside in the community. South Fremantle SHS is one of only two schools in WA nominated to participate in STELR, a national initiative that encourages students’ participation in Maths and Sciences with a particular focus on renewable energy. Twenty one students attended the 2013 Australian Youth Climate Coalition Event – ‘Start the Switch’ workshops, mentoring and training in sustainability leadership.

It makes me so proud to know that young people are doing great things to make positive change in their schools and communities. These are the global citizens of tomorrow, TODAY.

Taking climate action: Global Goal 13:

What is Global Goal 13?

“Climate action” sounds like a vague term. But it basically means doing your part to keep the planet clean and healthy. Ok, still not clear?

Channel your inner hippy for a moment… Continue reading

The A in STEAM and climate change. 

We are hearing much about STEM but I’m advocating for the rightful inclusion of the Arts and a place for STEAM.

I am wanting to hear from schools where leadership and educators have supported their learners to respond artistically to the issues surrounding climate change.  This may be in the form of the visual arts, music, theatre, dance, literature and or cinema.

Hoping to be proven wrong, it is my feeling that educators do not highlight climate change in the curriculum.  It’s not a hot topic (pardon the pun).  Traditionally slotted into the curriculum under Science and Geography, many educators are insufficiently informed, too fearful of tackling what they see as a controversial topic or both.  The links to many issues of global significance can be traced to the warming of the planet.

In the sphere beyond the classroom I’ve come across a group called CLIMARTE and a theatre troupe called ClimActs.

CLIMARTE’S mission is to harness the creative power of the arts to inform, engage and inspire action on climate change.  Climarte will present their ART+CLIMATE=CHANGE 2017 festival which will run from 19 April to 14 May 2017. 

ClimActs is an Australian theatre troupe playing a role of peaceful protest to support demands for social justice and human rights.  Using striking spectacle as well as satire to communicate and educate on the urgency of climate change, each act has been carefully created to address an aspect of the climate debate. For instance, the Climate Guardians represent selfless and fearless care and guardianship, the Coal Diggers epitomise the recklessness and insatiable greed of vested interests.

The Climate Guardian Angels in peaceful protest at the COP21 talks in Paris 2015

 

School leaders and educators, don’t forget the A in STEAM and broaden the opportunities for young people to find their voice and respond to the concerns of their generation.

Don’t forget to contact me if your school is already taking this approach.

 

Marilyn Snider is an Australian global education activist who promotes a dynamic, self-directed approach where learners explore real world issues and challenges whilst delving into deeper and more satisfying conceptual understandings. Creativity, critical analysis and action are hallmarks of her work. www.bethinkglobal.com.au