An educator's journey exploring the UN Global Goals - Part 2: The World's Largest Lesson
The continued story of how one educator embraced the Global Goals and how you can get started in your own learning environment.
This is part two of the journey through the UN Global Goals for me as an educator. If you missed part one, check it out here. It is still 2016. I was on the adrenaline rush of my epiphany of "innovation hour". I knew this would not be an easy task... It would be an exploration of the world unknown for both me and my students.
To recap from part 1, I wanted to combine the concepts of "genius hour" with the framework of the 17 UN Global Goals with my 8th-grade students, all under the umbrella of "innovation" (my science classroom theme for the year). The approach needed to flow, make sense and be organized... because with 180 young teenagers, I did not want to have 180 projects all over the place. It was a year of responsibility for the kids as well. I wanted to teach them "soft" but crucial skills for adulthood like project management, responsibility, organization, and accountability.
I also needed to learn more about these goals, I had just glanced over them quickly before diving into this idea, so I took a few days to explore and really get to know the purpose of the SDGs and what kinds of resources and guides were available for teachers like me. Today, there are more resources, but back in 2016... I recall about 4 lesson plans. One was an introduction plan that I looked over and thought I could take some pieces of that. Much of what I was looking at had to be adapted for my age group, to make sure they were still engaged and challenged by the concept.
I learned about "The World's Largest Lesson", a key player today in the educational movement of Agenda 2030. They call out for youth around the world to take action and make an impact towards one or more Global Goal by creating an invention, innovation, or a social movement. The word "innovation" jumped out at me immediately, this was the perfect bridge I needed to connect this project-based learning to my curriculum as a science teacher. I broke the project down into mini-units, keeping the "end in mind", what exactly did I want the students to gain from this time spent?
I decided I wanted the kids to make a measurable and actionable difference towards a global goal they felt personally passionate about. Measurability was important to me as a science teacher. I wanted kids to use the skills they learned in science to eventually determine for themselves whether they made an impact. This also led them to be accountable for their own learning and takes the pressure off of me for trying to create 180 individual rubrics. I also wanted to keep my curriculum tied to the project, which is where the opportunity for inventions and innovations is textbook science, but the "actionable movement" I would need to see more about how that would fit more with science (spoiler alert, it wasn't difficult at all!).
I knew what I wanted the kids to accomplish at the end, what I had no clue about was the timing. How long did I want to dedicate time to innovation hour? How long would the kids need? I knew this was something I would have to decide as time went on. I didn't want to rush the kids, but I also didn't want kids to finish very quickly and have no motivation to do more... it was a balance that I had to figure out, and you will too as every learning environment is different.
Going back to planning for the first week of school, I wanted to get kids excited about science from the start. I planned for the theme of the week to be innovation. I wanted the students to have a solid grasp of the concept before moving on to introducing the SDGs. All teachers have their own big picture objectives, and innovation was mine. Yours could be different, and that is ok too! If you're not sure how don't hesitate to reach out to me and I can guide you. Other educators might want to dive into the SDGs immediately and that's great, there is no right or wrong way to approach the SDGs. For readers who are interested to see what my lesson plan looked like to introduce innovation, I have provided it here. It was actually a great success, so I recommend it!
After my students understood the difference between inventions and innovations, I felt that that was a good prerequisite to then introduce The World's Largest Lesson. In 2016, there was only 1 video explaining the project now (at the time of this post) there are three.
You can find all three videos here, I have embedded the one I used to introduce the goals to my students below.
I used Part 1 of the video series to engage all of my students with a mission, a mission to use Innovation Hour to the fullest, and create an invention, innovation, or movement that would make a measurable impact towards one or more of the UN Global Goals.
My introductory lesson was quite simple, I showed them the video and together as a class we clarified what exactly the difference was between an invention and innovation, and then we talked about different examples of movements. Since then I created a page on my site to make this easier for teachers to explain and students to understand. After the discussion, I wanted to have the students explore the goals, learn about what they are called, what they meant, and how they could be reached, they did this research at https://www.globalgoals.org/.
There are different ways to get creative with this kind of research. My students were 8th graders, so they were used to researching and finding information, but if you have younger students. I recommend gamifying the experience by printing out the goals, what they mean, and have students play a flip and match memory game in pairs (they flip two over at a time, if they match, they keep the cards). There are many different introductory activities you can do with a set of UN Global Goals cards, but I will blog about those later :), in the meantime, here are free downloadable SDG and targets icons you can print and use in your classroom.
For a more extensive lesson, there is an introductory one provided here which may work great for you.
The World's Largest Lesson helped me as a teacher to engage students in something that was happening outside the classroom. Whatever they decided to do, it was for a larger cause. This was motivating and they were very excited to get started, and I was too! Maybe a bit too excited though, because I had to stop and reflect that they would only have 25 minutes a week to work on this and I had to think of how to manage 180 different projects simultaneously without going insane!
In Part 3, I will share what I did to help kids narrow down their passions and how I emphasized the importance of organized project-based learning in the classroom and having students hold themselves accountable toward making measurable differences. I will also share more of the resources I created to help me, along with new techniques and resources that I created after-the-fact that I wish I had from the beginning! Since you're along for the journey, you can sit back and relax because I am paving the path to making it easy for educators like you around the world :).
You can be notified via email for part 3 the minute it is published, all you just need to do is click here to sign up :). If you are already on the email list, you will get it automatically!
Until next time, stay adventurous :)
Founder of Virescent Inspiration