Embedding Education for Sustainable Development in Teaching and Learning

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Valerie Lewis, Educational Policy and Development Officer, ETBI.

Valerie Lewis is an Educational Policy and Development Officer at Education and Training Boards Ireland (ETBI), advocating for and supporting over 250 post-primary schools in the ETB sector, including our fifteen schools. She also leads out on the ETBI Take 1 Programme which our schools have been participating in and in this blog she tells us more about it.

The ETBI Take 1 Programme is a professional learning programme which has been developed from a desire to support senior, middle and teacher leaders, and students in ETB schools, to communicate, raise awareness of, and embed Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) as part of a broad curriculum, through the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

With a long held interest in global citizenship, both from my time spent in education and working in the development education sector, I was keen to utilise this experience to design and develop a framework of support that has the capacity to operate through ‘whole school’ engagement while also being transformative. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development contained a pledge that “no one will be left behind” and it is this mission of inclusivity, which provides the rationale for the development of a programme for all students across the curriculum.

The content associated with learning about ESD, Climate Justice and/or Global Citizenship education can be complex and vast. With a sense of urgency generated around the climate crisis, coupled with reported increased ‘climate anxiety’ amongst our young people, it is understandable that it can be difficult to know where to begin. In addition, schools are busy, active spaces with an already full and prescribed curriculum, the Take 1 Programme offers schools, their teachers, and students an opportunity to embed ESD in teaching and learning through, the learning outcomes of each junior cycle subject. Rather than viewing ESD as additional content, it is inserted as a natural element of formal and non-formal learning. The Programme can be used in a flexible and responsive manner while also aligning to school policies, whole school planning, school self-evaluation and DEIS planning.

Programme training introduces the concept of ESD, while also providing an opportunity to share classroom practice and plan for future embedding and action. Additional promotional materials including posters, social media images and UN logos, are provided which support each school in showcasing their teaching and learning activities.

This ‘built in’ approach also demonstrates an opportunity to respond to the ‘anxieties’ previously referenced, by equipping school communities with the knowledge and language for critical thinking about contemporary issues and supporting the development of informed beliefs and discussion.

Following engagement in training, participating schools are provided with an opportunity to showcase their ESD journey, whether just commencing or well developed, on two occasions in the school year – May Day for Sustainability and Take 1 Week.

Promotional poster for May Day for SustainabilityMay Day for Sustainability encourages ETB schools to share their engagement with all things sustainable by promoting activities on Twitter, with a photo/image, brief description, and the hashtag #etb_sdgs. Take 1 Week usually occurs in November and reflects a longer period of engagement for schools asking teachers to Teach 1 Lesson, to 1 Class, about 1 SDG over the course of 1 Week. Activities are also posted on Twitter with a photo, description, and the hashtag #etb_sdgs.

This year, May Day for Sustainability took place on Tuesday 10 May.

*The ETBI Take 1 Programme been endorsed by the Centre for School Leadership (CSL) as a programme of leadership professional learning in the categories of Teacher Leader, Middle Leader, New Senior Leader and Established leader3F[1].

[1] https://www.cslireland.ie/endorsement-csl-ireland/46-learning-to-be-a-school-leader/established-senior-leaders/883-established-senior-leaders-endorsed-programmes.html