Amplifying Young Voices in the Face of Global Crises
Last week, educational practitioners from across Scotland came together for an online learning event, organised by Bridge 47, City of Edinburgh Council, Learning for Sustainability Scotland, and Edinburgh-based charity Scotdec.
“Students are not citizens in waiting, they are citizens.” - Professor Pete Higgins
Over 100 teachers joined our virtual conference, ‘Whose Voice is it Anyway? Active Participation for a Better World’. The purpose of the event was to explore innovative ways to engage and empower young learners to effect change and deal with the uncertainties of the global issues facing our world today. It aimed to inspire educational practitioners to bring the Sustainable Development Goals to life in the classroom.
Professor Pete Higgins from the University of Edinburgh opened the event with an introductory keynote speech on what new meanings ‘Learning for Sustainability’ (a curriculum theme within Scotland’s education system) takes on in today’s context.
Participants were then divided into eight interactive workshops facilitated by experts on a variety of interrelated topics. A session on climate justice and responsible digital storytelling was led by Professor Ali Watson and Bennett Collins from climate justice think tank, the Third Generation Project, based at the University of St Andrews. Joanne Doddie of Fox Covert Primary School in Edinburgh talked participants through her approach to rights-based learning and how to give a platform to quieter voices in the classroom. Other workshops included STEM solutions for the planet led by Krissie Davis, global school partnerships led by Sandy Radford, and pupil voice led by Blair Minchin. A session on outdoor learning, a hot topic within Scottish education, was facilitated by Ruth Prince from the Water of Leith Conservation Trust. While a workshop on storytelling was led by professional storyteller Alette Willis and a session on literacy was run by Charlotte Dwyer of Scotdec.
To capture the conversation in a creative way, graphic recorder Jem Milton was illustrating live throughout the proceedings. Below you can see a brilliant visual summary of the conference, featuring some of our speakers.
Staying true to our key theme of voice, a live poll at the beginning and end of the event gauged how teachers themselves were feeling during the current Covid-19 crisis. The word ‘overwhelmed’ was the most common response at the start of the day. However, following the opportunity to connect and engage remotely with other practitioners and hear about new ideas, the final resounding feedback was ‘inspired’.
The impact of the current pandemic is being felt both in and out of the classroom. This event offered the chance to explore new ways of working, collaborating and thinking about the world. By bringing participatory and value-based learning into teaching spaces, young students are better equipped to engage with global issues and to embrace their role as active global citizens.