"Key to the success of the TAKE 1 Programme is making the data about the 17 [Sustainable Development] goals available and understandable."
The TAKE 1 Programme was developed from a desire to support senior leaders, teachers, and students in Education and Training Board (ETB) schools, to embed all the Sustainable Development Goals in teaching and learning.
With a long-held interested in global citizenship, both from my time spent as a teacher and working in the development education sector, I was keen to continue to support and promote the sustainable agenda in my current role in educational policy and development. My intention was to formalise the support of learning about the Sustainable Development Goals in our post-primary schools and showcase the work happening in our classrooms. I was keen to promote the importance and interconnectedness of all the global goals and the importance of learning about all 17.
Initial conversations with teachers and educators and subsequent research led me to discover that while there was a level of understanding about the Global Goals amongst students and teachers, the breath of knowledge across the entire sector, was more limited than anticipated. The information available and expressed by some was excellent, specifically in relation to climate change and climate justice, but when expanded to encompass comprehension of all the Goals, the understanding and application were more limited.
The ‘five Ps’ identified in the preamble to the SDGs — People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace, and Partnership — reflect the overall themes of the sustainable agenda and also align with the core values of ETB schools (Excellence in Education, Respect, Care, Equality and Community). This natural alignment allows this sector to voice support for the Global Goals, make decisions that advance them, and to take actions to help with their implementation. My aim was to ensure that all of our learners, in all of our classrooms, had an opportunity to engage with sustainability education and on a practical level reflect the philosophy of the UN Goals and leave no student behind.
Key to the success of the TAKE 1 Programme is making the data about the 17 goals available and understandable. Resources for the Programme demonstrate the potential for all Junior Cycle subjects to engage with the Goals in a formal setting and subsequently translate that engagement into action. Analysis of the subject specifications in the new Junior Cycle curriculum demonstrated that not only were there opportunities in each of the subject specifications, but often the learning related to sustainability had been highlighted quite specifically. Designing and producing the resource was supported by funding from Bridge 47, and it provides background information on the SDGs, policy alignment with the core values of the ETB sector and detailed mapping of the SDGs onto the learning outcomes of each Junior Cycle subject. The mapping exercise demonstrates that the potential to embed the global goals in teaching and learning already exists and that the Take 1 Programme is a vehicle of learning rather than an additional piece of content.
In February, the resource was provided to participating teachers following a training event, which was also attended by a Principal or Deputy Principal from each school. Senior management attendance at these events has proved useful in ensuring the application and growth of the programme at the local level. The training introduced the available materials and an opportunity to share classroom practice and plan for future embedding and action. Additional promotional materials including posters, social media images and UN logos, were also provided which support each school in showcasing their teaching and learning activities. All materials were provided in both English and Irish.
Take 1 Week was planned for March 23rd and asked teachers to showcase their learning, in individual classrooms, across subject areas and even throughout the school environment. The initial action of teaching 1 Lesson, about 1 SDG, to one class over the course of 1 Week, encourages teachers to participate in a seamless way, continuing to cover subject content while also raising awareness about the embedded nature of the SDGs. Activities are promoted on social media using the hashtag ETB_SDGS with a brief description and accompanying images and photographs.
While Covid-19 impacted on the classroom activities to be undertaken, teachers continued to participate online. Despite much on-screen immersion, a select group of ETB teachers volunteered to engage as a pilot group to continue to develop the Take 1 Programme from its initial stages. This group met online in May and commenced planning for the development of template documents to grow the embedding process across more than one lesson and to expand the learning across subject areas and the school curriculum.
To date, 125 participants have engaged with the programme initiative, across fifteen different subject areas. It is intended to expand the Programme into the senior cycle curriculum, mapping the learning outcomes in senior subjects to the SDGs. This new information will supplement the existing resource and further training models are planned for the next academic year.
While it might be difficult to comprehend that not all students are experiencing learning about the sustainable development goals, practical evidence suggests that busy school environments and a full curriculum are impacting on the potential to explore global citizenship issues on a deeper level. The Take 1 Programme offers schools, their teachers, and students an opportunity to embed the SDGs in teaching and learning, through, as opposed to in addition to, their junior cycle subjects.
About the Author
Valerie Lewis is an Educational Policy and Development Officer at Education and Training Boards Ireland. She advocates for and supports over 250 Post-Primary schools in the ETB sector. She has over twenty years of experience in the Irish Education arena at post-primary and tertiary level, working across a range of sectors. In her previous roles, Valerie worked in the Public Information and Communication and, Development Education sections of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, supporting the enhancement of their education programmes and Strategic Education Partnerships. She also has experience of writing and designing a range of citizenship education and training materials, both in Ireland and at European level.