By. Tamera Musiowsky
How valuable is investing time in learning about education for sustainable development in today’s day and age? It’s invaluable for all of us.
When I came across a program offered by the University for Peace in Costa Rica through their Earth Charter Center for Education for Sustainable Development, I knew it would be a good fit for me. As a Grade 2 teacher at ISS International School Singapore, an International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program (PYP) school, supporting students in their journeys to become globally responsible citizens was part of our philosophy. I was also the Student Action Coordinator, a role essential in ensuring student voice was elevated and acted upon. The Online Certificate Program on Education for Sustainable Development allowed me to personally and professionally develop insight into becoming globally conscious, and then share what I learned at the school level. The program’s mission and values matched my own, allowing me to truly reflect on the importance of valuing our planet, its resources, our time here, and each other as an interconnected community.
One of the biggest takeaways for me was learning how the United Nations Development Program’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) could be used as a context for teaching about the grand challenges our planet and society is facing in the 21st century. I built my knowledge of global issues, such as poverty and climate change, while gaining a better understanding of the purpose of the SDGs and how education plays a vital role in our ability to tackle these issues.
Upon completing this course, I was able to apply my learning at school with staff in my Professional Learning Community. I would often share videos or ideas that were discussed in these videos, particularly those around systems thinking, when we gathered to share resources to advance professional growth. In turn, teachers either shared those ideas and videos with their students, or conducted their own research on a related idea. As a PYP teacher and Student Action Coordinator, I adapted course content and discussion outcomes to drive learning in my classroom and ensure that my students were learning about the impact of human activity and what can be done to support the planet’s integrity. In our “Sharing the Planet” Unit of Inquiry, students were introduced to the Little Earth Charter and used this resource as a guide as they explored the work that people around the world are doing to ensure the protection of the planet for future generations. For example, groups of students used a Visible Thinking Routine called “Chalk Talk” to write about and illustrate their thinking about preserving the beauty and integrity of Earth, then discussed what they thought were the implications for them as global citizens and how they could respond in positive ways. Meaningful video content from the course was shared with my students as well, providing a dramatic visual example of how human activities are impacting the Earth in such a devastating way, in a short amount of time. This really caught my students’ attention. Afterward, students discussed how they could change some of their habits, such a reducing waste. It was inspiring to listen to their passionate discussions and exciting to assist them in sharing the videos with the larger school population.
In addition to course content, I was inspired by conversations with facilitators and other participants, gaining a deeper understanding of the current state of our planet and its future through the lens of sustainable development. I also gained a better sense of the global perspective of initiatives occurring around the world through discussion and sharing, which enabled our cohort to make comparisons among our unique contexts. Participants from countries such as India, Iraq, Germany, Singapore, and the United States had much to discuss about our nation’s sustainability plans and initiatives to ensure that societies are meeting the needs of their communities. In the end, I came away with a greater understanding of the massive scope of the work people are involved in around the world to ensure the sustainability of the planet and its diverse species.
Professional development opportunities like this Online Certificate Program on Education for Sustainable Development are worthy investments of time for all educators who want to incorporate sustainability literacy into their curriculum. However, my students were not the only benefactors from my participation. I walked away inspired myself. The interaction, sharing, and reflection encouraged throughout provided a meaningful experience that truly brought the pillars and principles of the Earth Charter and other concepts to life. The time I spent learning content, discussing and sharing thinking with other participants, and then applying my learning to my own context was a true investment. Above all, I am more thoughtful about my own actions and impact on our world.
Tamera Musiowsky participated in the Online Certificate Program on Education for Sustainable Development in 2017. She is an international educator who has taught in Singapore, the United States, and Canada, and is an active member of ASCD Emerging Leaders. Most recently she taught at ISS International School Singapore where she taught Grade 2 and was the Student Action Coordinator. Previous roles include Pre-K Instructional Coordinator and Coach for the New York City Department of Education’s Division of Early Childhood Education, and elementary teacher/teacher leader at Alain L. Locke Magnet School for Environmental Stewardship in New York City. She currently resides in Singapore.