As a kindergarten teacher, I have the privilege of working each day with young children who are eager to learn and connect with their learning environment. I look forward to being inspired by our busy days together.
In the beginning days of school, I began to build a learning culture with my students through a big idea. This year our big idea was sustainability. We began by asking what we could do to help sustain and keep the world healthy. As we began to explore this idea I introduced the Global Goals for Sustainability because these goals were at the center of our learning. We put a poster of the Global Goals in our classroom and it became an easy way to weave the goals into our daily learning explorations. I explained to my students that these goals are promises we can make to make a difference in the world. I shared that if we make a promise to help, we are pledging our help to save the world. My students immediately become excited about this idea and wanted to know what they could do to help. I began by asking a simple question, “What do you do if you are cold?” The children responded with: I get a jacket, snuggle with a blanket and put a coat on. I used their examples as an opportunity to connect the goals. I asked my students to imagine that the goals were a large blanket that wraps itself around the world. The blanket represents the goals. The goals are around so we can all help sustain the world for everyone to enjoy.
Why does this matter?
The world needs everybody’s help. The Global Goals provide endless opportunities to build awareness and create a plan of action. The goals also translate to my local community as I began thinking of possible needs and opportunities we have and ways my students could engage in a positive manner to build an awareness for change. Children want to be a part of solution-based problem solving, and this can begin in kindergarten. A good place to start is with teaching how our actions of kindness can help create people who care and have empathy for others.
There are seventeen Sustainable Development Goals, and I chose to begin with Goal #16 because it is about being kind, advocating for others who may need help and promoting fairness. A good place to learn more about the goals on the #TeachSDGs site, there is also a Twitter conversation around this hashtag.
This goal sets a positive tone for risk-taking, support, and encouragement. Young children need experiences and opportunities to feel what it is like to support others and be kind. Through establishing these ideas in the beginning of Kindergarten we all begin to understand that it is about what we can do together, not as individuals that offer invitations for everyone to participate.
Creating a Culture of Learning
We created a culture of learning, by noticing and sharing our actions of kindness towards each other. Through our actions of kindness, patience, and collaboration my students felt connected to Kindergarten and each other. As we built trust, took risks and learned from each other we created a culture where all students feel safe, valued and inspired. Once my students felt connected to a classroom, we painted a map of the world as a way to show that other people live outside of Vermont and this Kindergarten class. I also began connecting with other educators and people around the world using Padlet, Skype, Google Hangout, and Twitter. As we connected with people I took photos so my students were able to see where people are from globally, but also how we were having conversations with them.
Connections with Content:
As I began exploring how to teach about the SDGs, I looked towards the content I was teaching to determine where the goals and the content meshed. I first looked at the NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards), these standards are a wonderful way to begin to think about where you want to start and what goals you will explore. As we explored Goal #13 Climate Action and Goal #15 Life On Land, my students were able to connect that through our ability not to be wasteful, we can have a positive impact on land and climate. Since the goals are displayed on my wall, the students make connections about being responsible for waste every time we recycle, compost, and reuse. This helps my students make a connection with an authentic action. I found a good place to start is by simply putting up a Global Goal in your classroom where your students can make a connection. Just by adding Goal #6 to our sink area my students are being more responsible for not wasting water. These visual reminders are helping to build their awareness.
Another idea is to ask your students to make a pledge or promise to the world. I have found this to be very impactful in my Kindergarten class, as students highlight the goal and what their action will be. I then ask my students to read their promises aloud, as if to the world, and they all feel proud. We created a board outside our classroom as a way to highlight our promises.
In my class, we are currently exploring forest life, and this offers opportunities to explore and expand on two Global Goals: #13 Climate Action and #15 Life On Land.
Through our weekly nature walks and explorations outside, my students are beginning to develop an awareness of the outdoors and why we need to take care of it. Through Padlet we were able to share what a tree/forest looks like in Vermont as well as what trees look like and need in other countries. To get started with this activity, we first shared our Padlet on Twitter, and I also asked families to share with family members and on their Facebook pages. I also shared on my Facebook pages with other teachers. We received responses from Hong Kong, Egypt, Portugal, Germany, Ireland, London and Australia. My students were so excited to see that people from 5 continents added to our Padlet! I printed the photos off from each country and we made observations about the trees and forests, then we put the images on our map of the world. This allowed my students to see where the trees grew globally.
Through our forest exploration, my students were able to reflect on what things trees need to grow and survive no matter where they are in the world.
This is what they came up with:
- All trees need a seed.
- All trees need water.
- All trees need soil.
- All trees need sunlight.
- Trees need people to care
My favorite response was #5 because when we take care of things we are modeling and demonstrating how we care. This idea comes back to no matter what the content. These ideas turned into a belief statement for my Kindergarten students. We now connect all of our learning explorations to the global goals.
As an extension to this project, we made a connection with a Kindergarten class in Hong Kong because my sister is a teacher there and she put me in touch with other teachers who are interested in connecting globally with another class. Now we connect monthly using Padlet and/or Twitter to share what we are exploring. Twitter and Facebook teacher groups are also great places to post projects and ask if others are interested in joining my class explore a specific learning idea.
The goals can be woven in and out of all content, standards, and learning. Regardless of the age you teach, the world needs everyone to care, now! What are some themes of study you are exploring? Ask your students how they can make a difference. What is important to them? Think about a global goal that would connect with their learning. Then take it a step further and think about a community need or school need you have. How can you build an awareness alongside your students and their families?