Almost 150 individuals joined Thursday's virtual conference, ‘Whose Voice is it Anyway? Active Participation for a Better World’ which was organised in partnership by global citizenship project Bridge 47, the City of Edinburgh Council, Learning for Sustainability Scotland and Edinburgh-based charity Scotdec.
The event explored new ways of engaging and empowering learners to affect change and deal with the uncertainties of the current Covid-19 crisis and other global issues facing our world today. It aimed to inspire practitioners to bring the Sustainable Development Goals to life in the classroom.
Professor Pete Higgins, Chair in outdoor environmental and sustainability education at the University of Edinburgh, opened the event with an introductory keynote speech on what new meanings the curriculum umbrella ‘Learning for Sustainability’ takes on in today’s unprecedented context.
Participants were then divided into 8 interactive workshops facilitated by experts on a variety of related 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. While 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.
Organisers went to great effort to try to replicate online the participatory elements of in-person events. Graphic Recorder, Jem Milton, created a series of illustrations of the event live throughout the proceedings. Attendees were able to watch the progress of the drawings during breaks between sessions. A live poll at the beginning and end of the conference gauged how teachers were feeling during the current crisis facing Scotland and the wider world today. The word ‘overwhelmed’ was the most common response at the beginning of the day however following the opportunity to connect and engage remotely the final feedback from the event was ‘inspired’.
The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is being widely felt both in and out of the classroom but, as demonstrated by this event, it also offers the opportunity to explore new ways of working, collaborating and thinking about the world as active global citizens.