One of the reasons why I started working as an educator for sustainability is the fact that I'm also an architect. How to design and build - that's just one part of the story. What to design and build, and why, is just as important. At a certain point I realised that I can, and want to, contribute to sustainable architecture through education because that way I can help the future generations of users, investors and architects to make more informed decisions. My subsequent learning journey made me want to contribute to the creation of a regenerative culture in a much wider sense.
I got further education through Gaia Education programmes about the ecological, social, economic and worldview dimensions of sustainability, about designing and organising intentional ecological communities and about multiplying Sustainable Development Goals. I became a certified Gaia Education trainer. I created the proposal for the transformation of a Mexican village into an ecovillage. I designed and facilitated many participatory workshops about sustainability, design and teamwork, for schools, universities, civil and professional associations and local communities. But I always wanted to work with teachers because I knew their influence was huge, perhaps even crucial.
And so, between 2019 and 2021, I worked as the leader for the development of teaching scenarios for Sustainable Development for Croatian primary and high schools. The scenarios give teachers instructions and ideas on how to include sustainability into teaching their own subjects, without giving them too much extra work, so that students can learn about every sustainability topic from the perspectives of various subjects, through learning that is active, participatory, related to everyday life and transformational. I spoke about the project here. The teamwork with teachers was beautiful and their creativity and enthusiasm touched me and made ma happy many times.
Now that the project is completed and the 50 scenarios with almost 250 activities for all kinds of subjects are available online, I hope that this year they will start being massively used in classrooms. They are in Croatian, but here is the English translation of a German Language activity from a scenario that rethinks our goals in terms of home ownership and the ways in which they can be satisfied.
A Modern Age Student
In order to motivate the students and introduce them to the topic, make a survey about their plans for university studies. You can ask them about what they want to study, where they want to study, different possibilities for dwelling while studying and what kind of dwelling they would choose if they studied away from home. You can create and execute the survey using a tool for online surveys, such as Google Forms.
Display the survey results and encourage a quick discussion based on the results. Encourage the students to discuss them by asking about the pros and cons of the big number of students in big cities, about residence capacities (student residences, subsidised dwellings) and private residences (owned or rented apartments).
Split the students into groups and assign them the role of experts for solving dwelling issues of students. Point them to the web to explore the dwelling opportunities for students in German-speaking countries, as well as the dwelling type they most commonly choose and why that is so. Explain to them how to use the gathered information to compare the dwelling opportunities for Croatian students and the students in German-speaking countries, with the emphasis on financial and ecological aspects. You can propose to them to put the gathered information into one of the collaboration tools such as Popplet.
Start a discussion and encourage the students to name the similarities and differences they noticed and to name examples of student dwelling types that would be easily applied in Croatia, as well as to express their own opinions.
Guide the students to continue onto the next step of working in groups as experts for solving student dwelling issues by exploring alternate dwelling models, using keywords such as sustainability, intentional communities, co-housing, co-living, communes, tiny houses and so on.
Tell them it is their task to come up with and offer their own alternate dwelling solutions for students in big cities and to elaborate on their choices. You can propose to them to present their solutions as infographics in a digital tool such as Piktochart. Organise a fair of concepts in your class and encourage the students to pick the best ones.
In order for them to search online, give students clear and concrete guidelines and links which will help them get to the required information more easily, especially to students with attention difficulties and autism-spectrum disorders. You can make a checklist with activity steps, i.e. questions for which they need to find answers in order to encompass all the key information. It is important to explain more thoroughly new words, foreign-language words and words that are abstract and unclear to some students (co-housing, co-living, communes). Supplement them, where possible, with everyday-life examples.
Check if the assistive technology for visually impaired students supports all proposed digital tools and ensure there is peer-support and work in pairs where needed.
While working in a group, take care that students with difficulties actively participate in all activities and do not let them be passive observers. Have them do tasks that match their capabilities and that they can do successfully. It is crucial that they feel successful in the group and that they get the opportunity to develop a positive self-image, social and emotional skills and motivation for further participation in group work.
For students who want to know more
Encourage the students who are particularly motivated to autonomously perform additional online research and make a guide for sustainable student living in a big city, which you can publish on the school website. Give them guidelines for doing the research and list the aspects which should be represented in the guide, such as financial accessibility, ecological sustainability, social arrangements, useful websites, practical solutions and so on.