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7 Education Organizations That Empower Students Worldwide

Editor's Note: For the second time, Cleary Vaughan-Lee, the executive director at Global Oneness Project, traveled to Helsinki to participate in and present at HundrED's  Innovation Summit. HundrED is a Finland-based education organization whose mission is to help schools change and evolve by seeking and sharing inspiring innovations in K-12 education globally. While there, she learned about seven innovative education organizations. 

By Guest Blogger Cleary Vaughan-Lee 

This year, the HundrED Innovation Summit was held in conjunction with the first annual Helsinki Education Week (HEW). The event—organized by the city of Helsinki, Helsinki school district, and HundrED—spanned locations around the city and welcomed international learning experts and developers, as well as Helsinki teachers, students, and parents. 

I visited Etu-Töölö Upper Secondary School, which specializes in phenomenon-based learning, an inquiry-based learning model in which students research real-world issues from multiple entry points and subject areas. While I visited classrooms, I spoke to teenage students to learn more about their thematic-based, yearlong projects, conducted in small groups. Some projects focused on fashion design, medieval storytelling, building a geographical board game, and the psychological impacts of tsunamis on society. I asked students: What qualities do you enjoy the most about this approach to learning? Their collective response: collaboration.

clearyvaughnlee1.pngCollaboration and group work invite opportunities for students to harness problem-solving, communication, and teamwork skills, all of which promote ownership of learning. As well-known author and educator Sir Ken Robinson said, "Most great learning happens in groups. Collaboration is the stuff of growth." Collaborative learning and genuine engagement prepare students to understand themselves in a fast-changing world, empowering them to become active global learners.

The following seven global innovative education organizations, all selected for HundrED's Global Collection 2019, are transforming education by putting students' needs at the forefront of learning. Harnessing the qualities of collaboration, these organizations aim to provide students and educators with accessible solutions covering a wide range of issues including adversity, classroom design, climate change, design thinking, equity, inequality, poverty, sustainability, and sexual health. 

1. Building Confidence and Self-Esteem 

Skateistan uses the hook and art of skateboarding to reach children ages 5 to 17 from various ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds. Founder Oliver Percovich says that skateboarding "allows us to reach children that have often never gone to school, and we provide them with a quality education which is engaging, interesting, and allows them to fulfill their potential." Uniting youths from various backgrounds, Skateistan builds confidence and improves decisionmaking skills. With a focus on girls, the organization provides education to over 2,000 vulnerable youths across Afghanistan, Cambodia, and South Africa. In Afghanistan, some girls are acquiring access to education for the first time. 

2. Overcoming Adversity

India-based Dream a Dream empowers young people from vulnerable backgrounds. Its leaders developed, in collaboration with clinical psychologists, the Dream Life Skills Assessment Scale (DLSAS), an instrument which can be used by NGOs, donors, researchers, clinicians, program developers, and caretakers to measure five core life skills with disadvantaged youths ages 8-15 globally. The DLSAS measures life skills that include the ability to do the following: take initiative, interact with one another, solve problems, manage conflict, and understand and follow instructions using a 5-point Likert scale. The underlying goal is to help young people flourish in the 21st century.

3. Teaching Environmental Stability

The Green Educator Course at Green School Bali is dedicated to teaching sustainability in a student-centered way. Using the Whole School Sustainability Framework, the course focuses on place, curriculum, organization, and culture. Participants learn from local and international experts, as well as Green School teachers, and are given strategies to plan and implement the course in a school. The course, offered since 2013, provides an in-depth, hands-on pedagogical approach to teaching sustainability using collaborative projects, interactive workshops, and models in nature. Participants also gain access to a collaborative global educator network.

4. Redesigning the Classroom 

Flexible Seating, founded by Kayla Delzer—an award-winning 3rd grade teacher from Oklahoma, provides students with alternative seating in the classroom. Using various zones in the classrooms, students choose their own unique seats including sofas, low tables with cushions, mats on the floor, and tall standing desks to name a few. Delzer describes that "the traditional arrangement of desks does not always lend itself to the collaborative group work and communication which shape education." Research supports that classroom design can accommodate ADHD and students with learning disabilities. Flexible learning spaces foster creativity, as well as motivate students, by supporting their own choices and learning styles.

5. Bringing the SDGs Into the Classroom

The United Nations launched the Global Goals for Sustainable Development (SDGs) in 2015 with the aim by 2030 to tackle the world's most pressing issues—poverty, inequality, and climate change. Project Everyone: World's Largest Lesson brings the Global Goals to students, reaching millions of children in over 130 countries. The project provides free creative resources in support of the Global Goals, including animated films written by Sir Ken Robinson. Watch this short film to learn more; it includes an introduction by Nobel Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai. Dive into each of the 17 SDGs and discover free, engaging lessons and resources for educators.   

6. Engaging Students With Cultural Multimedia

The Global Oneness Project uses the power of storytelling to teach global issues. Our free films, photography, and lessons plans explore topics such as climate change, migration, poverty, and indigenous rights from the perspective of individuals and communities. Educators are using the project's resources for schoolwide or classroom film festivals, in-depth writing projects, project-based learning, and engaging classroom conversations, including Socratic seminars. Our most recent award-winning film, Earthrisedocuments the story of the Earthrise photograph, taken on the Apollo 8 mission in 1968. Access the free companion discussion guide.  

7. Exploring Sexual Health With Adolescents

©Jake-Simkin-girls take the fountain_20.jpegAmaze is an award-winning, video-based sexual-health resource for adolescents ages 10-14. Used by educators and parents, Amaze provides short, animated videos to impart accurate sexual information with a straightforward, simple approach. Topics include puberty, sexual orientation, gender identity, personal safety, healthy relationships, STDS and HIV, and pregnancy. Taking the stigma out of sex education, Amaze provides approachable content, often containing humor, to navigate the subject in the digital age. 

You can also access the complete list of HundrED's Global Collection 2019, containing 100 education innovations. Its research report, "Every Child to Flourish", examines the needs of multiple education stakeholders and includes feedback from a global youth survey. These global educators worldwide will inspire educators and students to work together and create solutions to our pressing world challenges.  

Connect with Cleary, Global Oneness Project, Heather, and the Center for Global Education on Twitter. 

Photo of Skateistan participants used with permission. Taken by Jake Simkin.

Quote image created on Pablo

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