Aim

This short course aims to develop creative, caring global citizens who are engaged in their local communities, have the ability to critically analyse root causes of local and global sustainability issues and are confident in their capacity to take collective action for a just and sustainable future for all.

Rationale

The local and global challenge to create a sustainable world is one of the most complex and daunting challenges that students face as young people, and that they will continue meet in their lives beyond school. Through the exploration of this challenge, students will encounter many questions: how can we halt the global decline of biodiversity? How can climate change be addressed in a just way? What does a sustainable community look like? How is a sustainable society governed and how does it make decisions? What changes do we need to bring about to create sustainable communities? How can people work together to make social change? How can we challenge powerful interests currently benefiting from unsustainable practices? How communities ensure sustainable livelihoods for everyone?

The course provides an opportunity for Junior Cycle students to understand the scientific realities and scale of the sustainability challenge that provide the context for these questions. However, the emphasis of this short course is not on simply gaining knowledge about the environment or about existing solutions but rather on students developing the skills they need to become independent, lifelong learners capable of co-operation and collective organisation for social change towards a just and sustainable future. These skills include active listening, participatory decision making, systems thinking, critical thinking, collaborative planning, taking action with others, communication and reflection. Through the process of taking action together, students can develop these skills and become confident in their own capacity to make a difference in their lives and local communities.

This short course is grounded in each student’s exploration of wellbeing:  wellbeing in their everyday lives, in their local communities and in a global context. Through exploration and action students learn knowledge, skills and values that will motivate and empower them to become informed global citizens who can take action to create a sustainable future. The course contributes to student’s understanding of themselves, their own needs and their local communities’ needs in tandem with a deeper understanding of the global environmental and social justice issues that connect people all over the world.

The course can contribute to wellbeing provision within junior cycle programme as it provides a democratic space where students feel respected, make collective decisions, have opportunities to deepen their self-awareness and empathy, examine their own values, and take youth-led action. It also emphasises the role the outdoors can play in giving students a place to discuss their emotions and to connect with others and nature.

This short course is not designed to replace any other subject or short course, but rather to provide learning opportunities that might otherwise be missing from a junior cycle programme. For example, a school might identify a need to provide more significant opportunities for outdoor learning, opportunities to develop a sense of connection with nature, greater opportunities for youth-led collective action or opportunities to engage with real world challenges in a local community. The course could also be used to provide a higher level of outdoor physical activity for junior cycle students.