Education for Sustainable Development: When students become fair trade entrepreneurs
Sustainability and climate protection start in daily life, and they are something children can learn. Educational establishments all over Germany are involved in UNESCO’s Global Action Programme on Education for Sustainable Development – and schools are foremost among them.
When stomachs rumble at the Erich Kästner School in Ladenburg, Baden-Württemberg, students buy snacks at the school shop. And since spring 2018 the snacks on sale have included not just sandwiches, biscuits and gummy bears but also fair trade bananas and chocolate. The idea of offering the ethical options stems from a project undertaken in a religious and ethical instruction class where 15 students aged between 13 and 14 took a close look at fair trade and global production chains.
The same issues also came under scrutiny at the Hainberg Grammar School in Göttingen. Over the years, a small project there evolved into a school cooperative trading under the name “Macadamiafans”. Established in 2012 by a volunteer project group, the “company” is now an integral part of the curriculum. Ninth or tenth grade students opting for it as an elective subject spend lessons managing the school enterprise: receiving deliveries of nuts, processing online orders, keeping accounts, despatching packages, engaging in marketing and maintaining customer relations. The nuts are sold through local retailers and other outlets and the proceeds are used not just to support African farmers but also to finance scholarships that help fellow-students gain experience abroad. School cooperatives are a form of organisation in Germany that enables students to put their own business ideas into practice as a group. They receive advice and support from the cooperative association in the federal state in which they are based.
Entrenching responsible action in the education system
The Erich Kästner School and the Hainberg Grammar School are just two of nearly 500 educational establishments all over Germany involved in the UNESCO Action Porogramme on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). From schools and nurseries to UNESCO world heritage sites, botanical gardens and zoos – they all work towards a common goal: to entrench sustainable thinking and action in every area of the education system.
The German Commission for UNESCO is supported in the ESD programme by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Together, they have collected proposals to optimise the way children and young people can learn how to act sustainably. In 2017, they channelled those proposals into a National Action Plan and online platform. The ESD website offers teaching materials that schools and other institutions can download for free. From seed poster to environmental radio play, to sustainability board game – aids for putting across the ESD message are available in diverse formats all age groups.
Educational establishments have responded in all sorts of ways to the appeal to work harder for ESD: they train “climate guides”, hold exhibitions on globalisation and arrange eco-friendly summer camps. But a special role is played by schools and nurseries, which are attended daily. Around 400 are registered on the Action Programme platform, making contributions that range from stocking fair trade coffee in the canteen to organising project trips and setting up international exchange programmes.
Networking schools and environmental initiatives
The ESD campaign attaches particular importance to strengthening links between schools and environmental initiatives. If a school seeks a local partner for a sustainable class trip or project week, for instance, it can use the digital map of Germany on the ESD website to find an initiative nearby.
The Erich Kästner School, for example, was supported in its project by the development education initiative One World Centre Heidelberg. The Centre’s “Global Classroom” project offers a range of activities, including workshops and themed city walking tours on globalisation. Young participants learn the consequences of their own consumer behaviour and climate change.
An additional incentive for local authorities, places of learning and networks that promote ESD is provided by ESD awards. Laureates can use the UNESCO Global Action Programme logo for their operations and have access to advice from Freie Universität Berlin. 63 examples of good practice were thus honoured in 2017.