‘Can focusing on values in Sustainable Education result in a bigger impact?’ – Global Action Plan guest blog

Values act as a kind of internal compass guiding us through our lives, shaping the way we see, feel and hear the world. International research suggests that there are 10 core value sets that we all hold, regardless of age, culture, or ethnicity. However, as individuals it’s the importance that we place on the values in these sets that makes us unique.

It’s widely recognised that increasing the importance that young people attribute to the values that are known to promote the sorts of attitudes and behaviours associated with living sustainably, has a huge potential to get them actually living and behaving more sustainably.

At Global Action Plan we therefore develop schools and youth programmes that are both action focussed and values centric. That is, we aim to encourage our young participants to both take action to address the key environmental issues we face, and to understand and value the importance of continuing to take this kind of action in their daily lives.

Since launching the Water Explorer programme, there have been some wonderful examples of students embracing its core values of Integrity, Care and Commitment, Awareness and Responsibility (ICARE). With many of the teams demonstrating that the right values can lead them to change their own behaviours,  and also prompt them to look outwards to the community around them to see how they might be able to stimulate change there too!

This year’s winner of the Water Explorer Values Award, for example, was an Italian team who displayed incredible Awareness, Care, Commitment, and Responsibility when they made the decision to actively involve the whole of their local community in their mission to reduce water consumption by involving their local mayor in their Water Explorer project.

Student Water Explorers at Rushey Mead Academy in the UK worked really hard to share their newly acquired water-saving knowledge with fellow students, organising a day packed full of different water-focused activities for all the students to take part in.

It’s evident from the actions that many of the teams have taken through the programme, that Water Explorers develop an awareness of not only local issues, but also global issues, and seek to do what they can to help further afield. Our most recent example of this is Convent of Mercy Girls National School in Ireland.  They engaged the whole community in their project, and as a result, were recognised for their great work at the Irish National Celebration Event.  Ever considerate, the school also donated their prize money to a school in South Africa to help them improve their access to clean water.  Such a socially conscious outlook earned them the 2016 Water Air Food (WAF) Youth Award!

The efforts of these three schools, as well as of the other Water Explorers across the 11 countries taking part, have helped to save nearly 5 million m3 of water and prevent 13 million kgCO2 from entering the atmosphere! Just imagine the huge impact this kind of values-based approach to sustainable learning could have if it became more mainstream!

Beyond Water Explorer we have big ambitions to extend the reach and impact of our programmes, so that we can continue to help young people around the world to shape their own sustainable future and help Transform our World, so watch this space!

To find out more about the Water Explorer programme or our plans to help young people to lead the way in transforming our world, please go to our website.

Luke Wynne – Head of Youth and Schools at Global Action Plan