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Our school approach in teaching sustainability



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Teacher teaching sustainability

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Betim Muço is a co-educational school located in the capital city of Tirana, Albania, a country situated in the south-eastern part of Europe. It serves a community of medium socio-economic status and has been recognized on the national and international arena for its various projects and activities, both online and in-person.

Students at Betim Muço thrive as they are recognized and supported as key stakeholders and agents of change. The school’s culture and policies promote a coordinated approach to developing, implementing, and teaching whole-child health education that emphasizes healthy living and its positive effects. After-school clubs support mental and physical health, providing a safe space for students to develop their skills and talents. Art class, Green club, and Microbit club offer opportunities to all students, including those from Roma and Egyptian backgrounds as well as students with disabilities.

Our curriculum is student-centered, with a focus on project-based learning and problem-solving. We strive to enhance access, relevance, and opportunities for all members of our community by making the school a hub for learning. Connecting students’ lived experiences to what they are learning in the classroom is always our priority.

We work continuously to secure and coordinate support that targets academic and non-academic barriers to achievement in order to promote improved outcomes for students, families, and communities. Our school has an open enrolment policy and places particular emphasis on sustainability, biodiversity, and climate change. We employ a sustainability chaplain to guide us in ensuring that our school’s ethos, culture, and activities are consistent with good global citizenship.

It can be difficult to confront the truth of reality. There is always a tendency to shy away from difficult truths or to make things more comfortable by reducing them to individual actions or avoiding hard data. However, we believe that it is important for our students to learn about the measures and strategies necessary for responsible global citizenship. This includes addressing issues such as eco-anxiety, eco-depression, and the sense of hopelessness that can arise from media coverage of climate change.

We strive to equip our teachers with the knowledge and skills necessary to teach this complex topic effectively. Our goal is to advance our students’ understanding beyond what they learned in primary school, such as recycling or reducing plastic use. Instead, we aim to provide them with a deeper analysis of the issues at hand and empower them to take meaningful action.

Teaching sustainability can be a struggle for many teachers who do not feel equipped to teach such an involved topic. National curricula also face logistical, social, and political barriers. However, this complexity and controversy are exactly the qualities that can make learning stimulating for pupils. They hone the systems thinking and critical inquiry that are vital for the 21st century. Pupils will need to make decisions about complex issues that have no simple answers in their voting behaviour and professional life. They should develop the necessary frameworks to deal with them during their school years. That’s why we are working hard on it.

Our school has always focused on the inclusion of all active actors for the realization of given priorities. One of the main goals has been the mental and physical health of students. The whole initiative was to promote SDGs. It started in April of 2022 involving all communities, teachers, students, and parents. After the pandemic situation, students faced serious challenges. For us, mental health was important. We found ways to maintain positive mental health by getting professional help, connecting with families, staying positive to help them, and also developing their behaviour skills.

It was critical for us that students developed the knowledge and skills to navigate the challenges of the 21st century. There is compelling evidence linking sustainable development education with increased student performance. All teachers were interested in education for sustainable development. For us, it was very easy to involve all actors together to fulfil our purpose.

We have come to the same conclusion: awareness-raising and experiences in the environment are not enough to teach sustainability. Pupils should not just be learning about and in the environment – they should also be learning for sustainability. This means examining how the environment interacts with the social, economic, and cultural spheres as well.

The whole-school approach to sustainability has been around for years but has  has recently gained momentum because it aligns with this holistic thinking. We are working hard with goal 5 (project in eTwinning), involving Roma and Egyptian students as well as students with special gifts by using game-based teaching methods, jigsaw techniques, drama techniques, and applying flipped learning in projects.

Activities will be carried out to improve students’ social, emotional, analytical thinking, and creativity skills. We won a Quality Label with projects “Gender-Responsive Learning Environment” as well as “The value of woman in 21st century”. Another project is in process: Gender Equality, Roma girls in education.

The post-pandemic situation was unbearable and made a new way of life inevitable. We aimed to contribute and prohibit discrimination by promoting social life in an egalitarian form and contributing to social peace. We have done great work but that’s not enough.

We have to think systemically and holistically about everything because every single piece of the jigsaw in a sustainability crisis is connected with another piece of the jigsaw. Based on what you’ve learned so far, we can try to classify these activities in climate change.

Some of our projects are focused on consumption awareness: Project in eTwinning “Tweenager life in a day – so far, so similar, towards sustainability”. Pupils are taught about changes to their daily lives that can help combat climate change such as cycling to school, eating less meat, recycling, and using a carbon footprint calculator to assess their own behaviour. We are cooperating in eTwinning projects while collaborating internationally.

Another project is building a vegetable garden: pupils work in groups with designated roles like ‘presenter’ and ‘documenter’ to create blueprints for a school vegetable garden, following a lesson on ecosystems. We have partners in the community, specialists in this field, and our parents. Work is in progress. -Green Camp of school

We need to make connections and help people understand that every single topic is part of a much more complex system. When we have to build the menus for the canteen, 2023-2024, the students will need to discuss with the management of the canteen, the school, and the parents. This will start a complex but mandatory reflection about the budget, the possibility to find food in our local environment, and what we will do with the waste. Do we have a policy about waste reduction? We have to advance students into wider thinking and action, taking them to organize events and putting them into the civic space. Whole school, but not whole school in a flat horizontal way in which everybody does a bit of recycling, because that’s not enough. For us, it’s important to put them in the centre stage, first and foremost, already at school and listen to what they have to say. We discuss ideas in our school forum composed by teachers, students, parents, and community.

Recently Secondary school Betim Muço obtained the STEM School Label in European Schoolnet Academy and won the Bronze award in Global School Alliance UK.

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Irena Biba, Master Teacher & Trainer from Albania- University of Tirana. She attended successfully the Leadership School in cooperation with the American Development Foundation. As Scientix Ambassador since 2020, she has done great work for education in her community promoting STEM in education. Being coordinator in eTwinning as well, many of her projects won quality label nationally and internationally. In her school she takes the position of Head of Department of Social Sciences. She works as well in the Agency of Insurance of Quality of Education in Albania doing a great job to improve the level of learning in education. She is very proud to be a TV teacher and associate with the Ministry of Education in Albania, making podcasts and livestreams training teachers and students voluntarily. She is a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert & Trainer, a Wakelet Ambassador, a Global Mentor in Minecraft, and an Ambassador in Global School Alliance UK.

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