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Taking action to help the planet

Photographs: North Zealand International School / Unsplash

Text: Michaela Medvedova

With the development of transportation systems and rapid industrial growth, people in the 20th century lived in comfort and prosperity like never before. But they were unaware of environmental issues that came with the progress.

In the United States, that began to change in the 1960s when public awareness about environmental problems started to rise. According to EARTHDAY.ORG, in 1970, Wisconsin senator Gaylord Nelson, with the help of a young activist Denis Hayes, aimed to organise college campus teach-ins - lectures or educational forums about public interest topics. However, they realised the potential of their initiative planned for 22 April - and developed it into a nationwide effort called Earth Day.

The first year of Earth Day inspired 20 million Americans all over the country to demonstrate against the environmental effects of industrial progress and sparked action such as creating the United States Environmental Protection Agency. What started as American action turned into a global annual movement in 1990.

As we are approaching its 52nd birthday this April, Earth Day mobilises a billion people in more than 190 countries every year. This global effort is coordinated by EARTHDAY.ORG, working on activating and educating the environmental movement around the world.

What about the other 364 days?

Earth Day is a global representation of the idea that we only have one home and need to protect it and ensure a quality of life for everyone and everything on the planet. But this idea is also a part of a bigger, all-year-round effort - the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that lie at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which was adopted by member states of the United Nations in 2015. The goals call for action uniting areas such as ending poverty, reducing inequality, or improving health and education alongside working against environmental issues.

A strong focus on the SDGs is present in the North Zealand International School (NIS) curriculum and plays a vital role in helping guide their learners towards taking local and global action. “Our shared vision for learners at school is for them to be respectful and responsible global citizens. The SDGs help develop this, giving learners a chance to connect their learning to real global issues they will face in the future,” says Pete Tunna, Year 3 teacher and IPC Coordinator at NIS.

Each year during the school’s International Day, they focus on one of the goals. This effort runs throughout the year, and teachers, learners, and the school community link to this focus. “We feel it is important to empower all learners to lead their own change.”

This year, the focus is on SDG 15 - Life on Land. The school started the year with a big push on what they thought life on land meant, following it with activities during International Day that focused on how we use the land and what we can do to sustain and support it. In individual classes, the learners then find out more about deforestation and its impacts. Pete says bringing the learning to life with real-world examples encourages learners to want to make real change. “Many of them went home and spoke to their parents about ways they could help support the rainforest. Examples of this were to buy products that had the Rainforest Alliance or FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) logo on, making a small but significant change - all leading from the SDGs.”

"Giving learners the chance to make positive change now will hopefully have a knock-on effect and inspire others to do the same thing." - Pete Tunna, Year 3 teacher and IPC Coordinator at NIS

A spring cleanup

One of the ways to show our planet some love and care is cleanup initiatives around the world. This year, all classes at NIS all took part in the Danish Affaldsinsamlingen 2022 from 28 March to 3 April. This event is organised annually by the Danish Society for Nature Conservation and has, for the past 15 years, inspired 200 thousand Danes to collect trash in nature around them.

“Each class has been given a chance to decide what they would like to do during the Affaldsinsamlingen and how it will make a change. Classes have made links to what they have been learning,” explains Pete. For example, Milepost 2 (Year 3 and 4) focused on looking after the Danish forests after learning about an IPC (International Primary Curriculum) unit called Vanishing Rainforests.

“Giving learners the chance to make positive change now will hopefully have a knock-on effect and inspire others to do the same thing,” concludes Pete.

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