How can you create a curriculum that empowers and connects teens in a noisy, digital world? Just ask resident expert and CEL teacher Julie Knutson, author of the young adult book Global Citizenship: Engage In the Politics of a Changing World. She was one of just 300 educators chosen from 80 countries and 3,500 applicants to be a 2023-24 Advocate of the Global Schools Program, an initiative led by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network.
For the past year, Knutson, who joined SCH in 2022, has taught Middle Schoolers about the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a "shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future,” according to the UN. She has framed activities using the goals, which have included writing letters to students in Ukraine; learning about the impacts of fast fashion at the Clothes Closet; and creating websites, children's books, and print/digital games to educate others about the core rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
“By bringing the SDGs into the classroom, students see that they aren’t alone, and they aren’t powerless,” she says. “The SDGs help my students conceive of themselves as part of a whole, as essential actors in a global story who have a role to play in the co-construction of present and future narratives.”
The goal of the Global Schools program is to “build an international community of practice of like-minded educators to share ideas on the SDGs and education for sustainable development (ESD)” and “give educators the tools and training to integrate the SDGs in their lesson plans and schools.”
Knutson says that, through this training, she will be able to connect with others to bring the power of the SDGs to educators in and beyond her own community, much like she’s teaching her students to do.
“Connecting with other global educators and experts who share a commitment to education for ESD is so energizing, empowering, and motivating,” she says. “It's given my work a new level of focus and intentionality, especially as I align curricula to core ESD competencies around everything from systems thinking to integrative problem-solving.”
The more that students can refer back to these goals, the more deeply they will understand their role in society, says Knutson, which aligns with SCH’s mission and core values. “It helps them see themselves as a part of a larger whole, as individuals nested within communities. It teaches them to listen with care, act with integrity, and speak with knowledge.”