‘Empowering For Change’ Workshop Prepares Classrooms for Climate Action

Empowering For Change’ Workshop Prepares Classrooms for Climate Action

A talented group of learning designers and experts joined forces to identify educational tools for promoting youth empowerment. The Empowering for Change workshop brought together 30 panelists and participants for a full day of collaboration at the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) House in Brussels.

This event was the first of its kind among the Young Innovators programmes’ comprehensive climate curriculum. By engaging with learning designers and international organizations, the workshop sought to co-create innovative methods for fostering skills that promote climate action and whole systems transformation on the global scale.

“The objective was to meet like-minded organizations, understand what we can achieve together and see how EIT Climate-KIC can facilitate this ecosystem across borders,” explained Luise Heidenreich, the Young Innovators Programme Lead.

The workshop kicked off with a panel discussion by some of Europe’s leading experts in the fields of sustainability, innovative education, and critical futures studies. Representing organizations such as the UN Environment Programme, the Danish Foundation for Entrepreneurship Education, and others, the panelists shared their ongoing projects, insights, and recommendations for embedding systems thinking into education.

“Systems thinking involves multiple levers of change and having the awareness of these other levers at work,” described Heidenreich. “We’re talking about everything from technology, skills capacity, and behavioral change to help shape a [sustainability] mindset in young people.”

In the context of climate change, systems thinking does not view the problem in isolation. It takes into account that the natural, social and economic worlds are interrelated and constantly evolving, and considers climate change as part of a larger system or context. The Young Innovators programme is committed to training young people to become more effective systems-thinkers so they are well-equipped to tackle the societal challenge of climate change.

“This is what EIT Climate-KIC is all about. We know that single-fit solutions are not sufficient for the future. We want introduce systems thinking in classrooms to foster climate innovation,” said Heidenreich.

The energizing panel discussion was followed by an audience Q&A and a networking lunch with Anastasiya Boiko, Project Officer at the European Schoolnet’s Science Education Department. The panelists and participants spent the remainder of the afternoon in group working discussions. These 45-minute sessions explored innovative approaches to empower youth for change and questioned our ideals for the future. The focus revolved around ways to support young people in becoming leaders of change.

“We want to implement a challenge-based approach where concrete problems are processed as a full-body experience,” explained Heidenreich. “We found that a space for reflection inside the classroom is crucial for processing these challenges for both students and teachers.”

Several key insights emerged from the discussions including the importance of storytelling as a mechanism for motivation. The discussions also exposed the gaps in the secondary school systems where teachers are severely ill-prepared to facilitate climate change learning and uncertain how to react to such unprecedented challenges.

In fact, teachers’ lack of training on climate issues is having a trickle-down effect on students. According to a recent Flash Eurobarometer survey conducted by the European Commission Directorate General for Education and Culture, young people believe that “protecting the environment and fighting climate change (67%)” and “improving education and training (56%)” should be the top priorities for the EU in the years to come.

“We offer a platform for students and teachers to act,” affirmed Heidenreich. “This program gives youth the opportunity to work on real-life challenges and develop concrete solutions.”

The following decade will be crucial in preparing future generations of professionals to lead us to a prosperous, inclusive, resilient society based on a net-zero carbon circular economy. As global youth climate activism gains momentum, the Young Innovators programme is becoming more crucial than ever. This programme currently runs in six countries and seeks partners to expand globally.