Happy new year to you! I hope you are feeling refreshed and ready for what 2024 will bring.
I wanted to provide an update on the work I have been doing with my young Italian superheroes!
For the past 3 months I’ve been working with two middle school classes at Don Oreste Benzi, a private bilingual school in Forli, Italy. The ages of the students are 11-12 and 12-13. It is a wonderful opportunity for me to work with students long term as I usually only work with students for around 3-4 months.
It is also a novelty for the school as they’ve never had a ‘leadership coach’ come to teach social change leadership to their students before! As long as I teach my subject solely in English, they are happy, as they want English immersion by a native speaker to satisfy certain hours of English teaching in classes. So I’m in a unique special position to develop a program based on my expertise.
I had done a lot of pre-planning for the program using ‘Service Learning’ handbooks as a guide to help me prepare the classes. This is hugely popular in the USA and is a very similar concept to all the youth leadership programs I’ve developed in the past - which uses project work to develop leadership skills in the participants to benefit the community.
My aim with these students is to develop the superpowers of our young superheroes to tackle the big problems facing the world (such as climate change). The parents seemed as excited as me when I described the program at the start of the school year!
The students didn’t really know what to expect with my class since it isn’t anything they’ve ever done before, but I’ve eased them in slowly (I didn’t have a choice since activities I anticipated doing within 1 x 90minute class had to be spread over 2-3 x classes mainly due to the language barrier and hyperactivity of the kids which I’m not used to- I’m used to working with 15 year olds so this younger age range is new to me).
But there’s actually been no rush since I’m working with them over the whole school year and we still have 5 months to go! Although it’s a bilingual school, there are only about 5 x strong English speakers in each class, who help me by translating new difficult words/themes and google translate gets the odd use too. My Italian is good enough to explain simple terms and get the kids to be quiet, but I’m not yet fluent which suits the school.
I think my biggest shock was learning that none of the students knew what climate change was, or the terrible consequences it has for our planet. This has been a common theme amongst teenagers I meet here. They just don’t prioritise Climate change education here like they do elsewhere 😩. It’s really worrying.
I believe it’s a a real failure by the ‘education system’ since where we live is so highly dependent on the weather - it’s one of the densest agricultural areas, which were recently devastated by terrible floods, and exasperated with droughts and extremely hot long summers. So mitigating the changing weather and warmer planet should be priority in planning for the future! See this most recent article explaining Climate change effects in our region.
I’m not a science teacher, but I did my best to educate the students on the causes of climate change in layman’s terms drawing funny pictures on the board showing the warming planet due to Carbon dioxide trapped in the atmosphere caused by burning fossil fuels etc. The kids all laughed hysterically when I drew funny-looking cows and the problem they cause due to the methane expelled from their farts 🤣 and all the forests cut down to build farms.
Climate change education 101 was needed as a foundation, so we could get on with the intended task, which is to create action projects on solutions for climate change and other United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
The first activity we did is called ‘Root Causes’ where in small teams they each had to pick a problem/challenge from one of the UN SDGS, then draw a large tree on butchers paper and put ‘the problem’ in the trunk of the tree. They spent many hours examining the problem (I provided an example I made for Climate Change - see my example above) then the students were given iPads and asked to research what the ‘root causes’ of those problems were, and to draw/write these in the roots of the tree at the bottom of the page. Next they drew the branches at the top of the page and researched and wrote/drew possible solutions to the problem on each branch.
The next phase of the activity they were given a new sheet of butchers paper and asked to create a ‘5 step action plan’ for how they would tackle ‘the problem’ by selecting one of the ‘solutions’ and creating a plan of action around it. Most of the groups have chosen to create awareness and educational campaigns on their chosen topic by making videos and posters that they will then share with their family and school local community at the end of the school year in May/June.
The topics are diverse. One group is tackling deforestation and wildlife extinction. Another group is looking at Gender equality and patriarchy in Italy. One group is looking at Peace and justice (and the need for acceptance of all religions everywhere in the world). Another group is looking at water waste management. And this is just one class! The other class is just focussing on solutions for Climate Change!
I’m so proud to be doing this work.
It’s this type of work that inspires me. That drives me forward.That gives me hope.
When we switch on the minds of young people to show them that THEY have the power to create change-then we can be optimistic about our future!
As a reward at the end of the term we watched a documentary ‘Before the Flood’ with Leonardo DiCaprio. The students asked brilliant questions such as:
- ‘How can politicians accept lobbying money from oil companies? isn’t it conflict of interest?’
- ‘What are the legal consequences of the biggest polluting companies? How can governments let them get away with damaging the planet - how can it just be for the short term financial profits? What are the long term consequences? What is our government doing to carb carbon emissions?’
Yes! Hopefully they will find/create answers to these questions!!
I can’t wait to see the projects come into fruition this next term. They have worked hard to prepare. Now let’s see what impact they can make raising awareness in their local community and see what change these superheroes can make?!
Ps- if you would like to chat about this or interested to find out more please contact me. I’m very passionate about developing social change agents to make the world a better place!
PPS - I still have 2 discounted places left on The Impactor leadership program starting in February for young professionals aged 25-35. If you know a person who is hugely ambitious and a game changer and could benefit from leadership coaching to create an Impact in this world- I invite them to get in touch :)