Future Focus21c Tooling up Education for the 21st Century
Who is FF21C?
FF21c is Rebecca White and Anita McKeown, and a network of collaborators and content developers, nationally and internationally. Anita and Rebecca, have close to 5 decades experience between them working across the arts, education, inclusive design place-based regeneration, STEAM education and sustainability, in both formal and informal settings with diverse learners and communities.
Who is FF21C for?
We work with and for young people and their educators to provide and promote learning experiences that enable content and skills development that can be transferred to the real world. We work with other researchers to reimagine education to a model that is fit for the 21st Century and the true needs of people today.
What is your Mission Statement?
We utilise creative strategies and tactics grounded in place to provide deep learning through tangible, practical evidence-based learning activities. By developing and harnessing learners’ and educators’ creativity for innovation and transferable innovative thinking, we facilitate ‘Tooling education up for the 21st Century’. We seek to affect educational policy by engaging in national and international dialogue with parents, other educators, policymakers and government institutions.
What are your values?
Our values are centred around our ethos; we are holistic, earth-centred, dynamic, adaptive and inclusive. We believe in looking at systems, places and people through an eco-psycho-social lens. This means a whole systems approach rather than silo'd thinking.
What does FF21C offer?
We offer unique cross-curricular circular Design Thinking programmes and learning experiences, using a tried and tested methodology for local-level intervention that contributes to social, environmental and economic resilience. We offer a pedagogical programme that integrates 21st Century Skills that are relevant to local and global strategic agendas and the challenges we will face in the future. The current resources are aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals and integrate place-based STEAM learning into the Transition Year programme to provide additional support to teachers and students. The resources provide practical learning activities that support students and enable teachers to deliver place-based STEAM, project and enquiry-based learning into their classrooms.
The resources have been designed to be delivered within a number of contexts, a range of timetables, commitments and interests. Teachers can collaborate across subjects to deliver full projects as linked learning activities, select a micro-module or utilise lesson plans to augment their own planned activities. Maximum flexibility and agility were some of the key design principles within our programme design, which integrated the feedback from teachers and students, from our various trials.
Being connected to the SMARTLab Research Institute and the Inclusive Design Research Centre of Ireland, UCD we work with experts to move our programmes beyond Universal Design Principles to a scalable approach easily adapted to ‘one size fits one’. Our aim is to contribute to an educational system that offers young people the space to be themselves and included in any aspect of society, they chose to be part of.
Our programmes integrate inclusive practices, beyond just human perspectives, we encourage learners to recognise diversity and use design to encourage and support it.
The activities and programmes are scaffolded to teach learners empathic design, circular design thinking and undertake simple life cycle analysis so they can consider the impact and consequences of their decisions and actions in a safe space and to do no harm. A further method, the permaCultural resilience praxis supports them to read the whole system, understand the context and design an intervention/solution that improves the situation and does not albeit unintentionally make things worse.
Where are we based?
We are based in South Kerry, but we deliver nationally and internationally working and collaborating with colleagues and educators all over the world, sharing ideas, resources, and mutually supporting each other in our shared aims - to facilitate learning that supports young people to realise and actualise their full potential, whatever that may be.
When did you decide FF21c was needed?
In 2022, we created Future Focus21c EDU, CLG as a social enterprise, a profit-for-purpose initiative, focused on 'future-proofing teaching and learning for a just transition'. 91% of the core cohort from our initial research project, stated that they were worried for their future because they didn't think they had one - and they felt that adults knew little about the climate crisis and didn't really have any solutions. They felt our resources gave them hope as we moved them towards solutions and not being stuck in the negative. We also shared contemporary examples of what adults from research - our own and others are doing and have developed an eco-anxiety micro-module as well as our unique global goals case studies.
Currently, education is taught within subjects and knowledge domains. Our world is complex and changing faster than it has ever changed before and we need to support learners to both cope with unprecedented change and develop agency to become systemic changemakers.
Why did you decide to set up FF21c?
We had both been working in education within formal and informal learning (schools, youth clubs, after-school clubs, prisons and communities) with diverse learners. In 2017, we, with a team of interdisciplinary practitioner academics were awarded Environmental Protection Agency funding to develop place-based STEAM learning interventions for Transition Year and Communities. Our learnings from this were further developed through the Muinín Catalyst programme.
What we saw was the need to develop agile responses that equip learners for the world they will live in. The lag on a curriculum can never keep up with the rate of knowledge progression and change, which is increasing exponentially, therefore we need multiple agile responses to plug the gaps.
Education has never been so ill-equipped to support the citizens, educators and leaders for the world we live in. The climate crisis is the defining challenge of our time and we are living in an increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world.
The global challenges we face demand alternative systemic approaches with a real commitment to making equitable change, at the local and global levels. We will need to develop innovative systemic responses to local and global issues and build capacity across all levels of society.
How do you feel you can best serve young people?
Our aim is to address the deficits students, parents and educators all see in national / state systems and curriculum. We have chosen to work in both formal and informal learning environments to reach as many young people as we can.
Our programmes use creative engaging learning activities that develop learners' ability in creative problem-solving, critical thinking, communication and collaboration while supporting teachers to facilitate cross-curricular project-based learning.
Our learning activities build research skills develop empathy and contribute to social, environmental and economic resilience by introducing and integrating progressive ideas, state of the art research and connecting them to professional practice from within civil society, industry, government and academia.
Why is FF21c different from similar/other education companies?
To date, our educational approach is Ireland's only research-developed evidence-based systemic and integrated linked learning programme, integrating place-based STEAM education, circular design thinking within challenge-led solution-focused project and enquiry-based learning and SDG aligned.
Our evidenced-based resources (blended learning lesson plans and student worksheets) have been scaffolded for both teachers and learners based on our research. Additionally, we have tested in different ways most of the recommendations of the potential pathways beyond post-primary education cited in the NCCA / OECD 2019 / 2020 review for changes to the Senior Cycle.