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Transition Year Update

January and February were busy months for the Transition Year students at Coláiste na Sceilge.

Ask any of our TY students from CNS, What’s the connection between biomimicry, pollution, food security and weather? They will tell you it’s our Ocean of course!

We completed the module developed to raise awareness and action on SDG 14 – Life below water. As we came to the end of our classes on this topic, it was time for some reflection on all that has been achieved. Starting with the basics of ocean literacy we learnt how humans have copied nature to create some of the technological advances we now use every day and how the oceans ecosystems provides us with over 50% of the Oxygen we breath, a supply of fresh water and resources like food and medicine. One the flip side of this we’ve seen how human actions can impact the ocean in a negative way, with plastic pollution, chemical pollution, habitat disturbance and destruction and reduced biodiversity.

Throughout the module, students were asked to feedback on the topics we studied and how they were presented and how well they felt the material available appealed to their age group. This information will not only contribute to our education resources and toolkit but gave the students a solid foundation for our Local Work Experience opportunity for Transition Years, which took place in February 2019; 'Problem to Pitch' Design Challenge which looked at how to use marine plastic waste and nets in product design, prototyping and 3D printing with engineers, marine biologists, artists and sustainability experts!

The end of January saw the opening night of their musical, ‘Dancing Queen’ so the month was spent rehearsing madly. The three-night run was a huge success for all the students involved, both on and off-stage, but there was no rest time as they went straight into two weeks of work experience in different industries around the country. You can read about the experience of students who joined us on the Design Challenge as part of the SS Net Reuse Project.

After mid-term break, they spent a week in Cappanlea on a team-building retreat before coming back to school for their final term. The first two weeks back were spent with us working on the school float for Saint Patrick’s Day alongside the Leaving Certificate Applied class, creating a float aligned to one of the parade themes, which included SDG14 - Life below water.

We got back into the content from there with a World Cafe- style lesson, designed to consolidate the knowledge covered before the break and get feedback on their perspectives on learning and Transition Year. All this will come in very useful for us to design the TY Toolkit and CPD programme for educators, contributing to SDG 4 Quality Education. The toolkit uses a STEAM place-based design thinking approach to engage students with the Sustainable Development Goals.

Samples from student feedback, March 2019

STEAM is an educational approach to learning that uses Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics as access points for guiding student inquiry, dialogue, and critical thinking. Integrating this with a design thinking approach serves to enhance key competencies and develop additional skills in critical thinking, communication, creativity and collaboration; skills considered necessary for the 21st Century.

Design thinking is a solution-based approach to creative problem-solving, particularly wicked problems (Rittel and Webber, 1973). Wicked problems are messy, complex and open to interpretation. Often, the problem we are trying to solve is merely a symptom and the root cause goes unaddressed. This is the importance of integrating a systems approach. It is only once we begin to look at the whole system do we see that we may need to look for our answer differently. Integrating these skills into the education system are are Intended to help students keep up with the lightning-pace of today’s technologised society and enable them address the challenges we will face in the future.

“Education today is much more about ways of thinking which involve creative and critical approaches to problem-solving and decision-making. It is also about ways of working, including communication and collaboration, as well as the tools they require, such as the capacity to recognise and exploit the potential of new technologies, or indeed, to avert their risks.”

Andreas Schleicher, from the OECD, 2018

Our final project before the end of the year is poster design. We are working on the design process with students, each creating a poster that focuses on a local issue that can be linked to one (or more) of the Sustainable Development Goals. While we have been looking at Goals 4, 11, 14 & 15, we have left the brief open for students to examine any of the seventeen goals that may interest them or be of more relevance to the issue in their community.

Earlier in the year, students worked on a Pecha Kucha that gave a general overview of the four goals we are focussing on. The poster task is designed to work on a deeper level, that engages students with issues that are affecting them and their communities, and how these directly link to some of the goals and targets covered by the UN SGD remit. The resources have also been created to develop their communication skills.

Increasingly, being able to tell your story or convey a message is a powerful skill. It's is how humans make connections, think about our place in the world, share inspiration and for these reasons, delivering a compelling story is considered a necessary and critical professional skill.

Thus far, we are supporting the students through a design process that includes primary and secondary research into issues that local, rural communities are facing, key elements of graphic design, and analysis into what makes an effective poster. The completed posters will be digitally displayed at the TY Graduation Ceremony in May, with plans to exhibit them digitally in the local library in Caherciveen. We look forward to sharing the students' final posters with our readers after their TY graduation ceremony, 21st May, 2019, in our summer newsletter.

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