Inspiring learning for a fairer future

Start The Change for Teachers

Wednesday, 05 June 2019 15:35

Hot on the heels of our ‘Create The Change’ session with youth workers, artists & activists, came our #StartTheChangeProject for Teachers CPD. With a mix of teachers across many subject areas, including Biology, History, Modern Studies, English, Physics and Geography, we began the day by hearing a little about each other and sharing our own migration stories.

This incredibly simple activity helps to demonstrate both the commonalities and differences between us and can be an excellent starting point for discussions with young people. One participant mentioned the impact this had on a group of pupils who were adamant they had no migration story to tell - until they went home and dug a little deeper. Doing this helped to change their way of thinking and brought greater relevance to the work that followed.

Our Global Learning Officer, Rachel Avery, introduced the Start The Change project and highlighted some of the young #ChangeMakers groups that have been established at Eden Court, Inverness High School, Culloden Academy, with Feis Rois and elsewhere. She also highlighted Oxfam’s model of Global Citizenship Education, which is based on Knowledge & Understanding, Skills and Values & Attitudes.

Then, putting the learning in to context, Rachel drew on the Scottish Government’s Learning for Sustainability, itself a response to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4.7, which includes “ensur[ing] all learners acquire knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development”.


Whilst this word cloud covers so much and could appear daunting at first, Rachel emphasised that it’s not about being able to cover every aspect at every moment of your practice; instead it’s a responsibility that can be shared across the curriculum and staff throughout the learning that every young person experiences. It also helps to illustrate that ‘Sustainability’ is not only about environmental concerns and issues but impacts on all learning areas and ultimately all of us.

Lr String activity

Another fantastic way of demonstrating connections is Practical Action’s tried and tested SDG String Activity. This is really powerful for educators and pupils alike and can also be useful as a means of bringing in colleagues from subject areas that may not always be associated with ‘sustainability’ and Global Citizenship.

After looking in a little more detail at definitions and public perceptions of migration, we moved on to explore the ways in which we might bring the experiences of individuals into the classroom. With four local guests making up our ‘Living Library’, we heard stories from each of them about how they’d come to live here with us in The Highlands. More than a presentation or speech, the purpose of this activity is to initiate a conversation between the storyteller and those listening. This has such an impact because it can bring out the real, human connections between our experiences.

We looked too at activities that can be used with young people, such as the simulation activity that asks pupils to decide, in a very short space of time, what they would pack in their backpack if they had to leave in an emergency (due to climate change, war, conflict etc.). Exploring the reactions to this and, when appropriate, the emotions too can be a really simple, powerful means of bringing things to life in the classroom.

Lr VR two

After lunch, and thanks to local expert Darren Malley, we delved in to the world of Virtual Reality (VR) and how it can be used as a means of increasing understanding, awareness and empathy around some very important and pressing issues. We used New Reality Company’s ‘Tree’, which lets headset wearers grow from a seedling in to a fire-threatened tree in a rainforest – it’s a truly awe-inspiring piece of activism/art.

As we suggested with our Create The Change work, even a short while ago VR required expensive (and resource heavy) equipment and technology, but – as well as Darren’s incredible set-up - it’s possible to use the phones most of us have in our pockets to transport into a virtual world. Using cardboard goggles (of which we have a set of 30 available to loan to Highland schools for FREE) we were able to see the effects of coral bleaching, climate change and what it might be like to live in a refugee camp, in the UN’s ’Clouds Over Sidra’. Many of these issues can be very difficult to lift off the page and VR can add an extra dimension to learning – one that ultimately inspires and motivates individuals to help bring about change through action and as #ChangeMakers.

Lr Group chat

To end the day we returned to reality sharing ideas, practice, inspiration and thoughts on successes, challenges, resources and obstacles. We have a huge range available to loan from our base here at Millburn Academy…and to finish…here’s one recommendation from one of the teachers who joined us this week, The Bureaucracy of Angels.


A huge thanks again to everyone who joined us. It was another inspiring #StartTheChangeProject event which reminded us why we do what we do and how lucky we are to be working with such committed educators.

We’ll have videos and more photos to share from this and all our events as the project progresses through the next two years. Visit the main Start The Change page to keep up to date.

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