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"Children themselves can make a positive contribution to a sustainable future"

What percentage of all children in developing countries attend school: 90, 45 or 70? This was one of the questions that opened the 17 goals lessons. The lessons are designed to introduce grade 7 and 8 students to sustainability and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in a way that resonates with their perceptions. By the way, the correct answer is more positive than most people think: 90 percent.

September 25 was the kickoff of this project where volunteers could give a lesson at a school in their neighborhood. The guest lectures were an accessible way for teachers to pay attention to broad sustainability. With a good result: over 5000 children have now learned more about the 17 development goals.

Willem Overbosch stood together with Daniëlle van Geest-Wateler in front of group 7 of elementary school De Uilen in Driebergen. They were one of the 130 volunteers who committed themselves to the 17 goals lessons. As a father of four children, Willem found it important to contribute in this way: "The younger we teach children about a sustainable future the better. The SDGs play an important role in this. You have to show children that they themselves can make a positive contribution to their future by taking action."

The lesson began with a world quiz. Three questions that gave the students a positive and realistic view of the world. "The children responded very well to that. They were surprised that the world looks a lot nicer than in their perception," says Willem. You probably noticed this yourself when you thought about the question: how many percent of all children in developing countries go to school?

Next, the children were instructed to think as a president or mayor. What do they think is the most important thing to change now? "I really enjoyed doing that," says Willem, "being interactive with a group, coming up with ideas and solutions." All proposals were written on post-its and stuck to the matching SDG poster.

According to William, the children quickly made the connection from what is happening on a large scale in the world, to their own classroom and what could be done differently there. Bullying, attention and respect were the topics that were written down first. "The best things came from the students themselves: they wanted to do something against bullying, for equality and for local sustainable products. That's also part of the SDGs: starting at the local level. This makes the children feel involved and they can really contribute something." In Driebergen, this contribution included making a donation box to raise money against poverty. This effect is seen throughout the Netherlands, in all classes where the guest lecture was given, the children have agreed to actually do something in the week after the lesson, such as turning off the lights more often or calling a classmate to account for bullying behavior.

The 17 goals lessons are an initiative of SDG Netherlands and Leren voor Morgen in collaboration with NMEcentrum Maastricht and have been partly realised with a contribution from Fonds NME. Together with Gemeenten voor duurzame ontwikkeling (GDO) we are working on a way to coordinate the lessons in 2022 as well in order to reach even more children.

 

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