In 1988 a small group of individuals came together to create an online educational network that had as its purpose: “to enable young people to undertake projects designed to make a meaningful contribution to the health and welfare of the planet and its people.” Envisioning a world in which young people could use technology to collaborate to change the world, these educators sought to harness the power of the Internet for good.
That world is here and now. “I am pleased to share some good news for people and our planet,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said this week to a packed room of press delegates.” He was referring to the historic agreement by the world’s nations to deal with issues facing the planet. “We will need all partners to make this a success.”
The International Education and Resource Network (iEARN), now with organizations in 140 countries and linking millions of young people daily in online collaboration and engagement, has launched a major effort to mobilize its global network and other global education partners to realize the world’s new 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Recently, I attended its 2015 22nd Annual iEARN International Teachers Conference and Youth Summit in Brazil in July. At the conference participants came together and committed themselves to align iEARN global project work to the SDGs. This is tremendously significant because iEARN is the world’s largest online educational network for primary and secondary schools.
In iEARN over 200 projects are underway at any time. Now, for the first time, educators throughout the world will align these projects to one or more of the SDGs and their 169 targets.
Further, iEARN is prepared to organize a consortium of global education organizations to join in efforts to support the new SDGs, recognizing that only by working together globally, will these goals be realized.
At the Brazil conference, I gave a few examples of iEARN projects that already are aligned with the SDGs:
Finding Solutions to Hunger – Goal 2 End Hunger – in which students explore the root causes of hunger and identify specific local and global actions they can take to address them.
Girls Rising – Goal 4 Quality Education – in which students watch the movie “Girl Rising,” discuss the obstacles girls face globally in getting a quality education and then take action to break down these obstacles.
Our Rivers, Our World – Goal 6 Water and Sanitation for All – in which students test the quality of the water in rivers in their communities worldwide, compare the results and take action to identify the source of and reduce the harmful elements in their nearby waterways.
Solar Cooking Project – Goal 7 Affordable and Sustainable Energy – in which students research the issues of deforestation and benefits of solar cooking for both forests and healthier lives without smoke.
Out of this discussion came the proposal to edit the “New Project Template.” When a teacher proposes a project, s/he completes this template with information on the project: student ages, languages, curriculum application, dates, activities, etc. so that other teachers worldwide will know if it fits what they are teaching. The proposal is to add the question: How does this project align with one or more of the Sustainable Development Goals?
Between 2000 and 2015, the world sought to meet the Millennium Development Goals with real, but limited success. To successfully reach the new Sustainable Development Goals, it will be important for organizations to work together.
Therefore, iEARN calls on other educational networks, youth groups and community and faith-based organizations to come together to form a coalition network, perhaps the “Youth & Educators for the SDGs (YES!)” network. We encourage each partner to adapt its programming to reflect an effort to attain these critical Goals. An initial launch of this network could take place during the UN General Assembly in September 2015 when the new SDGs will be formally adopted.
Interim Executive Director, iEARN-USA
August 12, 2015