As many kids head back to school this week, we thought we’d take a look at some innovative approaches to education from around the world.  Whether it be designing a new school system or encouraging healthy eating habits – passion, creativity and technology are key.

In Australia

On environment and sustainability…

As we continue to face serious environmental challenges, the classroom seems like the perfect place to engage children in the management of their local environments so that they can begin to understand the bigger sustainability picture.

For example, since it began in 2003, thousands of students, teachers and local Queensland communities have participated in the Reef Guardian Schools program. The program creates awareness, understanding and appreciation for the Reef and its connected ecosystems, empowering and encouraging students to care for their incredible marine environment through a range of activities. We are especially proud of this program as our Director, Kate Bowmaker, worked hard to help develop it!

Australia and the UK both have sustainable school programs that engage students in managing their school’s resources and facilities including energy, waste, water, biodiversity, landscape design, products and materials. These programs also address social and financial issues.

On health choices…

Another interesting program is From Paddock to Plate – an interactive eight-part video series that is being rolled out in schools nationally, at a time when the rate of Australian childhood obesity is on the rise. It provides children with an opportunity to make more nutritional and healthy food choices, as well as give them an understanding of the work involved in producing the food from paddock to plate.

On methods of learning…

This article from The Conversation suggest that the traditional “home reader” routine for children may not be as effective as reading real books. Recent research highlights that when children are provided with the opportunity to select their own reading material, they achieve greater levels of success. Although the choices may be more difficult, the higher interest level creates an opportunity for the child to stay motivated to solve their normal reading problems.

Kids at SWiTCH, is changing the way kindergartens, schools, childcare centres, sporting groups and parents entertain and educate children. It is a new model for education and social innovation that allows children to discover and enrich their own personal passions.

This article from the Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR), Rethinking How Students Succeed, covers a wave of non-cognitive skill initiatives that hold promise for making teachers more effective and students more successful.

On indigenous education…

Red Dust Role Models does fantastic work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids in remote communities, educating them about important health issues through sport, music, art and dance. Red Dust collaborates with traditional owners, community leaders and schools to deliver programs that best target specific health needs in each community, often using a combination of traditional languages and English language in their performances.


Around The World

Using design thinking…

Design and innovation firm, IDEO, have worked with a number of organisations using human-centred design-thinking techniques to develop some really interesting educational programs in the USA and around the world including:

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Online learning platforms…

‪‎Edmodo is the world’s largest k-12 social learning environment, helping to connect millions of learners with the people and resources they need to reach their full potential.

And when it comes to healthy eating…

With an increased focus on the importance of providing healthy food for school kids, ‘A Cafeteria Designed for Me’ helped the San Francisco Unified School District redesign its student cafeteria food system into a student-centred, healthy experience that was much more popular among students, with impressive results.

Also, while it’s certainly not a new concept for Australian children, this article from Fast.Co explains how kids who have recess before lunch eat healthier at school. Researchers from Brigham Young University and Cornell University worked with seven schools in Utah, switching lunch and recess in three of them. They found that in the schools that had recess first, kids ate 54% more vegetables and fruit and 45% more kids ate at least one vegetable and fruit serving.

On social media campaigns….

Social media can be powerful in education. Social Innovation Lab, Epic Change, harnesses the power of social media to support emerging ideas, approaches and technologies of positive social change. They have worked on some incredible educational projects, and a couple of favourites are Twitter Kids of Tanzania and Mama Lucy & Shepherds Schools. Tanzanian woman, Mama Lucy, saved the money she earned selling chickens to start a school which now has over 600 students!

Just this week we have also seen some incredible generosity from Humans of New York, who have helped raise over $1 million for disadvantaged students at Mott Hall Bridges Academy in Brooklyn, NYC. Their goal was to reach $30,000 to provide grade six students the opportunity to leave their neighbourhood and visit a new place. That place is Harvard University.

In an ideal world…

Lastly, this is an interesting and funny TED talk by famous TED orator, Sir Ken Robinson. He makes a case for a radical shift from standardised schools to personalised learning – creating conditions where kids’ natural talents can flourish.

We know there are so many creative and innovative education programs being delivered across Australia and around the world. We’d love to hear from you if are part of one, or have heard of anything cool that we can share on our Facebook or Twitter accounts.