Primary teachers gather for Educating for Sustainable Development conference in Dublin


#EthicalEducation #SDGs #Sustainability 

Teachers and school leaders gathered for Educate Together’s Ethical Education Conference, ‘Educating for Sustainable Development’ which took place in Dublin 7 Educate Together National School on Saturday 24th February 2024 

This year’s conference theme addressed a core aspect of the Educate Together ethos; sustainability, ethics and the environment. Education for sustainable development (ESD) gives learners the knowledge and skills to address global challenges such climate change, sustainability and inequality. This aligns closely to Educate Together’s Learn Together curriculum, which includes a specific strand: An Ethical Approach to the Environment.   

The gathering aimed to explore teachers’ experiences of integrating ESD into classroom practice and to provide educators with a wide range of ideas and practical solutions to bring back to their schools. It featured workshops, a panel discussion on ESD, and a TeachMeet for more than 70 primary teachers from equality-based Educate Together schools around Ireland who attended. 

The panel discussion brought Educate Together teachers together with invited guest speakers to share experiences of integrating ESD into classroom practice, and the practicalities, challenges, pitfalls and opportunities this presents. Topics included climate anxiety, student voice and activism, school gardens and forest school approaches. Guests included attendees from DCU, UCD, the Irish Schools Sustainability Network, Worldwise Global Schools, Global Village and the Department of Education.   

Speaking at the conference, Educate Together CEO Emer Nowlan said:  

“With the Copernicus Agency reporting this month that the world’s temperature is now 1.52 degrees higher than pre-industrial levels, and war and conflict affecting many areas of our world, this conference is timely. Sustainability is a key domain of the Educate Together ethos, and a core element of our Ethical Education curriculum at primary and second-level. Today’s conference is a wonderful opportunity for teachers to share some of their innovative and ground-breaking work in this important area.” 

Some of our fantastic panellists have shared why teaching education for sustainable development is so important today:  

Rozz Lewis, Portlaoise ETNS:  

“I’m very excited to be speaking at the conference today. The theme couldn’t be more important for teachers working in Educate Together schools. Conferences like this support teachers to take on and topics like global justice, climate change, the concept of peace and ongoing conflicts, equality and economic crises in their classrooms where they can influence their students and community. I love the way Educate Together are at the forefront of the sustainable development in education movement!” 

Mark O’Brien, Carlow ETNS:  

“I’m attending because I believe that a collaborative approach is the best way to effect change in our schools. There is great work being done across the Educate Together network and I hope to share what we have found beneficial and learn from the practice of other teachers. It’s really important to engage children in issues that affect their daily lives and help them find positive, tangible actions that can give them agency to address these topics. Knowing that your voice is being heard and your opinion matters is an incredibly empowering feeling for every child and as teachers it is important that we facilitate ways to allow this to happen.” 

Fiona McKiernan, Swords ETNS:  

“I am excited to attend this conference to learn more about integrating ESD into our classroom practice. One of the key competencies of the new Primary Curriculum Framework is being an active citizen. Our role as teachers is to facilitate the balance between the What (knowledge), the How (key dispositions and skills) and the Why (values) of education for sustainable development.  Our children will begin to understand the world around them, acknowledge inequalities within our world and become empowered to take action themselves for a more just and sustainable future.   

I understand Education for Sustainable Development to be more about the key dispositions and skills (the How) that are acquired. Collaboration, democracy, critical thinking and engaging activities in the classroom will help children to become more socially responsible. This in turn helps children to understand the values (the Why) of global citizenship, human rights and social justice.” 

Paul Butler, social researcher in the area of ESD, Nexus:  

“I am attending the conference to share and learn about how Education for Sustainable Development can be used more widely as an opportunity for teachers, children and the wider school community to coalesce around often simple ideas for positive change. When children are given the scope to develop ideas into self-realised projects and  actions, with support from teachers within our curricular and competence based frameworks, we have seen how they can make important long term and practical connections between their local environment and how they can take on more global challenges. As our young people have put in their climate change rap “come with us and change history…”

Educate Together would like to acknowledge support and funding for the conference from the Department of Education under its ESD to 2030: 2nd National Strategy on Education for Sustainable Development in Ireland. 

Educate Together believes that it is vital that educators have the space, time and opportunity to discuss, engage and reflect on issues that impinge on both their lives and the lives of their students.  

Search for #EthicalEducation on Twitter / X for updates from the conference.