Photolanguage and mindmapping methods

  1. Divided students into groups of 3 or 4. Each group has a set of photos representing an aspect of water management. They describe the set of photos and what it says about water. Possible examples of photos:
    • usages of water (religious ceremonies, irrigation in the desert, tourism, luxury swimming-pools, etc.);
    • access to water and sanitation (person having to walk far away to get water/running water, water scarcity for humans and animals / area with a golf course irrigated regularly, public toilets/absence of toilets etc.);
    • impact of human activity on humans and the environment (dying fish in a river with industries in the background, dried out rivers, health problem due to polluted waters, conflicts, dried out wells, etc.);
    • indirect use of water (clothing store and shrinking Aral Sea, drought in Spain and strawberry consumption in winter in Switzerland, etc.)
    • governance issues (privatization of water by companies, well construction campaigns leading to overconsumption of the underground waters, construction of a water distribution infrastructure, etc.).
  2. In plenary, the teacher draws a mind-map with what students have identified. Links between different parts of the mindmap are drawn and discussed.
  3. Discuss unsustainable features in the system. Use one colour to identify unsustainable features.
  4. Discuss what action could take place in order to make the situation improve. Another color is used to point this out.

Students are divided into groups and asked to draw on a flip chart a web showing rights, duties, implicit and customary rules, challenges and opportunities for women and for men.

Students then reflect on differences and set up two webs with string, one for each gender, representing the connections among components identified.

Simulate the tensions and the strains created on the two systems if an external factor occurs (e.g. problems at work, new opportunities, family needs, social challenges…). Then reflect on the differences.

Split students into groups of 3 or 4. Ask each group to draw a large outline or silhouette of a person. Ask them to think about what qualities and characteristics an educated person might have. Students should write these in the silhouette of the person.

Next ask them to draw a big circle around the silhouette of the person to represent the world. Students should now discuss what the qualities and characteristics of a world full of educated people would be and write these down.

Students can also add pictures and symbols to their drawing.

Ask groups of students to share their ideas.

With students in pairs, ask them to think about the opportunities that could open up as a result of everyone having access to quality education. Ask them to come up with a list of five opportunities to share with the class.

Divide students into three groups. Each group is responsible for one dimension (social, political, economic) and discusses and then presents on a flip chart how it can affect people’s health and wellbeing. 

Using the web game, students are asked to find the connections between the three dimensions and reflect on how these as a whole affect health and wellbeing.

Using the results of the two previous activities, in groups students create a concept map presenting the causes and consequences of social, political and economic dimensions to peoples’ wellbeing.

Students then discuss the values and beliefs underpinning the decisions behind social, political, economic dimensions that impact on health and wellbeing.

To think systematically about the issue of hunger, ask students to explore the figures here.

Ask them to research the background of a figure that interests them relating to hunger. And present their findings to the rest of the group. 

Game-example: Play Stardew Valley

They’ve inherited their grandfather’s old farm plot in Stardew Valley. They can learn to live off the land and turn these overgrown fields into a thriving home.

Short description

Group is divided into small groups and asked, as a pre session task, to research an everyday item such as a pair of trainers, or a mobile phone. They should investigate the following and prepare a presentation for the rest of the group:

After the presentations, the group leader should ask questions leading the group to reflect on the sustainability of this practice drawing attention to the fact that some of the items involved in manufacture are finite and thus running out, that increases/decreases in production might have environmental, economic and social impact and that the production is probably linear and resulting in waste.

This should lead to input on linear and circular economies.

Groups are then asked to either redesign their item according to circular economy principles, or to find an existing product that is already designed in that way and to present and discuss their findings.

Short description

Small groups. Each given a different model of sustainable development to a) discuss and interpret, b) consider what they like about it, c) consider any reservations they may have about the model.
Reformed groups containing a person representing each model. a) each person their model and their thoughts b) discuss together which model they prefer and why c) discuss which they feel are the earlier versions and which later and why.
Plenary share thoughts.

Short description

Whole group is asked to simply stand up and wander around without further instructions or explanations.

Eventually things will happen e.g. people will stop and talk, will sit down, will start to protest.

In plenary the group are asked to reflect on what happened e.g. what patterns emerged and what behaviours emerged. This could then lead on to discussions of emergence, autopoiesis and the ripple effect.

Short description

Various pictures of wildlife are distributed amongst the group, e.g. oak tree, hawthorn, fish, bird of prey, spider, hedgehog…
Members discuss together what they know about each.
Group leader then moves randomly amongst the group asking what connections each thing has with other items. A ball of string is then passed between each to show the connections and to gradually build up a web between them.
Group leader then creates a scenario whereby one of them is removed, and then another and the web starts to collapse.
This should lead to input on the meaning of and models of sustainability.


Ask students in their assigned role to find something that eats them or that they eat, hold a length of string tightly between them and use additional string to add other connections. At the centre of the web should be one student who is assigned as an oak tree. The leader moves among them, distributing lengths of string and ensuring that everyone is connected at least once to the central web. Once everybody is connected the leader acts out the role of woodcutter (pretending to use an axe or chain saw for dramatic effect) and fells the oak tree. As the oak tree student falls to her knees she holds tightly to her lengths of string. Each student that feels their piece of string being pulled must also fall to their knees while holding tightly to their strings. Very quickly the entire class will fall to their knees showing how the loss of one key species can affect many others.