Industry, innovation and infrastructure

Ask students to:


Set the class a design task and ask them to work in groups to come up new designs for a familiar product e.g. smart phone, car or bicycle.

Groups present their designs to the rest of the class.

During the presentations, the rest of the class ‘grade’ them according to how sustainable, ethical, inclusive and effective they are.

At the end, the class votes for the best design.

In groups, students analyse different advertisements with different messages e.g. car advertisements with women up front, swiss chocolate; Groups discuss the advertisement from the following viewpoints:

The group then ‘fact checks’ to find a more objective way of displaying the article, including pros and cons of its use. The results are presented and then the group reflect on the process.

Possible further activities: Find out how shop-windows and/or TV-internet adverts use social, political, economic, cultural and/or ecological images.

Useful text: Critical thinking about consumerism and consumer focused industry (from Tilbury, Wortman: Engaging people in sustainability, chapter 3, critical thinking and reflection. IUCN, UK, 2004).

‘Let’s meet meat…’

In small groups students make an inventory of their meat consumption over one week; vegetarians do the same when it comes to alternative food (soy, beans, tofu etc.) Best way to do so is to keep a diary.
After a week the outcomes are discussed.

Research (theory): each group member researches the impact of this consumption on people, planet and prosperity, including the relation between these three. Each personal footprint is calculated.
Research (practice): groups arrange visits to all stakeholding places in the food chain, from farm to home fridge to recycle stations.

Focus points: impact on people, planet and prosperity. If visits are not possible, an underpinned PowerPoint, Prezi or similar presentation is made.

Report: a final report, including positive and negative aspects, is presented.

Action (theory): improvement actions are formulated, both personal and system focussed (me, my school, my neighbourhood, policymakers etc.).

Action (practice): team members change their food patterns for one month in a positive manner; and keep a diary of how they do. Weekly reflections take place. After a month the results are discussed. Team members who are willingly to do so, can approach school management, local authorities, family members to discuss the matter.

Reflection: individuals exchange personal achievements, changes in attitude, changes in behaviour.

Follow the thinking steps as described in De Hamer/Heres, 32 lessen voor de toekomst; les 23, De Vries, van People, Planet, Prosperity naar Burgerschap (Hilversum NL 2015).

The ’thinking steps’ are:

Divide the group into five subgroups. Taking a perspective each from social, political, economic, cultural and ecological, groups research their neighbourhood. Groups aim to interview experts in the field. Each group produce a report about developments during the last 20 (or more) years, supported by at least five pictures.

Compare the reports and describe relations between the developments.

Students make a plan for improvement, focussing on each of the five perspectives and discuss the plan with the experts they met before.

Students research developments in a chosen country regarding social (People), ecological (Planet) and economical (Prosperity) aspects. What has changed? What has stayed the same? What was the result of actual policy? Compare with developments under previous governments.

Discuss findings and relations between social, ecological and economic policy. Share and compare viewpoints and suggestions with rationale amongst the group.

Useful websites: BBC’s reality check, National Geographic and The Balance.

Students learn a song eg:

Discuss the meaning of the song and the fact that these are relatively old songs (at least 40 years) that describe a specific situation. Can we relate to it? Is it still relevant? Do we all feel the same about it? How do we deal with differences? What should we do about the issues mentioned?

Students write a poem, essay, song, roleplay in which a preferred solution is described. Imagine (John Lennon) could be used as an example.

Introduce the idea of how learning from nature can lead to smarter designs and more sustainable solutions. Students, in small groups, explore the school to identify unsustainable behaviour, routines etc. They then brainstorm alternative, sustainable solutions that might include mimicry, circular thinking and/or cradle to cradle.

Students write the challenge and solutions on a big sheet of paper and put it on the wall.

Teams check and critique each other’s work.

If possible, the results are presented to the school management.

NB: the whole process can be adapted to consider home, personal lifestyle, neighbourhood etc…

Useful source: ‘Webster & Johnson, Sense & sustainability’ (TerraPreta 2009); Dutch: Leren van de Natuur (NME Utrecht 2010) especially the suggestions on p154.

Students search the internet for ‘Green StartUps’ with innovations that can be useful for the school (or personal life). Example: SmartSkin (a coating that changes windows into solar panels and still can be looked through).

Small groups, choose an item to work on. They discuss this item with the school’s facility manager and try to communicate with the owner of the StartUp to talk about the start up process: how, why, when, what will the future be, expected cost etc.

Students then report back to the facility manager with a strong emphasis on the ecological gain and start calculations: what would it cost to implement the innovation? The final report is sent to the facility manager; or, even better: presented to them.