As a final year student studying Sustainable Development and Geography, I spent the summer interning for Routes to Resilience (R2R) a social enterprise established by the charity The Impact Trust.
Routes to Resilience programmes were developed by the Impact Trust in collaboration with the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership in South Africa (CISL-SA) and aim to “awaken consciousness, nurture confidence and encourage intentional global citizenship action”. The programmes help young adults develop a deep understanding through lived experience of our global context and the challenges of sustainable development for resilient futures. Routes to Resilience’s Sygnature Programme is a CPD accredited and Duke of Edinburgh Silver Level programme targeting young adults at school in the GCSE and Sixth Form Grades. In 2021, work with Ashoka and Little Lever School is focused on developing this programme for the KS3 level where educators have relatively more freedom to incorporate contextual content. The first R2R KS3 programme is focused on the geography curriculum which suited me perfectly!
I began mapping the components of R2R’s programme onto the KS3 curriculum, slightly daunted by the fact that I have no experience in ‘education’, other than my own of course. My experience and studies have, however, established in me a strong belief that incorporating the principles of sustainability in education provides an increasingly imperative lens through which to see the world. This is critical if we hope to influence younger generations to strive towards a more sustainable future. I was so impressed with the R2R content; it seems so obvious that this is the ‘stuff’ that everyone should be taught at school! This isn’t an original comment – prior students of R2R’s who are in the Go for Gold employability programme in South Africa, about to enter the built environment, have equally asked “Why is this stuff not being taught at school?”. It’s a good question. The R2R program covers so many important aspects of my current university syllabus, in the most accessible, thoughtful, and creative ways. Being able to access this content in the curriculum at school is something I would have loved to have experienced and would have greatly benefited from.
I have always been fascinated with geography (physical and human) and my studies have allowed me to appreciate the extent to which this discipline is relevant to the lives of every single one of us in ways that go far beyond the specifics of its content. The R2R program fosters a deep understanding of this, making it relevant by intertwining the dimensions of geography that affect all our lives in a way that is understood from our immediate environment and lived experience. For example the program looks beyond simply examining the changes that result in climate change (movement of warm air cells impacting rainfall patterns or currents affecting land masses) to understand how these relate to the consequences of our actions as well as the implications for our adaptation. It considers all of this within a framework of understanding the deeper context of related factors such as inequality, social injustice, and geopolitics.
In my review of online KS3 geography lesson plans, I came across several lessons that explored the geographies of faraway places such as China, Antarctica, and Russia. Whilst this is an important aspect of geography, most of them do not allow the students to relate their learning to their immediate environment or focus on the complexity of the environmental issues we face today. Thus, by bringing in local context to the students’ studies, the R2R program compliments the KS3 geography syllabus perfectly and offers the opportunity to make KS3 learning so much more impactful and relevant. During my R2R internship, I was introduced to Black Geographers, an organization led by geoscience students and young professionals who research why diversity in the environmental science/geoscience discipline remains low. One of the factors that has been identified as a shortfall, is a lack of relevance to students’ lives. Critical to creating a more sustainable and equitable future is diversity – bringing more voices from every background and perspective to the debate. Therefore, by offering R2R at a KS3 level, everybody can have the opportunity to learn about the important issues happening in our world today which can foster this much needed diversity.
What is exciting is that whilst geography is an attractive and obvious first discipline for R2R’s intervention, its content extends into other subjects such as science, business, maths, economics, and history. These extensions will come in further engagements with the KS3 curriculum. In this way, it can inspire people to make a difference not only within the field of geoscience but beyond; students of every background, with diversified interests, can be prepared for our rapidly changing world and can be encouraged to meaningfully contribute toward a more sustainable future in whatever discipline they choose to pursue!
Information on climate change is widely accessible and is increasingly being taught not just at school, but also across online and social media platforms. However, the process that R2R goes through to create a deep and experiential understanding gained through connection with the local environment of students and by developing action competencies for practical change and the skills needed for the 21st century, is what sets it apart. Whilst knowledge is a critical element of the process, so many people are aware of the problems that we face but struggle to know how they can make a meaningful difference. The way in which R2R encourages and stimulates students’ desire and creativity to DO “something” is what makes it so important. It’s been an incredible opportunity to be a part of the R2R and KS3 pilot and I know that it will continue to inspire students and help them to connect to and navigate the evolving world in which we live, in geography and beyond.