Climate Changes As Fast As Fashion: Evaluation Report (Kalia Paridi, Cyprus)

10/19/2014 15:02

Education in the 21st century has a multileveled role to serve and several goals to meet. Specifically, <Learning to Live>, <Learning to Do and to initiate>, <Learning to Be oneself>, <Learning to Live Together> and <Learning to know and communicate>, are the 4 Learning key pillars for the Education, every learner needs to acquire, as pointed strongly in Unesco reports. These are sets of the necessary competencies for lifelong learning.

These multiple roles can be accommodated today in various learning contexts and with various contributing factors affecting their nurturing and development. The design of frameworks plays central role in order to create an effective learning environment, facilitating the development of effective relationships in communities of practice and fostering capacities for critical thinking through planned processes. Under this lens, a youth exchange program can serve as a great opportunity which can potentially broaden the concept of “Learning throughout life'. This concept incorporates the learning skills needed for a rapidly changing world mentioned above, skills such as adaptation, flexibility against diversity and complexities, problem solving. The development of these skills goes beyond the traditional distinction of learning in formal environments but relates to continuing and informal education.

With these perspectives in mind, 'Climate Changes As Fast as Fashion' (CCAFAF) was a youth exchange program which attempted to bring Climate Change to the foreground as a modern issue with scientific and socioeconomical impacts in world's citizens lives. It raised the necessary tension points among participants from different European countries. The activities taken place in Summer 2014 in Platres, Cyprus, aimed at increasing awareness and knowledge content over the topic. Participants became members of a whole gradually, while raising their degree of sensitivity around this universal issue. Elements such as the 'global meets the local', intensified the unifying character of the project across intercultural differences. Although each country participant, has met climate change in different ways in his/her country context, the fact that each of these ways is part of the same problem, grounded links between individuals to share knowledge and different experiences.

The facilitation of the program has been a great challenge and a great opportunity at the same time. Constructive feedback from activities can be useful for improving future initiatives. Thus, this brief report aims to highlight specific points for reflection and consideration. The program incorporated various approaches in its seven days duration, during which it attempted to provide experiences for bringing people together and create agencies for effective relationships building. CCAFAF has managed to meet the majority of its objectives and provide active learning experiences to a satisfactory extent. This view was shared as discussed with most participants during the end of the program. In particular, the fit criteria for pointing out the program's success, can be the facilitation of adequate opportunities for sociability, targeted tasks to increase content knowledge combined with increase of awareness and tasks for pursuing personal development of the participants. A discussion and overview of the program's educational value and organizational drawbacks follows.

The 'Learning to live together' skills, were reinforced through the need to develop an understanding of others and of their traditions. Such understanding was also promoted through group work in conducting analysis of risks, challenges, implementing common projects or manage inevitable conflicts in an intelligent and communicating way. The 'Learning to be' skills were assessed through judgment making with a sense of personal responsibility for the attainment of group goals. 'Learning to Do' skills were emphasized via activities which provoked generative ideas, communication and argumentation skills. Participants needed to develop the ability to adapt to a variety of often unforeseeable situations and to work in teams and take up roles and responsibilities for others.

In particular, activities such as <Global warming: reality or fake? Debate - calculate carbon footprint> assessed argumentation skills as well as thinking critically, challenging claims and using scientific data. The outcome of group work and discussions taken place, has revealed that participants engaged themselves, more or else, with scientific processes of collecting information and backing up important claims. The role of an expert researcher in the field, was critical and important in providing clarification to misconceptions which helped in altering perspectives of individuals and their knowledge on the subject, and altering the educational value of the activity. The <International nights> besides offering a sense of amusement and 'happy hours', emphasized the element of 'tradition and identity'. Activities such as <A step forward>, emphasized the need for sharing and solidarity and the concern for equality of opportunity. The need for competition and assessing observing skills were evoked through an afternoon walk in the Cypriot scenery of Kaleidonia rainfalls, combined with a <Photo Contest>. The <Moja Island> activity, provided a learning opportunity to apply skills such as reading, examining, analyzing and combining information for decision making in a novel context. The <local to global - front page> activity reinforced creativity skills in a collaborative framework. Lastly the <Web of life> activity aimed at emphasizing the interconnection of life - food chains in ecosystems and how these are being hindered by human activities.

Overall framing the program's success qualitatively, we could say that the program managed to increase the interest, altered the point of view and perspectives of individuals, overcoming some assumptions or misplaced conceptions, reinforced enthusiasm, creativity and initiative. However, we do not only need to address the uniqueness of this youth exchange program character but we need also to address organizational drawbacks. For example, the relatively large size of the number of participants did reinforced interaction between more people but also acted as a conflicting factor for the smooth running of the program. As shared with most participants, the activity <Web of life> did not meet its purpose to achieve a learning outcome. In addition the large range of ages of participants coming from different backgrounds did play role in raising various difficulties in some activities and hindering the capacity for collaboration and achieving maximized work effort in some tasks. In teams where people varied too much in content knowledge base, epistemological and their developmental level, the outcome of activities was affected negatively. The point highlighted here is the need for a more careful choice of team members for particular tasks, considering factors which may help bridge over the differences at an individual level. This may have increased the gain for more participants. Human diversity is welcomed for adaptation but it needs to be carefully accommodated.  

However, overall, the program succeeded in incorporating activities which reinforced competition, which provides incentives, co-operation which promotes personal development and solidarity, which unites. As a final point, focused examination of the details discussed here, can provide information for more successful implementations in the future.

Kalliopi Paridi,

Phd Candidate in Physics Education