Education and sustainability – online and in the Arctic

The Spica intensive course in 2019 took place in the city of Ilulissat on the west coast of Greenland. Thirty students and fifteen academic staff from Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Faroe Islands, Iceland and Greenland joined forces to work with education and the UN Sustainable Development Goals in an Arctic context.

The Spica network works with global issues in local environments, and are inspired by teaching methods such as place-based learning and challenge-based learning. These methods and other relevant perspectives were introduced to the participants through an online course period ahead of the course-week in Greenland. Here, staff from the participating institutions contributed with video lectures and other materials based on their fields of expertise. In this way, all the institutions in the network contributed resources to complement the work of Greenland University, Ilinniarfissuaq who was hosting the intensive week. The students met in small webinar groups to discuss the contents of the lectures. Arriving in Greenland, the groups continued their work during the intensive course week, applying the methods and concepts they had been preparing online.

Place-based learning: The Greenlandic context

In 2019 Ilulissat was the local context where we explored local history, culture, environment and economy. Many of the issues that are important to the local community of Ilulissat reflect global challenges: dramatically visible climate changes that affects fisheries and lifestyles in several ways, over-fishing and unemployment, a booming tourist industry that creates job opportunities but wears on the nature, and cultural tensions rooted in a colonial history. Members of the community generously contributed their time and shared their experiences and views with the students, as can be seen in this report about Spica on the Greenlandic news (from 6.45):


Challenge-based learning: sustainable local communities

During the intensive week, mixed student groups with members from the different Nordic countries picked an issue that they wanted to explore in depth. The different activities during the week provided opportunities to gather information, perspectives and ideas. The students were tasked with coming up with an analysis of the problem, and proposals for potential solutions. The perspective of the teacher and educator was a central part of the work, with a particular focus on SDG 4.7:

“By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development.” 

At the end of the week, the results of the week was presented to the course group, with discussions and questions.


Future teachers, Nordic possibilities

An intensive learning experience, interdisciplinary perspectives on education for sustainable development, and forging of friendships across borders are some of the outcomes of the Spica intensive course. In the future, mobility grants from the Spica network funded by Nordplus also allows students to go on exchanges, teaching practicums or fieldwork at the network institutions. As sustainable development becomes increasingly central to Nordic education and curricula, these shared experiences will hopefully help to build creative, resilient and competent teachers (who can also have fun!) for the future classrooms.