In our suburban Primary school in Slovakia, I decided to implement a baseline audit using this activity, before starting to work on the topic People can make a difference. I had been teaching the class for four years and wanted to measure pupil attitudes to the environment, social relationships and the associated liability for their own actions.
I prefaced this activity with the presentation of a short story I had composed about a pupil who had been tasked with answering the question How do I contribute to make the world a better place to live in? The role of my pupils was to help him by proposing solutions. We then followed the activities in the handbook.
Based on my experience with my pupils I assumed that their answers would be focused on environmental protection, as I had previously addressed this issue within several subjects. I also expected that only a few pupils would raise the topic of social justice, since their attention is drawn to this issue solely in Ethics and over half of the students do not attend this subject.
I conducted the audit activity during a reading lesson. The pupils were interested in the activity from the beginning because they were not used to beginning with a question they had to think about. I split them into smaller groups in which they discussed how they could contribute to make the world a better place. The pupils wrote down their answers or drew on large sheets of paper. Some groups needed help, so I suggested they think about what they might do in the classroom, or outside in the playground, in order to have a better life.
The pupils mostly wrote what should not be done with environment. As for the area of social justice, even after my verbal encouragement, they avoided this topic. I found out that my pupils are well-informed about how they can protect and care for the environment, especially what not to do, so that we do not destroy it. However, the results showed that students did not think too much about people, or about the rest of the world. There was only one comment that could be categorised as Global Social Justice which was: stop war
My expectations that the mention of environmental protection in the responses would significantly outweigh the theme of social justice were therefore fulfilled.
Finally, I set goals that I wanted to achieve through a variety of activities. I wanted to encourage pupils to:
- empathize with the social (and not just environmental) problems;
- understand that human behaviour has an impact on the surrounding environment;
- hear and appreciate the view of others;
- understand their responsibility for their actions towards each other and within society in general.
I wanted to make pupils begin to think about other people, to support them with solidarity and empathy. But the important thing for me was that the students retained their ideas about taking care and protecting the environment. To achieve the goals I prepared six activities related to various social problems .
Follow – up activities
|Name of activity||Objective||Description|
|Life in a village and in a town||Empathize with people having various social problems.||In groups, pupils discussed what kind of problems people in the pictures. Each group expressed itself differently depending on pupils’ own experience. Afterwards, each noted down what he/she would do to try to avoid getting into such a situation and what should be done to help others to avoid such a situation.|
|Towns on a map of Slovakia||Consider how to help others, perceive and experience pro-social behaviour||Getting off a (fictional) train in different cities, pupils divided into groups and became landlords of one region. Each group worked to resolve a specific issue relating to the local environment, interpersonal relations and social problems. Finally we had a round table meeting during which the representatives of each region explained their approach to the problem, and how they resolved it.|
|We travel across Slovakia||Describe and assess people’s behaviour, respect the opinions of others, participate in solving problems||Pupils were divided into groups in order to address situations occurring in vehicles. Creatively but realistically they then performed dramatizations of the stories.|
|Christmas traditions in the world and in Slovakia||Empathize with the emotions of others; accept diversity of cultural expression; consider imaginatively hopes and wishes of others||Pupils were given pictures of families to whom they were to compose a letter describing how they spent Christmas holidays. Their task was to present the families in play form, so that their different cultures (Roma, deaf Slovak, Hungarian and English) were not revealed upfront. Finally, the pupils invented a gift that would have wished for the child of that family.|
|Friend from Ecuador||Empathize with a variety of social problems; appreciate differences among people.||Students read the story of Mary from Ecuador. They had to imagine that they were in that country, and were her classmates. When I asked students how they travelled to school in the village, their answers were related to the local environment.|
|Musical sensitivity||Compare conditions of life of children in different countries; assertively express their own opinions and attitudes.||This activity dealt with children’s rooms and their facilities. With the help of a presentation without commentary I showed rooms of rich and poor families. Then I divided the students into 6 groups, to consider What are the differences between the places displayed and Slovakia? Which song (of three proposed) would suit these rooms?|
For the final audit I prepared the same activity as in the initial survey. I again divided pupils into 7 groups (differently composed this time) and asked them to answer the same question: How can I make the world a better place? I compared the results with previous audit and changes were obvious. The objectives set out after the initial activity were achieved. Students reproduced but also expanded their ideas about how they could protect the environment and a significant increase occurred in the observations on various aspects of social justice. Students began to think about the other people who needed assistance, but also about each other’s welfare, and decent behaviour to each other. The change is visible in the table. Where there was only 1 global social justice comment the first time round, now there were 10.
Two hours should be set aside for the activity, as students can be so interested and involved that the final discussion lasts some time. It would be a shame to curtail it before hearing all the comments and emotional reactions of pupils.
|1st audit||2nd audit|
|Local Social Justice||5||20|
|Global Social Justice||1||10|
Most common comments from baseline:
don´t drop litter,
walk on the pathways not on grass,
plant new trees,
stop producing nuclear power plants,
don´t damage nature
give homeless a flat and something to eat,
don’t cut down the trees
Most common comments from final audit:
don´t waste water,
don’t drop litter,
be good to others,
help older people
encourage children to value what they have
don’t cut down trees
use more solar panels,
deliver education to more children
send money to people who need it
give to charity
help poor people with food
people should learn more
behave with more respect towards others
There was not only a significant increase in the numbers of responses, but a much better balance. The greatest change was in the social justice category. The pupils seem to be much more aware of possible actions that they or others could take to better the lives of other people.