Welcome to the new STE(A)M blog pages. The purpose of this site is to be able to pull together all the strands of activity, that weave into the fabric of STE(A)M, in this college. It is to stimulate thought, and encourage the education we offer, to extend beyond the curriculum and touch staff and students on a personal level; so that we all feel part of a whole, and are working towards a sustainable future – together.
Key words for this blog are ‘together’, ‘one world’, ‘sustainability’, ‘science-based skills’ and ‘art’. ‘Together’ is the most important: So often we all try to ‘do our bit’ and feel on our own, isolated and lacking someone to spin ideas with. This can bleed confidence and energy, and we often just give up….But if we link together, we can encourage each other and be brave enough to look at the huge problems that face us today head on, grasp them and give them a little shake! As Kofi Annan said in his talk about the purpose of the United Nations, “More than ever before in human history, we share a common destiny. We can master it only if we face it together.”
Mentioning Kofi Annan brings me nicely on to the next key word, ‘one world’. Kofi Annan was Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1997-2006, and oversaw, among many other initiatives, the introduction of the Millennium Development Goals, which later evolved into the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (providing a framework of development around the world): One world. In exploring how the individual plays a role in ‘creating a world for our grandchildren’, we need to perceive ourselves as global citizens and reach outside the college grounds, to our local communities, our nation, and our neighbours, and then beyond. Against a current culture of growing Isolationism and xenophobia, extremism and rejection of diversity it is important to try and turn this wave – without collaboration across geographical space, biomes, ecosystems, and cultures, our ability to build solutions are limited. As James Lovelock proposed through the Gaia principle, organisms (that includes us!) interact with their inorganic surroundings on earth to form self-regulating, complex system that contribute to maintaining the conditions for life on the planet: We are all part of a single system, wherever in the world we are located.
So as one system, together, you are invited to exercise your own skills to contribute to the development of ‘science skills’ and ‘art’, to promote a ‘sustainable’ future. Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths are the main letters that make up the acronym, STEM. This is a global recognition of the importance to encourage all young (and old!) people from developing these skills – not to be put off by their embedded bias including ‘for boys only’, ‘they involve getting dirty hands’, ‘boring’, ‘too difficult’ and ‘not for artists’. There are many groups working to combat these inherent bias and shine a spot light on the exciting, diverse and exciting careers that these skill sets can lead.
STE(A)M is the addition of Art. In my mind, it is added in to stimulate debate more than anything else: It upsets engineers – they tell me it implies that they are not creative nor artistic – and they definitely are! It is not implying any such thing: But for me, including the ‘A’, highlights the value we (should/need to) place on beauty in image, sound and dance. Without an emotional response to problems, we will not be able to engage in the solutions. Very often the work of STEM professionals is not heard, creative storytellers are needed to bring everyone together, to celebrate achievements and keep everyone aware of progress – Art is embedded in every slice of a STEM activity!
However STE(A)M is far more than a bolting together of these school subjects, it is a whole philosophy that embraces teaching skills and subjects in a way that resembles real life. It is important to try and break down the silos of subject identities and focus on interdisciplinary learning. It is about leading the way to a transformation education that adequately prepares for the challenges in the environment, economies and environments of the world. Tony Alabaster writes in a cautious hopeful tone, that FE colleges, are now ripe to ‘yield substantial results of environmental good practice’, despite the ‘resource-constrained environment’, “The greening of FHE remains essentially reformist, (as opposed to ‘trans formative’) but there is some prospect that a culture of environmental responsibility…will prevail.” (page xvi Education for Sustainability: Ed: Huckle and Sterling 2001 – great book!)
So! Let’s grab that opportunity, lets see what we can do – together.
Global Sustainability Goals - have you heard of them before?
They represent 17 aspects of the world, how it can be a manged and how it needs to be to ensure that our world is sustainable and provides us all with a good standard of living. It is a detailed step-by-step guide, designed by experts who got together from all over the world. The United Nations has put their stamp of approval on them. Now we have to do them, and do them quickly!
One such person who is 'getting on with the goals' is Greta Thunberg - I expect you have heard of her? She gives us an idea of what it means to stand up and challenge what is happening in the world today, she shows us in actions what the SDG pretty pictures do not reveal, she leads the way to making a difference, that I suspect, most other young people would like to do too - if only they knew how. Watch her speech to the UN below - she demonstrates that change is possible, she can make a difference: We can all make a difference if we know how.
Alongside your lessons and gaining qualifications and growing as a person, you may wish to feel part of making a change, playing you part to ensure the continued good health of the planet on which we depend on to survive.
This enrichment workshop will allow you to explore some of the issues that face us, some ways to play a role in changing and helping to make the world a better place. Each time we will explore some of the sustainable development goals and look at projects or actions you may wish to become involved with, or participate in; to 'do your bit' and be part of the growing section of population who wish to make a stand, make a change and make things better for everyone, now and for the future.
Explore each page of this site and see if there is anything there for you!
Concern about the environment
The worries and concerns about the environment and the way we are treating our natural resources, are very real. The danger this poses, cannot be ignored, although many people may still be trying to ignore it. It is all very frightening and can make you feel not only scared, and worried, but also helpless and dis-empowered to do anything about it. But that doesn't have to be the case - you are not one person making a difference, you are part of many people trying to help, alleviate their worry and face the problem. You just have to know where to find others, and feel part of something big, tremendous and world saving!
Look beyond the words for action
In Greta's speech to the French Government she refers to the need for 'action' over 'words'. This is wise, not just for environmental action, but for life in general - my mother always told me, "Don't listen to what he says, but listen to what he DOES' when judging a potential boy friend! Look out for actions that help to save the word - they are small, as one person cannot move mountains, but added together they can: Words that promise to move them, just produces a lot of cloud to obscure your view of the mountain - but it is still there. Hunt for actions to send us to add to this website: to get you started there are some examples below. From one of them you may be inspired to lend a hand, do what you can, but let your worry and concern abate as you feel part of change and the solution, rather than the problem.
Click on the picture above to take you to a website that reports on environmental action being taken by businesses - which ones are demonstration real action, and which are just saying 'words'?
Confident global citizenship can be linked to a sense of well-being: Recognising 'climate change stress' and what to do about it.
Worry and concerns can cause a sleepless night, and climate change has been identified as a source of worry and concern. Sleepless nights are not conducive to getting up early to college and being alert and attentive and ready to learn. So it stands to reason that those experiencing 'climate change stress' should be provided with the support they require, not just to remove potential barriers to learning but also to address their well being.
Maslow's hierarchy of needs, is the most commonly known theory that reports that people need a prescribed set of 'needs' to be met before they are able to perform as 'self-actualised' people - happy, engaged and able to fulfil their full potential. The most basic of these needs are physiological ones - shelter, food, water and sleep. The second tier of need is 'safety' to include security of employment, resources and health. Stress caused by climate change and the threat of global extinction will affect both of these most basic human needs and therefore are crucial concerns for everyone.
But is there such a thing as 'climate change stress'? New research on the effects of human activity, campaigns from charities and worldwide protests are gripping the media and bringing attention to the climate crisis. It seems that every day there is a new study or bg headline on the effects of climate change. Whilst increased awareness is critical to reversing and halting it, the constant coverage of the climate crisis can make us feel scared, stressed and depressed.
For some people, the feelings of hopelessness, anxiety and fear can manifest themselves as 'eco-anxiety', as detailed in an American Psychological Association report on mental health and climate change in 2017.
One survey commissioned by The Recycling Partnership found that 96% of respondents were worried about climate change to some degree, with one in four admitting that it is their biggest fear. In one case, a viral academic paper scared people so much that it reportedly caused people to go into therapy, quit their jobs and move out of the city.
With seemingly nothing but bad news coming our way, how can we feel more positive and care for our mental health in the age of climate anxiety?
Hilda Burke, spokesperson for the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP), psychotherapist, couples counsellor and author of The Phone Addiction Workbook, has noticed more people with climate anxiety coming into therapy.
"Concern and anxiety over the environment is increasingly a topic brought into my therapy room. Recently a client became quite distressed when she spoke about the consumption habits of her colleagues - lunches bought encased in plastic, carried back in plastic bags and then dumped into the bin with nothing recycled. She apologised for being 'so dramatic'. But I consider her response entirely understandable. It's just her consciousness and awareness of the impact of our consumer habits on our planet. Unlike other anxieties a client may have which are based in unfounded fears, eco-anxiety is rooted in factual data about the deterioration of our planet."
The feeling of being alone in the face of a seemingly impossible task tends to cause the anxiety to spiral, she explains. "The anxiety can often turn to despair and a sense that as one single individual it's impossible to make a difference and therefore the person feels stuck and useless. This is a psychological state known as 'learned helplessness', a state which develops when a person has accepted that they have no control over a situation and thus gives up trying."
Since many people with eco-anxiety can find themselves imagining the worst-case scenarios of climate change and feeling personally guilty, developing a more proactive approach to therapy can help. Talking through your fears and coming up with coping strategies to manage both the current fears and the hypothetical outcomes of climate disaster can help you to handle your anxiety in day-to-day life. Talking with friends and family can help to relieve stress and stop you from keeping it bottled up. It can help you to relieve your frustration and have spiralling thoughts rationalised by others. This is one of the key purposes of the SDG workshop sessions: to discuss fears and concerns with others in a supportive environment - come along!
Some people find that their paralysing anxiety is relieved by action. In fact, Burke suggests that her patients manage their anxiety by getting involved in movements to prevent environmental problems.
"As a therapist, I encourage the client feeling anxious about the environment to listen to their anxiety, to hear it out, and explore ways they could get involved to shape change, whether it's joining an action group or just becoming more conscious of how they can personally act in a way that helps the planet. Doing this can help the client feel more empowered and less 'stuck' in their anxiety. Taking steps - however small - to affect change can help to ease their sense of helplessness."
Come along to our SDG workshops and find out how, in small steps, you can make a difference and feel informed and involved with the solutions - be empowered.
If 24-hour news and social media coverage is making you anxious every time you go on your phone or turn on the TV, switching off for a while or avoiding it completely can reduce key triggers. Even restricting the hours when you can look at climate change-related content could help you sleep better and put you in a better mood during the day, especially if you avoid it first thing in the morning or late at night.
This doesn't mean that you're ignoring the problem completely but it allows you to better handle the news that you choose to see. On some platforms you can also mute social media accounts or keywords which cause you to feel anxious so that you only dip in when you choose to.
Look after yourself
It is easy to feel isolated and overwhelmed when dealing with the enormity of a topic like climate change. However, you are certainly not alone in your fears, and that collective worry is causing change and sparking movements.
It might feel impossible at times but taking time to breathe and do things you enjoy can help to relieve your anxiety and make you feel motivated, even temporarily.
Look at all the enrichment activities offered at college this year and participate in some sport, art, walking or singing to help you to feel better.
We can only work together and solve the problems posed by climate change if we are all able to work as confident, happy people; so if you really want to make a difference, start with yourself! Maslow's theory says that you must first look after yourself, and then you will be energised and able to be part of the solution - we look forward to meeting you this term wherever on Maslow's hierarchy you currently sit, and together we can climb higher.