RVS Teacher, École Airdrie Middle School – The UNESCO National Conference was held April 25-27 in Winnipeg, MB at the Museum of Human Rights. The conference was organized in partnership with the Manitoba Association of School Superintendents, Manitoba Education and CCUNESCO.
As a member school of the UNESCO ASPnet organization, École Airdrie Middle School was invited to attend. I was fortunate as a teacher and school liaison to UNESCO to accompany two Grade 8 students on the trip to Winnipeg. Our school was among two other Alberta schools in attendance at the conference. Representatives from UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France were also among the special guests. Our honorary guest speaker was Paul K. Chappell, who is an author and advocate for building peace literacy in education. His focus is to build capacity for educators through professional development, as a means to developing a mindset of peace for humanity.
Our student representatives worked in groups with youth from across Canada who were also there representing their schools. Besides meeting new people, our students attended workshops on global citizenship education, climate change, reconciliation, human rights and art in action. After two days of collaboration, sharing, and reflection the student groups wrapped up the conference by presenting their calls to action that were delivered in the form of chants. Aside from elevating the energy in the room, they demonstrated passion and enthusiasm for the cause their groups chose to represent.
Overall, we left the conference with a sense of pride that our school is held in high esteem alongside other ASPnet schools. To be included in such a prestigious network of schools, who are working together to build a better world, that is more inclusive and promotes global citizenship through education, is as rewarding for educators as it is for our students.
Teacher, École Airdrie Middle School – When I was approached by a colleague in 2009 to join her in the pursuit of becoming a UNESCO member school, I was all in! I didn’t know what to expect in terms of what it meant to be a UNESCO school, but I knew anything related to this moniker was generally good.
Getting school staff on board can be difficult, but once goals are set in place teachers quickly realize that what they are already doing in their classrooms conforms to a lot of the ASPnet and UNESCO criteria. School activities can vary between aligning projects with social justice, sustainability, safe and caring, or tolerance initiatives. It can be as simple as choosing a novel study that focuses on inequalities, or partnering with a school across the world or province via Skype to create a global classroom.
A Lengthy Process
If you choose to embark on becoming an ASPnet/UNESCO member school don’t expect your accreditation overnight. It took our school six years before earning our status. We were, however, committed to reaching our goal. This meant filing annual reports that logged our initiatives, all of which aligned with UNESCO’s pillars of learning. I would recommend having a team of two people to take this on, as it requires attending two annual meetings at Barnett House in Edmonton and compiling information throughout the year.
Flying The Flag
Upon becoming a member school, you are given a plaque to hang on your school wall along with, the privilege of posting the UNESCO emblem on your school’s letterhead and website. The proudest moment of all has to be the raising of the UNESCO flag, letting your community know that your school has achieved something great!
To find out more please visit http://www.unesco.org/new/en/education/networks/global-networks/aspnet/
Editors Note: Congratulations go out to École Airdrie Middle School on receiving official status as a UNESCO Associated School! Founded in 1953, the UNESCO Associated Schools Project Network (ASPnet) is a global network of 10,000 educational institutions in 181 countries. Member institutions – ranging from pre-schools, primary, secondary and vocational schools to teacher training institutions – work in support of international understanding, peace, intercultural dialogue, sustainable development and quality education in practice. If you get the chance, extend your congratulations to the school!