Tag Archives: environment

A Curriculum Framework for Purpose-Driven Learning

Why students learn appears in many schools’ visions and mission statements that use words such as ‘inspire,’ ‘empower,’ ‘innovate,’ and ‘make a difference.’ But how many students experience those concepts in their day-to-day experiences at school? Young people naturally want to know, “why are we learning this?” and, “why is this relevant to my life?”

In short, students seek purpose in their learning.

As someone dedicated to using education to leverage meaningful change in the world, I think the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals provide a fantastic opportunity for young people to find that purpose in their learning. They can investigate concepts such as diversity, equality, justice, and sustainability from different perspectives, and students can see how various fields of knowledge both contribute to and mitigate some of the most pressing issues in the world today.

Follow this link for a closer look at this idea in a recent post I wrote for New Nordic School in Finland, where I’m the Director of Education. It should only take a few minutes to read, and it is my hope that you’ll find my ideas about the direction of contemporary education refreshing.


I usually love living in Tanzania, but today has been challenging…

Normally, I love living in Tanzania, surrounded by friendly people, amazing coasts, and almost unrivaled biodiversity. But a story recently published by The Guardian really saddens me.

The short and dirty version (and it’s a pretty dirty story, in my opinion) is that the Tanzanian government wants to sell a massive chunk of land near Serengeti National Park to the royal family of Dubai for their use as a personal hunting ground. The government claims the land will be a ‘wildlife corridor’, but President Kikwete’s representatives have told the Maasai – who have lived and died in the designated part of Tanzania for hundreds of years – that they must leave their land by the end of the year.

Tanzania is offering the Maasai $578,000 in total for the 370,000 acres (150,000 hectares) as compensation. That’s about one Pound Sterling per acre, split among the 40,000 people living there. And the government proposes to funnel the payment through ‘development projects’ instead of direct reimbursement! More bluntly: about US$14 per person for getting kicked off their land.

This same scheme was theoretically halted after large protests and a lot of international media attention last year, but the governing party seems intent on seeing it through. Considering the recent news of government officials’ knowing participation in, and even encouragement of, illegal poaching, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this plot become a staging ground for ivory exports on a massive scale.

If you haven’t heard about this issue before now, I’m hopeful that maybe the renewed public interest will put a halt to this process. But I doubt it.

Reasons #493 – #514 I love living in Tanzania

Good morning. I’m back at school today after a fantastic break from classes, planning, and grading student work. It’s a bit tough to be here after the week I’ve had, which exemplifies exactly what’s kept me in Tanzania for six and a half years and counting.

My secret beach!

My secret beach!

The first 5 days of the break I spent with my family at what is unquestionably my favorite beach in the world, and in order to maintain its status, its location shall remain secret. Suffice it to say that it’s an amazing and deserted beach with good surf and spectacularly dark skies for observing the stars.  I followed up the beach trip with 3 days of camping in Mikumi National Park, where my daughter and I were able to observe over a dozen species of large mammals, including a pride of lions stalking and ultimately killing a cape buffalo, as well as a lengthy list of birds. Check out all the cool birds we saw:

  • palm-nut vulture (Gypohierax angolensis)
  • black-headed heron (Ardea melanocephala)
  • hadeda ibis (Bostrychia hagedash)
  • blacksmith lapwing or blacksmith plover (Vanellus armatus)
  • Egyptian goose (Alopochen aegyptiaca)
  • red-cheeked cordon bleu (Uraeginthus bengalus)
  • southern ground hornbill (Bucorvus leadbeateri)
  • pied crow (Corvus albus)
  • white-backed vulture (Gyps africanus)
  • yellow-billed stork (Mycteria ibis)
  • African openbill stork (Anastomus lamelligerus)
  • Jackson’s hornbill (Tockus jacksoni)
  • helmeted guineafowl (Numida meleagris)
  • wood sandpiper (Tringa glareola)
  • red-necked spurfowl or red-necked francolin (Pternistis afer)
  • lilac-breasted roller (Coracias caudatus)
  • greater blue-eared glossy-starling (Lamprotornis chalybaeus)
  • squacco heron (Ardeola ralloides)
  • African fish eagle (Haliaeetus vocifer)
  • malachite kingfisher (Alcedo cristata)
  • pied kingfisher (Ceryle rudis)

If you’ve never visited, I highly recommend coming to Tanzania. The people here are warm, friendly, helpful, and welcoming. The landscapes are quintessentially African, the beaches and diving are world-class, and in my opinion, birding and safari opportunities are unrivaled on the continent.


Infographics: Information, Graphically!

Happy Monday morning! This morning I’ll share with you one of my favorite resources on the web: the GRID-Arendal Maps and Infographics Library from the United Nations. It sounds complicated, but it’s really pretty simple. And it’s simply pretty, too! The Infographics Library is essentially a repository of data the UN has collected from its various programs all around the world. Much of the data has been converted into easy-to-interpret infographics by skilled graphic design professionals.

Money Grows on Trees - just one example of the resources available at the GRID-Arendal Maps and Infographics Library.

Money Grows on Trees – just one example of the resources available at the GRID-Arendal Maps and Infographics Library. Image courtesy of Hugo Ahlenius, UNEP/GRID-Arendal.

The good people at the UN encourage users to share the information they’ve collated, in an effort to educate the planet about the way we impact our world. You can search the data sets and graphics by keyword, tags, location, and/or UN agency.

I have found this site to be incredibly helpful as a teacher, and I believe that it can help students better understand the many issues they will face when they become professional members of our networked world. Bookmark it.

Also, watch this TED Talk by David McCandless about data visualization, in which he examines not only how we see information, but also when we see it and what that means for our perception.