Sowing the seeds of Ecological Sustainable Development in K-12 school systems was pivotal in creating the student movement of climate strikes that has since dominated the global news. Students from across Europe and the world are aware of the climate emergency; now, they are taking to the streets to demand action. Moving from awareness to action, “Young Innovators”, a pioneering programme launched by EIT Climate-KIC and led by the Cyprus Energy Agency empowers young people to use systems thinking and climate innovation approaches, helping them to contribute to local and regional challenges faced by their community.
The EIT Climate-KIC project “Young Innovators Cyprus” aimed to support secondary and high school students to develop their 21st-century skills and competencies related to climate innovation. Among others, the project promotes competencies such as systems thinking and analysis, critical thinking, creative problem-solving, and entrepreneurship. It achieves this under the pedagogical method of project-based learning.
Considering the needs of Cyprus by implementing the pilot in 2020 and the Young Innovators Cyprus (YICY) 2021, the Young Innovators Cyprus Team realized there is a gap in knowledge on the consequences of climate change. On climate change itself, there is a misunderstanding of important terminologies that experts could provide to educators and students.
The programme supports the development of essential skills, which are someway neglected in the modularization of learning. It therefore helps students realize the footprint of their actions and how systems operate. The programme provides innovative and sustainable solutions to real-life, climate change-related challenges, that are just and inclusive, and are based on system thinking.
The main objectives of the project were delivered in three stages:
In stage 1 of the project, different teaching specialists (e.g., Geography, Science, Chemistry, Biology, Design & Technology, etc.) teamed up with environmental and sustainable development educators across Cyprus, participating in training sessions.
The participating teachers were introduced to the tools of the programme and the challenge that students would be asked to tackle during stage 2. The first year of the programme was about food waste and the second year was about the maritime sector and ocean pollution in the Mediterranean Sea.
In stage 2 of the project, the trained educators were called to prepare workshops and challenges for their students with the support of YI coaches and challenge owners. Once the participating students are introduced to the programme and its context, they are asked to provide innovative and sustainable ideas/solutions to tackle the given challenges using the programme’s Visual Toolbox.
In stage 3 of the project, an ideation competition took place, where students worked in teams, to create bottom-up, meaningful, and long-lasting climate actions based on real-life challenges. The students also had the opportunity to win special prizes. In the Young Climathon, students from across Cyprus participated. The first year was implemented online due to covid-19 pandemic restrictions, but the second year was implemented as a face-to-face event.
During the first year of the YICY2020, the challenge that students needed to tackle was food waste. In the second year, YICY202, the topic was the maritime sector and pollution in the Mediterranean Sea. This year’s YICY2022 is all about solutions approaching the model of a circular economy.
Such challenges are about plastic, sustainable fashion, metals, smartphones, and electronic devices. In the Young Innovators programme, students were invited to join by introducing them to a systems innovation approach. Taking this approach, students were enabled to explore the relationships between interconnected aspects and take full account of the people who are affected: their values, their expectations, and their reactions. Inviting students to work towards a healthy and sustainable planet, and encouraging them to act as catalysts for systemic change, is critical.
Some other objectives were achieved with the tools of the programme:
By involving schools (both private and public) with the particular programme, the Young Innovators Cyprus Team aims to change the mindset of youth towards more sustainable thinking. This, in turn, could raise empowered students who could one day lead this world to system changes and the mitigation of climate change. Some may be inspired to follow a green education (environmental studies) and become employed in green jobs. Many sectors await them, including RES, green buildings (& energy efficiency), sustainable tourism, and sustainable mobility. Moreover, with synergies among other organizations that are involved in climate change projects, the agency aspires to further collaborate with schools, to increase the interest of teachers and students, and to get them on board with more actions for a sustainable world.
This best practice is issued from our publication “Sustainable Regions in Action 2023”. Find out more by clicking here to discover many more best practices from FEDARENE members as well as an overview of our activities.