Aware, Able, Act

Have you ever heard a tree breathe?

Have you ever heard a tree breathe?

Aware, Able, Act:  separately three simple words but together they combine to make a very powerful vision.  A school’s curriculum or learning programme (as I prefer to call it) is very similar to this concept.  We constantly use words to describe and explain all aspects of education and teaching, each one with their own relevance to specific students and their progress through school, each one seemingly important in their own right: assessment, holistic, standards, creativity, progress, leadership, independent, collaborative, the list goes on…  These words can look and sound very impressive and you will often see them on most school’s websites, in prospectuses and throughout publicity materials that promote and explain elements of a curriculum.  They mean very little though if there is nothing to bring them together, to link them like a helix that intertwines through everything a school does for its students and make learning authentic.  A really good school will have a learning programme that does this, and will be fully aware of the ‘DNA’ that brings these words and their impact on the students alive.

crushing egg shells for fertiliser

crushing egg shells for fertiliser

Aware:  All schools provide students with knowledge; it is the basis of education and the key objective to passing tests and exams ultimately gaining qualifications to (apparently?) be successful in life.  There is a lot more to life than just passing examinations therefore we want our students to be inquirers and critical thinkers to become socially and emotionally intelligent, not solely to be spoon-fed and reliant upon the passing of information, there is so much more to know, to feel and to find out.  Realistically students today can find the answer to anything without a teacher (my son is forever on Youtube watching National Geographic); the important thing is the process and how to gain the knowledge and questioning its validity.

what a learning environment!

what a learning environment!

Able:  Education is not from the neck up!  It is important to allow our students to learn in the ways that best suit them, to use all of their senses, emotions and skills, to be able to learn outside of the box.  A good test (for the students and teacher!) would be to observe a class with no teacher and to see what the students would do?  Giving children the knowledge and making them aware is important but a good programme will also ‘equip’ them, give them the tools and the confidence to use their knowledge, to be independent learners and to share it with others.

we dance together

we dance together

Act:  Too many people make the mistake of jumping straight into action.  Without real awareness and the vested time in life skills, cultural awareness and confidence building then this can be a negative experience rather than a proactive one and in the long-term this can be quite damaging in many ways.  With accurate and detailed knowledge and a confident skill set young people are empowered to make a difference, and they will.  This is not a powerful vision but a reality.

going above and beyond for learning

going above and beyond for learning

The Global Citizenship Award realizes this reality and helps young people graduate from school:  Aware, Able and Acting.  You to can also be part of this learning experience and make the most of your potential as a global citizen.  Choose an Identity, set yourself a challenging target and get reflecting – we look forward to hearing from you soon.

The Scottish Referendum

Contributed by Karen Partyka

Karen's voting card

Karen’s voting card

On Thursday 18th September the Scottish people had the extraordinary opportunity to vote for or against independence. It was very interesting living in the country leading up to the day, things were much tighter than perhaps people could have hoped for. For me it was very inspiring seeing the pupils in my school who were eligible to vote throwing themselves into politics. Many that I spoke to had taken time to research the different options and thought carefully about their vote. They each took their vote seriously and felt they were making a difference in their country. Once they had made their decision they were passionate about their vote and got involved in the campaigning. Also in the school the younger pupils also were engaged. Even though they could not vote many had decided what they would have voted. There were many lively debates and discussions heard around the school, in the classrooms and in corridors.

But what struck me the most was how lucky I and the Scottish people were to have our democratic right to choose, to be able to go on the streets and campaign and engage with people and tell them what I had democratically chosen. There are many people in the world who do not have that right and in some cases do not have the freedom of speech.

Pantila, as head student, encouraging whole school voting for student leadership positions during election time

Pantila, as head student, encouraging whole school voting for student leadership positions during election time

I have a friend who told when he votes in his country, you go into the booth, mark your card with “your choice” then someone “checks” you have chosen the candidate that the government has decided will win then you put your card in the box. This is happening today! In these countries they would be arrested for campaigning for their candidate if it was not the chosen one. Today there are 5 communist countries where people do not have the democratic right to openly vote, there are also many more countries which have restrictions about freedom of speech and freedom of the press. According to the Press Freedom Index 2014 “the bottom three countries freedom of information is non-existent”. The Index lists 180 countries and Eritrea is 180th, North Korea 179th and Turkmenistan 178th. Other countries which have terrible records for free speech are Cuba and China and both these countries have the biggest prisons in the world for journalists according to the Press Freedom Index.

senior students facilitating discussion and debate regarding changes in their school constitution

senior students facilitating discussion and debate regarding changes in their school constitution

There are also countries where criticism of their religion or monarchy is illegal and people are imprisoned for committing these crimes.

All the information about lack of democracy and freedom of speech makes me realise that on Thursday 18th September 2014 along with 84% of the Scottish population we cast our vote in a democracy with no fear of imprisonment.

Setting personal targets help you to flow


Cycling is a great way to push yourself, just as many other sports and hobbies are – especially if you enjoy doing them.  You don’t always have to push yourself though as it is often just as rewarding to do something to relax and to take your mind off things.  On the flip side I also find cycling an excellent opportunity to reflect, go over previous experiences and events and to also formulate new ideas for upcoming projects and activities.  I have realised that this happens best when really exerting yourself in the saddle and taking on the terrain – the brain seems to have a positive connection with the effort being put in to get up a steep hill and the exhilaration you feel by beating a best time or furthering a maximum distance achieved.  I am sure there is a biological explanation or a proven concept for this – I compare it to the state of FLOW, a theory first explained by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.


Flow is where you lose yourself in the function, when your skills to do something are being challenged by the difficulty of the task or a personal target to succeed.  You can often recognise that you have experienced this state when time has flown by – as a teacher it is especially rewarding when you hear your students say that they can’t believe it is the end of the lesson, ‘the time has just flown by!‘  To me this signifies that they have experienced the following attributes to their learning during that lesson:

Engagement, challenge, ownership, confidence, fun, skill utilisation and development


I very much enjoy cycling with my own children and watching them grow in confidence as they have moved from their tricycles to learning wheels and then onto their first proper bikes.  My oldest son is now cycling with gears and is always inquiring about the science behind how they work and why they make uphill cycling easier, etc.  My daughter, who has only just turned five, doesn’t have gears on her little pink bike but loves the motivation and challenge to ride as far as her big brother – she has just rode her first 10kms and was very proud of her achievement.


What impresses me is when I see them jump on their bikes without any encouragement and watch them ride around the garden and compound.  They set up little bike tracks and obstacle courses and challenge each other to do different tricks.  They are exploring their abilities themselves and using their confidence to be even better cyclists with a more diverse range of skills.  I want them to set themselves personal targets (Jonah now wants to cycle 20kms – without his sister!) but not at the cost of not enjoying the experience and possibly putting them off that activity or hobby permanently.  Getting the balance right is important, knowing when to let go and not to push them too far is not easy as a parent or a teacher but it is worth it to seek that optimum state of flow and an independent resilience to be successful in life.

You may also like this post: Congratulations to Poppy Mulford on achieving the Global Catalyst Award

Congratulations to Chuliporn Mae Underwood on achieving the Global Ambassador Award

Learn to know, Learn to do, Learn to be, Learn to live together

To see Mae’s portfolio of targets and reflections for the Global Ambassador Award please click here.



Comment from Mae:

Doing the award was relatively easy if done along side the CAS program offered by the International Baccalaureate. However, if I did not have to do the CAS program I would have still gone for this award, as it is a good sort of guide if you want to develop and better prepare yourself for life after high school – plus it’s an accomplishment to be proud of! Also, it took me just under two years to complete this award, although it probably should have taken one.


Mae on starting university at UC Davis:

I would also like to mention some interesting things about my university – during freshmen orientation at UC Davis, they told us that, after our first year, the extra-curricular activities we did throughout High School will no longer be significant on our CV. I found that a bit shocking but I’m excited to see what kind of opportunities I will be offered here and how it might differ from the ones I took in Thailand. I am also proud to say that UC Davis is a very environmentally-aware community. It is a sort of bike town where everyone cycles to classes and even around downtown Davis. It’s also an agricultural area so there is an abundance of organic produce. My residence hall is right next to the cows, but they say you get used to the cow smell.

Mae with YaYa and the Girl-Up group

Mae with YaYa and the Girl-Up group

Congratulations Mae on being an amazing Global Citizen.  We look forward to hearing about your progress and achievements in becoming a Global Mentor.


Sewing for global citizenship

Contributed by Karen Partyka

Sewing with Karen

Sewing with Karen

I started sewing earlier this year. I wanted to be free from being told what to wear by fashion and be creative. I also started making little things for other people, bags, lavender sachets etc. Then recently I saw online about a woman called Lillian Weber. She is 99-year-old and for the last two years she has been making dresses for girls in Africa through an organisation called Little Dresses for Africa.

Lillian Weber making dresses for others

Lillian Weber making dresses for others




So far she has made more than 840 dresses and she plans to make 150 more by next May which will mean on her 100th birthday, she will have made her 1000th dress! I was so impressed by this lady, she took her talent and decided to do something with it beyond her own life. I looked into this organisation and decided I could start making dresses.


The organisation mainly gives the dresses to girls in orphanages and to families who would have to choose between food or clothing but could not pay for both. I was horrified to read that during one of the trips to Sudan, they gave the dresses to little girls who were wearing absolutely nothing. Clothing is a basic necessity and one of the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights. Having clothes gives you an identity, gives you a purpose and dignity. People who live in the developed world have no idea what it is like to have nothing to your name and how having one item of clothes which is yours only, you don’t have to share, just yours, can be the little seed which will grow. The charity’s motto is “We’re not just sending dresses, we are sending Hope

Watch this – the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (always good to remind yourself)

We all have talents and gifts, when I was sewing my dresses I was thinking I was sending these to African countries and that my dresses would be saving the children. These dresses will not change their lives in a day and I am not saving these children. But it is a partnership, these children deserve the right to have the opportunity to develop into global citizens and to take up their place in their community and the world. One of these girls could become the leader of their country and allow it to prosper and years down the line they will teach me.

“Just because you can’t count it doesn’t mean it doesn’t count.” Sir Ken Robinson

50 posts for the Global Citizenship Award

50... but not slowing down

50… but not slowing down

The Global Citizenship Award is celebrating it’s 50th post after just under 3 months of existence.  Thank you to everyone that has followed the growth of the online award and platform for celebrating personal growth and achievement through the 16 Identities of global citizenship and UNESCO’s Four Pillars of Education.

GC Award in numbers so far:

3500 hits, 7 GC Award achievers, 7 females*, 2 Global Mentors, 4 Global Ambassadors, 1 Global Catalyst, 6 different countries (see the world map here), 2 alumni assessor and contributors**, 2 academic assessors and contributors

 *The GC Award team is looking forward to the first submission from a male (Jonah, aged 7, is close to achieving his Global Explorer Award, see here, will anyone beat him?).

**The GC Award team would like to welcome Katrin Puutsa to the team as our second alumni assessor and contributor (see the GC Award team here – we are always looking for new members).

Straight ahead for global citizenship

Straight ahead for global citizenship

Why should you do the GC Award:

1. To track your personal growth and achievements across a broad and diverse set of learning experiences

2. To develop a digital portfolio / record of achievement that can be used for future interviews and applications (see an example here)

3. To set personal targets and to become a reflective person seeking continuous improvement (lifelong learner)

4. To realise that learning is dynamic and that the skills, values and attitudes you develop are transferable and help you to become successful in life

5. To share amazing learning experiences and provide ideas and opportunities for collaboration (once you have achieved the award you can contribute to the website at anytime and build an online profile)

6. To embrace being a citizen of the Earth and everything that we can learn from it

7. It is a challenge and to achieve the certificate!

8. We always give constructive feedback and are happy to help anyone that is looking to learn through global citizenship

Reflection is what links our performance to our potential

Reflection is what links our performance to our potential

How to achieve the award and contribute to the site:

There are 2 ways to achieve the award (there are 7 awards depending upon your age and you can work through them all):

1. Keep a personal diary or portfolio of your experiences, targets and achievements across the 16 Identities.  When you have completed them all (they must be challenging) submit your portfolio here for assessment.

2. Choose one Identity at a time and set a target that will challenge you – ‘take you out of your comfort zone’.  Record the experience through a reflective process, preferably in a digital format – include some photos or video, etc.  Then submit the post for that one Identity here.  You can then choose your second Identity and so on…  We will record your progress through the website and inform you when you have achieved the relevant GC Award. We will also help you present all 16 of your Identities in a smart digital format on completion.

The original 16 Identities of the GC Award

The original 16 Identities of the GC Award

NB: The GC Award team do not claim that the original 16 Identities are the only ones that distinguish a global citizen – there are many more.  We are more than happy for you to choose alternative Identities that fit under each of the Four Pillars of Education and as long as you have completed 16 in total.

Some of our favourite posts so far:

Baking for global citizenship

World War One – a personal reflection

Finding the leader in you

From Ice to Rice

Remember you can read the posts of your favourite GC Award team members and GC Award achievers here

You can follow the Global Citizenship Award by signing up to follow this blog at the top right on the home page.  You can also follow the award on Twitter @pauljcrouch or on Facebook.