Cities are often hubs of protest and political activity, as seen around the world during 2011.  ‘Dynamic cities’ offers an approach for exploring democracy and influence through current issues, using the examples of the Arab Spring and events in the UK that summer.

Key sections:

What is it about cities ~ and change?
What does this mean for global learning?
Teaching activities
Further ideas

What is it about cities ~ and change?

The majority of the world’s people live in cities.*  It is the aspirations and needs of their citizens which make them dynamic places, centres of political and economic decision making, with a disproportionate influence on their hinterland.  It is no accident that the Ancient Greek word for city [‘polis’] is where the word ‘politics’ originated.

*Source:  UN-HABITAT State of the World’s Cities Report 2010/2011

What does this mean for global learning?

Young people are growing up and participating in an increasingly urbanised and global society.  They often have knowledge of, and opinions about local and global issues in the news.  The actions they decide to take connect them with people around the world.  We believe that young people are entitled to experience a curriculum which supports them to develop knowledge, understanding and skills needed to navigate the complexities, uncertainties and rapid technological change now and in the future. 

As the next generation of residents, employees and customers, young people have a right to contribute to discussions about what their local city is aiming to be, an entitlement to be heard, and to positively influence change.  Such things clearly contribute to their entitlement to global learning. 

Part of our role as teachers is to provide young people with support to ask productive questions and develop informed opinions.  This is core to the concept of global learning, which is explored further in Enabling global learning through the KS3 curriculum.  Building on these ideas, a group of teachers have explored ways of expressing progression in global learning, [Link new pdf] and have developed a proposed framework based around existing criteria for Citizenship, PLTS, Literacy, Geography and PSHE.  We’d be very interested in your comments about this framework.

Teaching activities

A group of teachers and educators from Hamstead Hall School, Birmingham, and the youth organisation Envision came together to investigate new and innovative ways to engage young people meaningfully in learning about democracy and active citizenship.  Their activities used then-topical events [the Arab Spring and 2011 riots in the UK] as examples of issues which have wide ranging impacts for people around the world.  You could use the approaches in this section to explore other contemporary news events.

Why do cities become hubs of protest? 

A sorting and ranking activity, exploring the reasons why protests tend to happen in cities, and why they can lead to unrest and violence.

Connections between cities

A thinking skills activity, in which young people sort a series of statements, to develop a narrative which explores global interdependence, and the wide ranging consequences of political change in the Middle East.

Using powerful images

This document shares two frameworks for exploring images - the Development Compass Rose and the STEEP framework.

Dictatorship, Democracy and Freedom

A role play activity exploring how governments respond to protest.

Influence and Change

Activities for exploring how change happens, and organisations that enable young people to make a difference.

While teachers at Hamstead Hall School decided to address these issues through Citizenship, these ideas could be adapted to suit a range of approaches and needs, including off-timetable enrichment days and KS4 requirements for active citizenship.  We’d be very interested to hear how you have used these ideas in your school.

Further ideas

Using this resource

Cities are hubs of change in many other ways.  Teacher groups have also explored issues of language and intercultural understanding in City languages, [Link webpage] the use of archive materials to explore migration stories in Living archives, the connections which link cities together across the world in Global connections, and ideas of the commonality of city development in Dadaab – like a city? [Link new pdf SS]

Exploring controversial issues

Young people will often be coming to school with ideas, opinions, information [and misinformation] about issues which can be controversial.  It takes careful consideration and planning to ensure open and honest discussion.  As teachers, we also need time and space to explore issues and implications for ourselves and with colleagues through CPD.  Why teach this? [Link new pdf] offers some ideas for exploring democracy and influence with colleagues. We also offer a range of activities related to addressing controversial and sensitive issues.

Responding to unexpected events…

Sometimes events happen, close to home or far away, which might be unsettling, upsetting or simply of interest.  Summer 2011 saw protests and riots in cities around Britain, including Birmingham.  As key partners in the Cities Project~  Envision spent some time asking young people and teachers how they felt about the riots and the implications for cities.

The following podcasts share some thoughts from Charlotte Rodbourn, PGCE Student and John Gawthrope, Hodgehill School, Birmingham.

As you listen to them, you might want to think about these questions, and come up with some of your own:

  • As teachers, what should the educational response be to unplanned controversy, such as the 2011 riots?
  • How can we best provide opportunities for young people to explore issues for themselves?

Natural disasters are sensitive and emotive topical issues, which are often intensively reported by the media and aid organisations.  Responding to them educationally requires some thought.  Teaching about Haiti, and Responding to global events offer some ways in which schools have responded to these unplanned issues.

Insted – equality and diversity in education offer some very useful materials to support teachers, in thinking through how to deal with planned and unplanned controversy in the classroom.

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