GSA Finalist 2023

Green Skills Award 2023 finalist: Türkiye - Birsen Tanrikulu, teacher


Vote for Birsen Tanrikulu, Turkiye!

Inspiring climate awareness in schools across Europe

Secondary school teacher Birsen Tanrikulu is passionate about saving the planet.

For the past five years she has been involved in running European twinning and exchange projects focused on green skills and sustainability.

“We try to empower our students with the knowledge, skills and values to address the interconnected global challenges we are facing,” Birsen, an English teacher at Kuyubasi Sehit Oguzhan Duyar School, Amnkara, says.

Last year, after the European Council adopted a recommendation to stimulate learning for the green transition and sustainable development, she founded INSPIRE – ‘An Inspiring Network for a Sustainable Planet and Inclusive Renewed Education’ – as an e-Twinning project involving 19 teachers in 12 schools across Europe.

The project is now one of the 10 finalists in the European Training Foundation’s Green Skills Awards 2023.

After conducting a survey and analysis of the sustainable teaching and learning needs in partner schools in Albania, Azerbaijan, Croatia, Moldova, Poland, Slovakia, Spain and Turkey, a green skills curriculum based on the UN’s 17 sustainable goals was developed.

Divided into four areas - Social Equity & Sustainability, Environmental Integrity, Economic Vitality, and Cultural Diversity – the project aims to enable students “to embrace sustainable development goals and prioritised knowledge, skills, values and action competences for integrating and balancing the goals,” she adds.

Not content with one project, Birsen widened the scope of INSPIRE to launch it as an Erasmus+ project with the Polish partner school. At the same time, she founded another eTwinning project, ‘It is Time to Recycle and Be Digital.’ Currently running with 17 partners from seven different countries, the project combines English language teaching with the “endless possibilities of recycling and the need for a sustainable approach both in the physical and digital environment” while interacting with students from across Europe.

INSPIRE began by surveying teachers and students across its 12 schools to better understand and analyse their sustainable learning needs. The survey posed questions such as awareness of UNESCO’s Education for Sustainable Development 2030 project, how much support for sustainable learning was given by the local education authorities, and the extent of green practices engaged in by the school community. Attitudes to setting a green example, and supporting environmental aid campaigns were also gauged.

Analysis of the findings led to the development of student coursework on the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, divided into four areas: Social Equity & Sustainability, Environmental Integrity, Economic Vitality, and Cultural Diversity.

By dividing the teaching focus, four groups of teachers and students from across the network were enabled to collaborate on investigating the SDG in each area and make video presentations for sharing within the network. Rigorous internet safety was observed – students were seen either as avatars or with their faces covered – and concrete activities (such as ‘how many litres am I wearing?’ or ‘I am calculating my carboon footprint’) used to embed the learning. The presentations were all done in English – to add another level of education value to the project.

The project had a range of outcomes, Birsen notes: through integrating sustainable development goals in the curriculum, awareness of global issues was increased; students learned how to access, evaluate, store, produce and exchange information, broadened their ‘green’ vocabulary, and used English as an international language to share experiences across countries and cultures.

“Our planet urgently needs to be healed and secured,” Birsen says. “The future of humanity and the planet lies in our hands. Education and training are essential – and we are determined to play a key role. We may be the last generation to have a chance of saving the world before it is too late.”

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