EC in Education: Paulo Freire Institute workshops

The course “The Earth Charter in Education” took place on November 18th, 2011 at Bertioga, a small town located on the north coast of the State of São Paulo.

The course, which began in March 2011, was possible thanks to a partnership between the Sobloco company and the Paulo Freire Institute, and proposed the realization of two different local interventions: a meeting with an emphasis on the formation of 35 school managers associated to the Clorofila Program (an Environment Education program being developed in the region by the Sobloco company since 1992), and eight other training meetings for 70 school representatives (pedagogical coordinators, teachers, principals, officials and inspectors).

The following structure was created for the interventions: a sensitization session for the managers highlighting  their importance and the need for their commitment in relation to the formation process that would be developed jointly with the community representatives. Sensitization included reflection on the projects and self-reflection, as well as offering a theoretical foundation to those representatives who will build eco-pedagogical practices based on the Earth Charter values and principles. 

The educator Cristina Moreno, who works with the Earth Charter in Brazil and was responsible mediator of the course set by the Paulo Freire Institute, made each gathering an investigation mainly focused on one of the Earth Charter pillars.  Triggered by the Understanding of the World part of the Freirean methodology, participants discussed the local situation in comparison to the global situation and the challenges for the future of the country.  The second gathering, marked by the idea of universal responsibility and focusing on the Respect and Care of the Community of Life pillar, led them in a very subtle way through videos and exercises, to the concepts of diversity and sustainability.

The third gathering prompted more reflection.  The Earth Charter theme under study was Ecological Integrity.  The group was led to map collective patterns of production and consumption.  The consumption and children theme resulted in an extended conversation through the UniFreire Social Network, which had been used since the beginning to house the course bibliography, the videos presented and the reflections suggested by the educator after each meeting.  The purpose was to synthesize the information and translate these general principles into daily strategies.   

The other gatherings centered on Social and Economic Justice and focused on the polemic around the relationship between state, capital and consumption and sought to encourage discussion regarding equitable development in the country and human rights advances.  Afterwards, the discussion shifted to Democracy, Non Violence and Peace, already present in a lower intensity in the previous meeting, and evoked the Education dimension in the course. 

The Way Forward, the last theme, was divided into two parts.  With a practical approach, participants developed some project ideas with the purpose of implementing them in the city in 2012.  Through the systematization of these projects, the group discovered that it would be more successful to create collaborative initiatives for the political implementation of the Earth Charter through schools; namely, to include the Earth Charter in the eco-political-pedagogical projects of Bertioga.  Among the proposals were: a library on wheels that would reach neighborhoods and schools with an already considerable tradition; a radio program conducted by students to focus on the environmental protection and the analysis of daily activities at school, specially observing community dialogue; the interdisciplinary approach of the World Cup at school and the whole public network, including the organization of a marathon on collective games for schools; an immediate mobilization involving the school community, the prefecture and marginalized groups for the awareness of tourists and local people toward the preservation of beaches.

On November 18th those project ideas were presented directly to the Secretariat of Education of Bertioga, which received a report of the course. People from the Secretary of Education and the participants of the course also agreed on a meeting with each of the groups to discuss the viability of implementing the projects.  Almost 100% of the participants considered the course “completely satisfactory” regarding goals, activities, infrastructure, selected contents and the educators.  A pedagogical coordinator that participated in the course stated: “I believe that at last the environment became as expected.  Each part of the course had everyone’s participation.  It is a real honor to have contributed to it.”