Pickering College, an independent school located in Newmarket, has a vision to develop innovative, courageous, and compassionate global citizens. All students take part in the Global Leadership Program (GLP), three aligned but distinct programs for Junior, Middle, and Senior School that lead to an action-based Global Leadership Diploma. The Junior School GLP culminates in Grade 5, with student presentations of My Key Idea, a project including a research report, podcast, and speech on a topic of personal importance and global significance during their graduation. Following their presentations, students are awarded a key to represent opening the door to the next stage of the program in Middle School.
My Key Idea
In spring of 2019, the Grade 5 students invited the Lieutenant Governor to hear their My Key Ideas, each one framed by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The students began with a statement, “Many of our presentations today highlight our work in developing global awareness, environmental stewardship, social justice, and understanding the impact of new technologies in our changing world.” The presentations covered a range of topics, including: Saving the Amazon Rainforest, Child Labour in Africa, Malnutrition in Developing Countries, Wind Energy, Pollution in the Great Lakes, and How Poverty Affects Health in Ontario.
When education is inclusive and broad, we give students a sustainable lens through which to see the world. The three pillars of sustainability – social cohesion, economic prosperity, and environmental stewardship – are terms used by governments and policy leaders, though from my experience, many students are nonetheless learning, acting, and asking questions within these guidelines in Ontario today.
Why do we have homelessness?
What is the future of work?
How will we deal with plastic in our oceans?
I first met the Grade 5s of Pickering College when they visited the Lieutenant Governor’s Suite to see Awakening, an exhibition featuring art and essays inspired by the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The students were curious, enthusiastic, and seemed to understand the SDGs better than many of the adults who visit us.
When I was invited to witness their graduation ceremony, I expected the usual proud parents and teachers, but was unprepared for the students’ eloquence and confidence as they presented original solutions to global problems. Many of the problems they brought up provoke a sense of hopelessness in adults, but these young people, armed with the power of education, viewed them as issues to overcome in order to ensure their future potential. They see their place in the world, and their impact, as beginning with their graduation, and they were rewarded with the ‘key’ to the next stage of the program and their development.
Caring about the planet and its people starts at an early age. Through the Global Leadership Program at Pickering College, and with the support of their teachers and parents, each of them is making a difference – in their neighborhood and beyond. Stories like theirs leave me with a sense of hope and promise for the future. I am confident the next generation of Ontarians are prepared to take on some of the most challenging problems our world has ever seen.Sustainability