Personal experience can be a useful context

personal experience why it works education
An important aspect of global citizenship education is supporting students to link their personal experience to more abstract global issues, such as the UN Global Goals. This blog post describes some teaching strategies that can be used to support students in this process.

The strategies described are based on developing the curriculum for the My Voice-My School project. Download the lesson pack for Lesson 1 to see how the strategies below can be incorporated into classroom resources.

Strategy 1 – start with the personal experience of your students

My Voice-My School worked with classes in the UK and Syria to explore the UN Global Goal 4 on quality education. Over the course of eight weeks, students developed a youth advocacy project on improving education and started with an overview of the topic.

In the first lesson, the key enquiry question is personal ‘What does a quality education mean to you?’ and the first activity starts with a whole class discussion ‘Why is education important?’ which can be rephrased as ‘Why is your education important?’.

Why it works

  • Students find it easier to start with the personal (existing knowledge) before moving to the global (new knowledge).
  • Students can construct their own interpretations without being influenced by other agenda.
  • Anchors the learning in the reality of personal context rather than as something happening in other places or to other people.

Strategy 2 – introduce voices of young people from other places

A common feature of global citizenship education is the use of images, videos and stories as a way of encouraging young people to consider other perceptions of global issues. In this example lesson, students watched videos about students in other countries.

Why it works

  • Scaffolds students thinking from the personal to other perspectives before generalising.
  • Introduces a global dimension through individual stories.
  • Opens learning through enquiry and challenges assumptions, leading to critical thinking.
  • Enables realisation that there may not be one right answer.

Strategy 3 – introduce the ‘theory’ of global issues

The next stage in supporting students to understand global issues and how they relate to them, is to introduce students to the thinking and theory behind topics such as human rights and United Nations programmes and international agreements. In this stage, we introduced the background to the idea of ‘quality education’ through references to Child Rights and the Global Goals.

Why it works

    • Introduces students to ideas of social justice and human rights.
    • Universal concepts are introduced at an appropriate time in the lesson.
    • Students can apply global agreements to both their own experience and peers in other places.

Strategy 4 – give students ownership over global issues

Rather than just presenting students with global agreements such as the UN Global Goals, allow students to evaluate and rank the elements of the agreement. In this lesson, students looked at the different elements, using a ‘Diamond 9’ ranking activity to consider how important they think each one is. Students could also be asked to reassess their ranking from the point of view of a student in another country (see Strategy 2 above) and from a global point of view.

Why it works

      • Students examine and take ownership of global agreements.
      • Evaluation leads to higher order thinking.
      • Multiple perspectives can be applied to this exercise.

Strategy 5 – explicit links between personal experience and global issues

The final element in this process is to link the personal views expressed at the start of the lesson to the subsequent learning steps. Use a plenary activity that explicitly links personal experience to global issues. In the example lesson, students were prompted to ‘Think about what we have discussed today and make four notes as to how the issue of a quality education links to your own personal experience.’

Why it works

      • The links between personal experience and global issues are made explicit.
      • These links are only made at the end of the lesson.
      • When students are asked to make these links they have gone through appropriate scaffolding, taking them from the personal to another perspective and then to the general, reinforcing this with a ranking activity.

Robot vs coral conservation


Researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are closing in on trialing a new starfish-killing robot, the COTSbot. Crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS) have contributed to nearly half of the coral lost over the past 30 years on the Great Barrier Reef.

The COTSbot has been programmed to identify these harmful starfish from a wealth of other reef life, and deliver a deadly injection. Follow-up work will be done by teams of divers.

Outbreaks of this specialist corallivore have been blamed on changing land use on areas near the reef. Increased use of fertiliser washed into the sea has increased the amount of algae, the food source for crown-of-thorns larvae.

This great innovation will be a useful tool in taming crown-of-thorns outbreaks and ensuring that less coral coverage is lost. However, it is a technological solution to a systemic problem. The COTSbot only addresses the symptom of a lack of proper management of coastal areas near the reef.

This example could be used for a classroom debate looking at whether society is more keen on technological innovations to deal with environmental issues rather than looking at behavioural change that would address the problem at source.


Oceans education subject knowledge (6 of 6)

This is number six in our follow-up posts to to XL Catlin Oceans Teacher Academy, sharing oceans education subject knowledge with teachers.

Ocean acidification is one of the processes threatening marine life and is included in the Coral Oceans and Frozen Oceans resources. This video shows two simple experiments for your classroom to show the process of ocean acidification and its impact on marine life…

Oceans education subject knowledge (5 of 6)

This is number five in our follow-up posts to to XL Catlin Oceans Teacher Academy, sharing oceans education subject knowledge with teachers.

The Incredible Edible Polyp activity is designed to be used in oceans education, and specifically with the Coral Oceans primary scheme of work, but has proved incredibly popular with all age groups and teachers alike. Here’s a video on how to make your own edible polyps with your class and a little twist on the classic anatomy lesson…

Oceans education subject knowledge

Here are two videos to introduce your classes to the work of the Catlin Ocean Expeditions. The first is a highlight video including clips and photos from the Catlin Arctic Survey in 2011:

The second is a Day in the Life video filmed with the Catlin Seaview Survey Shallow Reef team in the Bahamas in 2013 to give you a taste for a day in the life of a marine biologist:

Oceans education subject knowledge (3 of 6)

As a follow-up to the XL Catlin Oceans Teacher Academy, here is one of the videos that is a great introduction to teaching oceans in the classroom and to brush up on a bit of subject knowledge.

This video from the great team at One World One Ocean is a brilliant introduction to the ecosystem goods and services that the ocean provides and a summary of the potential and current human impact on our marine environment…

Oceans education subject knowledge

When ocean currents go bad and paleoclimatologists become Hollywood heros, the trailer for The Day After Tomorrow and indeed the opening 10 minutes of the film if you can get your hands on a copy of the film, make an exciting and extremely exaggerated introduction to the world of thermohaline circulation and the impact of the Arctic ice on the gulf stream…

Catlin Ocean Academy for Teachers (follow-up 1 of 6)

Dr Helen Findlay helped with this great animation on ocean acidification by pupils at the Ridgeway School in Plymouth. We hope you meet a great range of plasticine characters who can help explain ocean acidification and its impacts to your classroom.

Field science: water sampling


“There’s no point in doing oceanography if you don’t know what the temperature and salinity are doing. It sets the scene for all the other measurements and samples you take,” remarks Dr Helen Findlay.

We are out in the boat again on Kongsfjorden, the inlet running from the Atlantic Ocean to the Kongsbreen glacier and edging past the science village of Ny Ålesund.

It is easy to forget that the ocean is not just a massive bathtub, but contains different layers of water with different properties at different depths. Internal waves ripple through it and internal rivers run through our seas and oceans. There are two main instruments used for water sampling and they allow scientists to map the water column.


The first instrument is a niskin bottle. To the untrained eye, it looks like a length of drainpipe with elasticated ends. The niskin bottle has been used for sampling in the polar waters since 1910, when it was designed by Fritjof Nansen and Otto Sverdrup.

The bottle is lowered into the cold dark waters of the fjord on the winch, ends held back, to the desired sampling depth. At each waypoint along the fjord, Helen would take samples at a variety of depths, surface, 15 metres, 25 metres, etc. When the niskin bottle is at the desired depth, a small brass weight, known as a ‘messenger’ is sent down the wire to snap the ends closed and capture a sample of seawater at specific depths.

This is then drawn back to the surface and carefully decanted into obsessively labelled bottles. Helen is studying the carbonate and nutrient (e.g. nitrates and phosphates) content of the water samples. Helen adds mercuric chloride to the samples, which kills any microorganisms, to ensure that the levels of carbonate do not change after sampling has take place.


The other instrument that is used is a CTD, standing for Conductivity, Temperature and Depth. Again lowered over the side of the boat using a winch, the CTD is used to create a profile of the water column and its important physical properties.

These samples and data sets will then be analysed later to give Helen and the team a better understanding of the waters of Kongsfjorden.

Interactive krill lab

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