Wales in 2051

Learning environments that created curious minds

In the third instalment of the Welcome to Wales in 2051 vision, we introduce our next character, Cameron who tells us about what he loves most about his education.

Our previous story was about Adi showing Swansea to a journalist who was eager to learn why Wales in 2051 is such a thriving nation. But, it is not the end of his travels. Having spent time with Adi cycling around the city, he is now introduced to Cameron, an 11-year old boy who Adi babysits.

A day in life of Cameron

Cameron swung the door open, his mother right behind him. He looked out to see Adi accompanied by an older man who introduced himself as the journalist there to interview Cameron and his parents about his school and his experience going there. Cameron’s face lit up with joy at the sight of Adi. Adi was more than just a neighbour and babysitter; she was his friend. At least, she had smiled warmly and said, “absolutely” when Cameron had once shyly asked if she would be his friend.

He was always happy to see Adi because she would play fun games with him and tell him about her work projects of retrofitting the city sustainably, which he liked to hear about. He tried to imagine a mini version of his local area in his head; similar but more intricate to the car road map carpet he had had when he was younger, which his brother now played with. He liked to imagine the landscape as miniature from a helicopter view so that he could mentally view all the changes to the city scape Adi was talking about. He liked maps and nature. He also liked that Adi didn’t just tell him about the new building projects, but she would explain how all the different aspects had been thought about – like accessibility for all people, the most suitable building materials to minimise ecosystem harm, how waste was recycled or repurposed and how homes for wildlife were built in. The wildlife cameras and sonar equipment were his favourite and Adi always let him listen to her recordings. He was learning many of these things in school, but listening to Adi, these things were becoming more real, and he was able to imagine the miniature landscape of the area more clearly.

Learning through others

After the standard formal introductions, they had gotten comfortable in the living room although Cameron felt slightly nervous to answer the questions. The first question was about what Cameron enjoyed most about his school. Cameron thought about the question and responded that he liked the buddy system, the volunteering days, the building modules, seeing his friends, and learning in general. He described the buddy system as a programme where all students get paired up with a student from the year above to offer help with learning, and fitting in to the new year. At his school, primary and secondary school was on the same school grounds, which meant that Cameron mentored a kid one year younger than him from primary school, but he also had his own mentor from the year above him. This was put in place to prevent bullying which worked in the past in other countries and was rolled out in Wales too. He also felt a big brotherly relationship with the kid he was teaching and a strong desire to help and protect him. Cameron had also become good friends with his own mentor whom he had now known for 3 years.

Learning with food

Next, Cameron described the volunteering days as four days spread over the year where all students would get involved in a project in their local area – most recently they had all gone to the local community farm that helped supply nutritious and organic food to the school’s cafeteria. They had spent the whole day there, and they had all helped harvest crops, feed the animals, learn what is required for farming, and how healthy soil is important for nutritious food. They had picked fruit and berries to eat and bring home.

Cameron had really enjoyed seeing how the food he ate every day ended up on his plate and he enjoyed learning in a more practical way. This was a fixed yearly volunteering day, but the remaining 3 days were suggested and collectively chosen by the students with the only requirement being that the project would be a positive social or environmental contribution to the local area. The next volunteering day would be a regeneration project where students would plant native pest-resistant tree species in parts of the city suffering from the new pathogens introduced as a result of the warmed climate. The project, also introduced for shading and cooling had been agreed in partnership with the Welsh Infrastructure Commissioners Office.

Learning by designing

Third, was the environmental construction modules which Cameron described as weekly lessons where his class were introduced to technical environmental skills and able to put them into practice. Projects ranged from building hydroponics to bird houses with green roofs, nature ponds, edible gardens and rainwater harvesting systems. It was still sometimes called Forest School by the older teachers even though, Cameron explained, all his friends called it EC, short for environmental construction. Cameron was excited about all of the projects and he felt encouraged with everything he was learning, as he would also be able to help his community thrive despite the difficult environmental challenges that all nations were facing.

Once finished answering the question, Cameron looked between his mother and Adi for validation that he had done a good job explaining. Both looked at him with immense pride. He looked down on the floor with a cheeky smile across his lips, feeling a mixture of shyness and encouragement. The journalist looked excitedly at everyone and said, “wow, that’s incredible”. His next question was about what Cameron learned in school.

Learning by connecting diverse knowledge

Again, Cameron took his time to think about the question before he finally answered that he learned about history from different perspectives around the world including Welsh folk traditions, maths and economics, where he was learning about different economic models and their impacts on people and planet. He had learned about many different models, including the old-fashioned ones that had only measured outputs around money and productivity. He explained that now, the economic system was more complicated and was also about nations’ well-being, security, and ability to deal with hard times. Cameron asked what the water scarcity indicator was when the correspondent was in school and seems bemused when he hears that in the correspondent’s day, no such thing existed. Cameron shrugged and explained that he also studied English, Welsh, geography, science and sustainability. Other subjects were arts, music, PE, nutrition and computing.

Cameron explained that in all the different modules he had, he learned about impacts on people and the planet. Almost everything they learned in in the classroom, they got to try in practice. Meanwhile, the community volunteering and his country’s progress in the green transition made him feel a great sense of passion, excitement and belonging while simultaneously learning about and embracing his Turkish heritage.

Learning by drawing on social skills and feedback

He also really enjoyed that the teachers taught ways of learning. For instance, they not only set tasks for groupwork but also taught strategies for groupwork to teach effective collaboration. This went for other soft skills as well, such as active listening, leadership, communication, analytical thinking, etc. ‘No wonder an 11-year old can speak so eloquently’, the correspondent thought. Cameron also really enjoyed that the teachers offered students choices about what and how they learned.

Cameron’s dad had returned to the living room and added that from a parents’ perspective, he was happy that aspects of the curriculum was reviewed at fixed intervals and co-constructed by learners’ continuous feedback and input from parents/carers, the local community, and experts who all contribute to curriculum development to ensure it remains relevant to local and global circumstances. Moreover, local and national schools share best practices with each other, which has enabled a faster reworking of the curriculum to the stage that it is at today. Many of these practices were proposed by the Health WellBeing (Hwb) group of the Welsh Government around 2020. Cameron’s mother adds that they also feel grateful for the mandate to keep education free of costs to make education accessible for everyone.

Learning by helping others

When the silence in the room indicated that it was time for a new question, the journalist asked Cameron what he was most excited about doing a year from now. This time, Cameron didn’t have to think. He already knew the answer as he had been waiting for this for a long time. He was most excited about the next year’s opportunity where his year would try and learn how to use the most up-to-date technology at the local tech centre. His year’s computer learning class would progress from basic learning to more detailed study by learning from tech professionals.

The journalist asked how this worked. Cameron’s mother added that some of the profits from the community’s renewable energy farm had been spent on a shared tech centre for all schools in the local area to stay on top of emerging trends. Cameron said that he was also excited about next year’s 1-week work placement. Noticing the journalists’ confused expression Cameron’s mother explains that over the past decades there has been much more emphasis on helping all children find careers that suit their skills and helping employers understand the range of talent available to them. Work experience nowadays started at a younger age and had become much more integrated within the education system. This built ties between business and communities and had generated many different but equally respected career paths. Cameron adds that he can’t wait to start his first placement – at Adi’s company. At that moment, Adi felt like a proud sister, and she couldn’t believe that her presence had led to so much inspiration for Cameron.

Follow next week’s story about Cameron’s dad Luke, who runs a business benefitting not just his family, but the entire region and the planet too!

How can we develop and use the skills needed to create a 2051 we are proud of? Join Karolina and Camille for a free online Green Skills event on 28th May

Wales in 2051

In this mini-series, we follow six characters as they explore sustainability, working life and community in Wales in 2051

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