Sustainability Learning Café
The Sustainability Learning Café – as part of the larger Sustainability Science Days (SSD) – is a meeting place for all academics, practitioners, activists, students, and staff interested and involved in all levels of sustainability education and learning in general. In a nutshell, the café reveals a need for an in-depth conversation, focusing on the current and future themes, issues, and solutions of learning sustainability—thus creating a culture in which sustainability transformation can truly happen.
Global Innovation Networks for Teaching and Learning (GINTL) hosted one table discussion in the Sustainability Learning Café at the SSD. The main discussion topics were: (1) How do you understand sustainability in education?; and (2) What does sustainability in education mean to you in practice? Researchers and students from several universities (e.g., University of Helsinki, Aalto University, University of Jyväskylä) participated actively in the discussion.
Sustainability in education (SDG4) was discussed from various perspectives. Sai Väyrynen, director at GINTL, explained the current targets for sustainability in education. She also shared one example of the implementation of the UN Sustainability Development Goals in Helsinki 2023: From Agenda to Action. She stressed that different countries may have different targets. All participants discussed how they understood sustainability development – that, for instance, it should not only include the environmental issues, but also dimensions such as the importance of social and society elements, the existence of vulnerable populations, people’s well-being, equality, and inclusion. In their discussion, the participants agreed that all the sustainability goals are interconnected.
The participants also shared their views on ways to take actions and contribute to sustainability goals in one’s own life and in their work in practice. One participant shared how as a researcher and social worker he used resources to support immigrants in Finland in developing their capabilities and to be integrated in Finnish society. Teachers and teacher educators present at the café also discuss how they can integrate the Sustainability Development Goals in their own teaching courses. They felt that more cross-disciplinary courses are needed in the future.
The Sustainability Learning Café was a fruitful discussion for sharing and learning. Participants gained wider and richer perspectives as well as an understanding of the SDGs as a whole and SDG4 in particular. In their conclusion of the discussion, the participants agreed that “substantiality should be connected with responsibilities”, and expressed that they will take further actions in practice towards achieving the Sustainability Development Goals in their own lives.
Jenny Shuanghong Niu
Postdoctoral Researcher, Global Innovation Network for Teaching and Learning (GINTL)