The journey from old me to new me and a sustainable society

In December 2020, fifty students and teachers at Frederik II upper secondary school completed an interdisciplinary sustainability project where they experimented with one sustainable change for 30 days.

Foot with a butterfly and the text Old me new me. Illustration photo.

(Illustration photo: Unsplash.com/cChange).

The project was called Old me, New me and the focus was exploring “who we are today (old me), and who we want to be in a sustainable society (new me)”.

Transformations to sustainability are urgently needed. But what does that really mean? And what does it mean for each of us and our daily lives? What does it mean for what we do and who we are?

To transform we will need to go from "here" to "there". This requires a shift from being a society where emissions, negative environmental impacts, and inequality are increasing, to a society where more equalitarian and generative relationships between people, animals, and the planet can flourish. This will require changes in how we live and how we organize our societies; it also requires changes in how we see ourselves in relationship to others and nature.

Sustainability is often something out there, far into the future, something we plan for. But what if we start living it here and now? What if we bring the “there” to here and now?

That is what students and teachers in Frederik II wanted to explore by testing what it would be like to be their “new me” right here, right now, starting with experimenting with a new sustainable habit for 30 days.

They explored the link between individual change and collective and societal change, and reflected on themselves, their role, what really matters to them and why they matter for sustainability. Along the way, they inspired others around them through conversations, and wrote nearly 250 reflections on the project’s digital platform (in Norwegian).

Embodied knowledge

In Old me, New me, the aim was for students to embody knowing – they went from acquiring knowledge about the important societal challenges they have been learning about in their studies to acting on the basis of some of this knowledge and practicing making changes in line with that knowledge.

In doing so, they have further contributed to shaping the knowledge that educators can use and learn from as they work towards generating new ways of teaching and learning towards sustainability.

Video: The students talk about their journey and what they learned.

Old me, New me brought together two upper secondary school classes:

  • The Research Class' who had been working on a research project entitled "The Fantastic Brain", in which the students explored the learning factors and strategies that can lead to better learning, and hence, better life mastery, and
  • The Sustainability and Innovation Class who came to this project after creating the "Hope in a World of Plastic" art exhibition, in which they mapped problems related to plastic littering and investigated possible solutions through art and multimedia.

Transformative teaching and learning

The Norwegian school curriculum now places great emphasis on sustainable development, democracy, and citizenship, as well as life mastery skills, and integrating these into most subjects. Old me, New me provides a promising insight into the kind of transformative, interdisciplinary teaching and learning practices that can lead to a more sustainable world through education.

By Teresia Aarskog, Heidi Arctander, Leonie Goodwin and Norwegian Local Network in SEAS
Published Mar. 5, 2021 9:44 AM - Last modified Mar. 5, 2021 11:13 AM
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The SEAS blog focuses on current research and activities in the intersection between scientific literacy, open schooling and sustainability challenges when students collaborate with families and stakeholders from civil society and industry in becoming agents of community well-being.