World Project: Intergenerational Dialogues

OMEP Kenya has signed up to contribute to a World OMEP project this year and they will be encouraging teachers to develop preschool activities that involve the children talking with their grandparents and village elders about:

Where does our food come from?

How has this changed in recent years?

Teachers will be inviting the children’s grandparents into the classroom to tell the children about how their families grew food at home when they were children.

What things were grown? How has this changed?

How do you start a garden, what tools and resources are needed?

We hope that some preschools will be able to develop garden projects where grandparents help the children grow some of their own food. UK partner preschools are also being encouraged to join in and the project has a lot of the potential to to make comparisons between the two communities. The children in Kenya and the UK will also learn about Wangari Maathai.



Itunze arthi vyema; hukupewa na wazazi; bali umekopeshwa na wazao wako

Translation from Swahili: You must treat the earth well. It was not given to you by your parents. It is loaned to you by your children.

In October 2012 Njeri, John, Simba and Joshua visited the first twelve UK-Kenya preschool partners. The Kenyan partners are currently being supported by a preschool development project managed and funded by the Salvation Army. The aim of the visits was to introduce each of the preschools to their new ‘partner’ preschool in the South of England. The Kenyan preschools were located in the Eastern and Central Province of Kenya, in the Kibera slum district of Nairobi, and around Nakuru in the Rift Valley.

We collected a series of photographs from each of the Kenyan preschools that showed the Kenyan children taking “Simba” (a cuddly toy Lion) around their preschool and telling him (and us) three things that they really liked about their preschool, and three things that were a problem. “Simba” was  then taken to their English partner preschool and reported (with the help of John and Njeri) to the children ( parents and teachers) on what it was like in the Kenyan partner’s preschool (with the support of the photographs and some video).

Photographs of the English children with Simba have now been sent back to Kenya and each of the English partner preschools is choosing another cuddly toy to send to Kenya with photographs of the children in the UK, showing the new toy and the three things that they are proud of, and those they consider problems to be solved.

 The Kenyan children told Simba they really liked Playing, reading, writing, drawing, eating, toys, their teachers, singing, painting, sleeping, swinging, pets and uniform. Perhaps only with the exception of the high priority placed on eating, sleeping and uniforms, these are also among  the most common things children in the UK like about their preschools.

 When Simba ‘asked’ the Kenyan children about problems in their preschool they talked about the lack of toys and play equipment, books, pencils, and crayons. In many of the settings preschools classroom furniture was non-existent and improvisations included the use of benches, adult tables and chairs and  church pews. But in every preschool that we visited there were impressive  examples of the teachers efforts and  innovation. Every preschool classroom had many wall displays and posters many of which were made from recycled coffee sacks. There were painted seed ‘counters’, and bottle tops for counting and in one preschool even a improvised balance for weighing. A few toys were evident and some of these will have been made by the children’s parents.

These partnerships have significant potential in promoting social, economic and environmental sustainability through ‘carbon partnerships’  where both parties support each other in achieving convergence  in their environmental impact (measured through carbon emissions) to achieve their ‘fair earth share’  within global limits. Preschool communities seeking to reduce their footprint need to look at many different aspectsof lives e.g. their  energy use, their use of transport, food, waste, what they buy, potential for recycling etc.  The partnerships provide a means by which the children, and wider preschool community can compare their situation to those commonly experienced in  Africa.

For more information on the OMEP Preschool Partnerships see:


Following the UN Rio+20 Earth Summit we need to make the case that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) should be explicitly addressing Early Childhood Education at the same time as we make the broader case for ECE in Education for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). But the connection between the MDG agenda and the SDG agenda is still not clear to all those early childhood activists who are  involved in ESD. As I see it there is a need right now to emphasise more strongly our shared concerns for child advocacy and the importance of ultimately focusing upon concerns regarding ‘survival’. As long as we ground our current work firmly in concerns regarding children’s survival then it is much clearer that the practical objectives for ESD in the global South are fully consistent with those in the global North. The only real difference is between the very short-term survival objectives we have for children who, for example, in the global South already require support in accessing basic drinking water and hygiene facilities, and those relatively longer term survival needs of children in the global North whose lives are equally threatened by the less immediate effects of climate change etc. As we know, the droughts, floods and famines that we face due to climate change are set to increase in frequency and intensity and plunge the poorest of the world even deeper into poverty.

The Rio+20 Final Outcome document: The Future we Want is very clear in its recognition that the overall and overarching objectives, and the essential requirements for sustainable development are poverty eradication, promoting sustainable patterns of consumption and production, and protecting and managing the natural resource base of economic and social development. The document opens with the following three statements of ‘Our Common Vision’:

1. We, the Heads of State and Government and high-level representatives, having met at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from 20 to 22 June 2012, with the full participation of civil society, renew our commitment to sustainable development and to ensuring the promotion of an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable future for our planet and for present and future generations.

2. Eradicating poverty is the greatest global challenge facing the world today and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development. In this regard we are committed to freeing humanity from poverty and hunger as a matter of urgency.

3. We therefore acknowledge the need to further mainstream sustainable development at all levels, integrating economic, social and environmental aspects and recognizing their interlinkages, so as to achieve sustainable development in all its dimensions.

Section 248 Reads: “We resolve to establish an inclusive and transparent intergovernmental process on sustainable development goals that is open to all stakeholders, with a view to developing global sustainable development goals to be agreed by the General Assembly. “

So the UN Development Programme (UNDP) will be shaping the post-2015 development agenda through National Consultation between now and January 2013. The UNDP will issue guidance to UN Country Teams who will carry out the national consultations. The evidence and perspectives generated through these activities will be synthesised so as to feed into the work of the High Level Panel that the UN SG will convene in summer 2012. The co-chairs of this panel have already been appointed and are: Prime Minister David Cameron, President Sirleaf Liberia) and President Yudhoyono (Indonesia). So that we should make a special effort to influence these individuals and the national consultations in these countries if we can…

As many observers have suggested the Rio+20 conference was a great disappointment with its most significant outcome of being to decide to have more conferences to work out how to achieve “The future we want”….But the final report does provide a modest few resources that we can apply in our lobby of national consultative groups. It says:

230. We recognize that the younger generations are the custodians of the future and the need for better quality and access to education beyond the primary level. We therefore resolve to improve the …capacity of our education systems to prepare people to pursue sustainable development, including through enhanced teacher training, the development of sustainability curricula, the development of training programmes that prepare students for careers in fields related to sustainability, and more effective use of information and communications technologies to enhance learning outcomes. We call for enhanced cooperation among schools, communities and authorities in efforts to promote access to quality education at all levels.

232. We emphasize the importance of greater international cooperation to improve access to education, including through building and strengthening education infrastructure and increasing investment in education, particularly investment to improve the quality of education for all in developing countries. We encourage international educational exchanges and partnerships, including the creation of fellowships and scholarships to help achieve global education goals.

233. We resolve to promote education for sustainable development and to integrate sustainable development more actively into education beyond the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development.

Ref: United nations (2012) The future we want, Rio+20 Agenda item 10: Outcome of the Conference, United Nations A/CONF.216/L.1

Make Your Vote Be Heard!

There are at least four opportunities for you to VOTE this week to ensure EDUCATION is included in the recommendations put to world leaders at the Rio+20 Earth Summit


Under – Sustainable development for fighting policy:
VOTE: “Promote global education to eradicate poverty and to achieve sustainable development”
Under – Unemployment, decent work and migrations:
VOTE: “Put education in the core of the sustainable development goals agenda”
Under – Sustainable energy for all:
VOTE: “Educate people about energy efficiency”
Under – Sustainable cities and innovation:
VOTE: “Cities and schools should develop networks to learn and work together towards sustainable development”

How do we educate children to wash their hands?

Apparently between 1,500,000 and 1,700,000 lives could be saved each year simply through providing better facilities for hand washing and promoting effective hand washing practice. So what are you doing for Global Handwashing Day on 15th October 2011?

According to Kerry Patterson et al (2008) (VitalSmarts) there are six sources of influence that can change people’s behaviour; Motivation; Ability or Skills; Peer pressure; Team Work; Incentives, and the Environment. To be effective in changing behaviour it is best to use all six. What do you think? What works for you?

Wash from the Start: a new OMEP initiative

To achieve an education for sustainable development we need to build on children’s current understandings and we also need to help the children recognise the commonalities of human experience rather than the differences between people around the world. In other words we need to build upon what children around the world have in common. A good starting point is for them to share their experiences of learning about sustainable development  and one very effective way of doing that is for your preschool to join Carbon Partners.  

Another valuable approach in the early years is to identify the most basic physiological survival needs that every human being shares. We all need clean air, clean water, food, shelter and sanitation.  Each of these provides strong grounding for education for sustainable development in early childhood and it is for this reason that OMEP is currently working with UNICEF and the Wash in Schools partnership in developing Wash from the Start.

We need to share more examples of practical Wash from the Start activities. The Tippy Taps activity and Wash United examples are a beginning – lets have lots more for Global Handwashing day.

Global Handwashing Day – 15th October 2011

The death of more than 1.5 million children under five every year is directly caused by poor hygiene and lack of access to water and sanitation. Global Handwashing Day provides a valuable focus for learning activities for all children. It also provides a crucial focus for drawing public attention to the wider issues and for international fund raising.

OMEP is developing new Education for Sustainable Development resources for preschools that will include materials to support a range of Wash from the Start projects. On the internet you can already find masses of ideas for activities, videos and reports from around the world showing young children and communities working together to solve these problems of hygeine awareness, water supply and sanitation.

Find more information here

Download Global Handwashing day logo here

Learning about money

One of the challenges for developing a genuine education for sustainable development in early childhood is to develop a sustainable economics curriculum that is meaningful for young children. ‘Thrift’ was once considered a significant virtue to be encouraged in early childhood education but in recent years it has been neglected.  A new context for developing young children’s economic understanding for sustainable development in England may be provided by a new government initiative: See:

Children to be taught perils of debt

Kids to get lessons about money

Teaching your child about money

Note: the BBC Newsround Programme also provides a number of useful online resources on the environment:

Amazon deforestation

Wind power in the UK

Chewing gum tax: Polluter pays

World Day for Water

Can small actions change the World?

Asian Tsunami

Should we cull animals?

Sea pollution

Exploiting Antarctica

The real cost of coffee

Endangered species