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ESD Lessons to Raise Awareness of Social Participation in a Japanese Elementary School.
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Geography that matters - empowering learners for a diverse world.
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Japan launched its own version of the ″Decade of Education for Sustainable Development″ (DESD) in 2006. According to the Japanese curriculum guidelines in the 2008 edition for social studies of elementary school, students are to be expected to participate in the planning of public matters for the formation of a sustainable society. Moreover, foreign language activity, aimed at cultivating communication skills and fostering an understanding of culture, were introduced at the upper levels of elementary schools. The goal of ESD is to encourage reform among students, leading them to take action toward the realization of a sustainable future. In terms of ESD, geographical education aims to raise students′ levels of social understanding and awareness of the need for social participation. The researcher believes that social participation consists of thinking leading to activity and actual activity.

The purpose of this research was to develop ESD lessons to raise awareness of social participation in Japanese elementary schools, focusing on Geography education and foreign language activities. The researcher utilized an activity by which students investigated and reported to foreign students. Thereby, students can notice problems of the given region in relation to themselves and can notice about relationships with other regions by reporting to a foreign country. First, students identified a problematic condition in the region related to the main themes within ESD as a field. Next, they considered possible solutions to the problem. Finally, they reported the results of their learning to foreign students through a video conference. The researcher developed ESD lessons across various environmental domains in collaboration with class teachers of elementary school. The students investigated a particular ESD theme for a period of three years, as set out below. From the perspective of the formation of a sustainable society, students came to recognize global issues and think about solutions in their particular field of investigation, and reported on their investigation to the world.

The researcher administered a questionnaire to the students, once at the beginning and once at the end of each lesson. Students′ responses to the items ″I usually think about the region″ and ″I would like to participate in activities to improve the region″ showed that their level of consciousness was raised across all the lessons. Thus, the ESD lessons developed for this research were able to raise students′ awareness of the need for social participation. The results reveal that ESD lessons can induce change in students′ attitudes, and consequently in their actions. Students might come to regard their own problems from a global viewpoint through activities in which they report on the problems of a region to foreign students. Such ESD lessons may be effective not only in elementary schools but also in high schools. This research can be regarded as the new evolution of ESD in Japan.