What would the world be like if everyone learned sportsmanship, empathy, and fair play as children?

How an interactive, Global Curriculum Can Transform Students into Changemakers

What’s the value of informed, active citizens? Ricardo Capuano (@Ricarnitas) and Ashoka Fellow Dina Buchbinder (@dinabuchbinder) of Deport-es para Compartir discuss. 

Yuridia and Luz Belén, ages six and seven respectively, are two girls that live in the Matlahuacala community in Coyomeapan, Puebla. Life is tough in Puebla—two out of every three people live under the poverty line and, in that area alone, 1.2 million girls and boys live under the food poverty line. Normally, Yuridia and Luz Belén are seen as part of the problem, but as a matter of fact, they can play an important part in creating solutions to their community’s needs.

Young changemakers learn, share a laugh.

In 2007, Dina Buchbinder, inspired by the Canadian program Sport-in-a-Box, founded the civic and educational program Deport-es para Compartir (Sports for Sharing). The program at its core is a set of teaching tools and training sessions that help to empower children ages six through 12 to become better citizens in their local communities and, eventually, assume responsibility as global changemakers.

It’s based on seven universal values—tolerance, fair play, responsibility, respect, gender equality, teamwork, and empathy. Teachers implement the curriculum in eight sessions (in concert with parents or community leaders), each focused around a Millennium Development Goal (MDG). Typically, lessons feature opportunities for students to talk about what they’ve learned and promote cultural diversity.

A child’s imagination, when paired with experiential learning opportunities, can be a powerful tool to confront global issues in new and innovative ways.

In the last five years, Deport-es para Compartir has worked with more than 161,000 boys and girls, teachers and parents in 19 states across Mexico to develop creative ways to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and more at a local level. Deport-es para Compartir has been successful in part because its lessons convey complex concepts in ways children can understand—often through sports and games.

For example, one of the program’s learning sessions includes an adapted version of dodgeball (called Doctor’s Dodgeball) where the ball represents a disease and each team represents a community, led by a doctor with three antidote shots. As children get “infected,” and doctors attend to the ill, the supply of vaccines begins to run low. They must all play as a team to come up with strategies to protect their population and their doctor.

After each game, children are asked a series of questions that help them relate in-game experiences to real-world situations. One question might be, “How did it feel to lose all your shots? Do you think this happens in real life too?” Children can then reflect and come to their own conclusions. To ignite action, every session ends by asking children what they can do to address similar challenges in their own communities.

Teachers in the program receive hands-on training that gives them new pedagogical frameworks and better ways of communicating with children. It is particularly important that teachers are integrated into the program themselves, since they know and understand their community’s needs and realities. Parents also get on board by participating in sessions that help them understand how to foster positive learning environments at home—this helps parents challenge their children to be proactive changemakers outside the classroom.

At the end of the six-month implementation of the program, the impact evaluation team of Deport-es para Compartir measures results. Before the Puebla community participated in the program, only five percent of children were able to identify three or more MDGs; after the collaborative and constructive learning experiences, that number grew to 41 percent.

Luz Belén, Yuridia and the children from Matlahuacala now assume their role as agents of change, with the support of their teachers and parents. Every boy and girl that enrolls in the program is now an “ambassador” tasked with communicating and putting into action the lessons they learn in the program. From practicing empathy to starting recycling campaigns, children become young activists and agents of change in their local community.

“With a cost per child of less than $8.50 a month—in a six-month intervention—we saw increases of 26 percent in gender equality and 10 percent in teamwork, and rates of bullying decreased by 12 percent,” said Abraham Muñoz, CFO of Deport-es para Compartir. “These benefits, in time, will spark the economic engines in the region through increased collaboration and a focus on sustainable social businesses.”

(A paper published in the American Economic Review by economists Quamrul Ashraf and Oded Galor, which controlled for confounding factors, suggests that cultural diversity encourages cooperation, innovation and economic development.)

It is up to us as citizens, in every country, to address global issues. Children that are aware of their surroundings, live healthy and are proud of who they are have the potential to ignite movements to change the world today and in the future. Dina’s dream is to share this model with children around the world—like Yuridia and Luz Belén—in hopes of turning vicious cycles into virtuous ones.

What would the world be like if everyone learned sportsmanship, empathy, and fair play as children?

Article Via Forbes


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