What have you done today to change the world? A different learning method

“We decided to tear down walls, gather students. We understood that alone we couldn’t teach everything to everyone. But, working as a team, following a project and making the act of learning autonomous, we could effectively respond to each student’s needs.”

José Pacheco, Portugal & Brazil

 

José Pacheco is a Portuguese educator and a visionary. Back in 1976, he almost gave up teaching due to the constant feeling that he was, somehow, excluding people from learning. The Portuguese school Escola da Ponte (https://www.facebook.com/escolabasicadaponte) was one among many public, decayed schools, with violent 14 and 15-year-old students who didn’t know how to read or write.

After asking himself repeatedly why wouldn’t the students learn, even though he delivered good, well structured lessons, he and two other teachers who shared the same concerns decided to apply their ideas in an innovative approach to teaching. They started by doing this on their spare time, while still teaching “regular lessons”, thus respecting the conservative attitude of those who didn’t want a change.

Gradually, they introduced a teamwork culture, opposed to the individual work practice present in the regular teaching methods. Through all these years, co-responsibility has been highly fomented in this learning place: students are grouped by their areas of interest and work together on research projects. They also work individually, sharing their findings with colleagues and educators afterwords. There are no classes, no exams, no school years. Teachers don’t teach just one subject, they are available to guide students as these may need. Students acquire, from an early age, a strong sense of citizenship, solidarity and, therefore, community.

As a team, and promoting an autonomous learning, José Pacheco and his fellow educators were able to tackle each student’s needs. In the beginning, the students didn’t respond well, simply because it was easier just to listen to the teacher than actually working on projects, doing research and develop critical thinking. Some teachers from other schools were also mistrustful and created quite a few obstacles to their vision.

In time, the student’s results started to show the high quality of their learning method. Recent assessment reports state that Escola da Ponte students obtain better grades than other schools’ students, and their level of social and moral development is even more significant.

Escola da Ponte teaching method places great importance on ethics and, as it’s known that aesthetics and cognitive developments are mutually influenced, knowledge is not fragmented. Escola da Ponte has proven that another education is, indeed, possible, associating academic excellence and social inclusion.

More recently, and after letting his cherished creation, Escola da Ponte, flourish by itself, José Pacheco was asked by the late Walter Steurer to help him “build a school” in Brazil, based on the LDBEN (Brazilian Guidelines and Basic Law for National Education) and that was how Projeto Âncora was born (http://www.projetoancora.org.br/) in São Paulo state.

Projeto Âncora school follows a sustainable education, effectively promoting social integration, going against the everlasting exclusion of the poorer children from the educational system. Brazilian schools lack reflective interaction spaces, and only when they discard the obsolete educational model most of them still rely on, as well as the bureaucratic management that places administration matters before educational ones, will they be transformed into places operating an integrative learning method, not dividing knowledge, not segregating students, but rather instigating values such as liberty, responsibility and solidarity (the three fundamental values sustaining Escola da Ponte too), and also autonomy, democracy and cooperation.

José Pacheco still visits his home country, Portugal, either to be with his beloved grandchildren or to follow up projects from his former students. He will be in Portugal, in 2018, for a teachers and educators gathering, providing mentorship and projects follow-up.

Today, the oldest students from Escola da Ponte are women and men in their fifties, that express on their day-to-day lives the values learnt at that school. They are fully fledged citizens, well accomplished and socially integrated.

Let’s hope for a wider political sensitivity and will to support the creation and maintenance of more learning and sharing places such as Escola da Ponte, in Portugal, or Projeto Âncora, in Brazil. We will all win from that!

. What have you done today to change the world? .

by Cláudia Gomes Oliveira

linkedin.com/in/claudiagomesoliveira 

What have you done today to change the world? Abolish all animal suffering

“We should always think how certain actions we do would make us feel, if they were to be done to us. That would give us the answer to everything and the world would be very different!”

Sandra Cóias, Portugal

 

Sandra Cóias is an actress, an entrepreneur, and a very conscious and caring human being. She became a vegetarian more than 20 years ago and, more recently, has become vegan (not consuming anything derived from animals). Her reason is to avoid, by all means, to contribute to any type of animal suffering, which, as we know, is tremendous in the meat industry.

Her attempts to invite others to adopt this conscious attitude have been somewhat successful, although many people tend not to think about the subject at all, maybe due to its screaming evidences of the unnecessary suffering caused by humans to other living beings and the absolute need for a mindset change.

Sandra Cóias highlights the fact that human beings are not carnivores by nature, but rather omnivores. Back in the Paleolithic Age, men and women ate whatever they could find in nature, having a raw-food diet. The meat would be a part of it, but only sporadically.

It was only in the past few centuries that the meat industry, presently one of the most powerful in the world, started the actual massive production of animals for human consumption, being responsible for the constant and enormous availability of meat in supermarkets.

If only people were aware of how the meat they eat is produced, or of the amount of adrenaline and toxins present in it, released by the animal in distress just before it gets killed, they would probably rethink eating it so often (or at all). However, an informed and conscious consumer is not on the industry’s best interest.

Human population is growing at an alarming pace. Soon, there won’t be enough resources left to feed everyone, especially if the world keeps depending on meat and fish to do so. Although nowadays we live longer, we’re living worst than ever. Obesity, for instance, is a recent issue and is, undoubtedly, due to the poor feeding habits of modern societies.

Animal welfare is a great concern to Sandra Cóias, she’s an activepromoter of animal protection and believes that, unfortunately, many humans lack sensibility and humanity, not being able to fully understand the suffering of others. Nonetheless, she keeps raising awareness about wildlife crimes, the use of animals in circus, bullfighting, and other cruelties inflicted by humans to all other species.

Her latest project is WIMS – Walk In My Shoes, an animal free shoe brand. Sandra loves shoes and decided to create her own, not using a single product coming from animals.

https://instagram.com/walkinmyshoesbysandracoias/

Hopefully, WIMS will prosper and inspire other brands to go animal free too! It is sad to see that most people are too absorbed with non-essential things, living egoistically, rather than thinking about what is truly fundamental for their survival: air, water and land quality, and biodiversity.

There’s still time to change mentalities and attitudes. All it takes is commitment and coherence. Shall we try?

. What have you done today to change the world? .

by Cláudia Gomes Oliveira

linkedin.com/in/claudiagomesoliveira

What have you done today to change the world? Integrate disabled people in the society

“Sometimes I think I’d like to volunteer somewhere else in the world… but there’s still so much to be done in my community!”

Fabíola Lebre Lago, Portugal

 

Fabíola Lebre Lago is an actress, a Special Needs educator and an inspiring human being.

For over 10 years, she has been a volunteer collaborator of CERCICA, Portugal (http://www.cercica.pt/), particularly connected to the Vital Project. Its main goal is to integrate and promote autonomy of young people and adults with disabilities (physical or mental) in the society.

The project entails several types of activities (cultural, recreational and sports) taking place outside the institution’s premises, on some weekends of the month, previously planned by the educator in charge and followed by volunteers and participants.

Usually, they go to the movies or to the theater, watch art exhibitions, play sports and radical activities, go to a bar to socialize, etc. Most of all, the participants should use public transports autonomously, order their own lunch at a restaurant, feel like they are going out with friends, talk about the activity practiced that day and keep entertained and amused, outside the house, on weekends. Additionally, these activities allow the’participants’ families to have some free time to themselves.

Fabíola also volunteered at Casa do Alecrim, a day care center/home for people with Alzheimer’s (http://alzheimerportugal.org/pt/text-0-10-54-87-lar-e-centro-de-dia-casa-do-alecrim).

In her opinion, the help she provides others with changes her more than them. Volunteering has this ability of operating changes and evolution within, in the volunteer more than in the aided person. It makes sense if one thinks about the satisfaction inherent to the act of contributing, even if just the least bit, to another person’s well-being and, who knows, happiness.

. What have you done today to change the world? .

by Cláudia Gomes Oliveira

linkedin.com/in/claudiagomesoliveira

What have you done today to change the world? Inspire children

“Our dreams are some of the most precious things we possess. I hope my speaking and singing have a positive impact on these children.”
Kevin Short, USA
Kevin Short is an Opera singer and has been performing since 1987 in theaters all over the world.
Recently, within the scope of the commemorations of Black History Month, in USA (celebrated in February), he started visiting schools and talking to children (aged 6 to 12 and from varied backgrounds) about the vital importance of pursuing the dreams cherished by each one of us, and keep them free from external influences that may eventually, for one reason or another, end up annulling them.
Another relevant part of the talk was about the beauty and the significance of cultivating perseverance. In most parts of the world, and due to the way societies have evolved, associated with advances in areas such as technology, communities got accustomed to results and rewards coming rather quickly.
However, in order to keep cherishing our dreams and, along the way, get to fulfill some (or all) of them, it is imperative that we maintain hope and sheer belief in our visions. Only so will we sustain dreams and renovate vitality. Only so, will life itself have opportunity to happen.
Hard work, or facing whichever tasks, ideas or plans we have with perseverance, is not only a way to build inner strength and positiveness, but it’s also a solid means to understanding our life learning path.
The benefits of such commitment may not always be obvious or immediate, yet carrying on with a certain work ethic and engaging ourselves in the best way we know, will eventually lead to the desired achievement of goals and our involvement will certainly not have been in vain.
Dreams belong to each one of us and each one of us should have the freedom to try to pursue them.
. What have you done today to change the world? .
by Cláudia Gomes Oliveira

What have you done today to change the world? Create events for children with cancer

“It came to my mind that we could make a presentation about the Brazilian wildlife for the Mahak children at the hospital, here in Tehran.”

Sahar Verdi, Iran

Sahar Verdi works at the Brazilian Embassy in Tehran, Iran, and had been interested in helping Mahak – Society to Support Children Suffering from Cancer (www.mahak-charity.org) for some time. The society, based in Tehran, has been growing as more people join to help (financially, producing events, etc.).

The perfect idea came to her when the embassy invited the Brazilian photographer Ricardo Martins (www.ricardomartins.org) to show his work at the Brazilian Week, in December 2014. After listening to his astonishing stories and experiences, Sahar proposed a presentation for the hospitalized children so they could get to know a little more about Brazil’s nature and beauty and the great Amazon jungle.

Both the embassy and the Mahak society were enthusiastic about her idea, and the event took place that same week. Sahar was the translator, as she also speaks Portuguese. The show was a great success among the children, who attentively absorbed all the information provided about wild animals and their lives.

This valuable work will have continuity, though, and both countries will collaborate in organizing exhibitions of nature drawings by children suffering from cancer. The main purpose is to provide the little ones with due care, affection and environmental education, and also to encourage more people to join charities such as the Mahak society.

. What have you done today to change the world? .

by Cláudia Gomes Oliveira

linkedin.com/in/claudiagomesoliveira