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Estonia, the unintentional testbed of Gaia Education in Europe

By May East in association with Toomas Trapido and Mihkel Kangur

‘Transformation involves experiencing a deep, structural shift in the basic premises of thought, feelings, and actions. It is a shift in consciousness that dramatically and irreversibly alters our way of being in the world.’

Robert D. Boyd

Gaia Education and Estonian communities and educational institutions have been conducting a series of formal and non-formal education activities in Estonia for 10 years, culminating in the signing of a MoU with the University of Tallinn for the development and certification of a bachelor curriculum and programme on Integrated Natural Sciences and Sustainable Development.

Gaia Academy

A 125-hour course for social change activists, educators, entrepreneurs, community leaders and policy makers. This programme advocates Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) as citizenship in action and promotes community as the major platform for transformative action for all learners. Programmes took place in 2011, 2015-2016, 2016-2017, and 2017-2018, co-hosted by eco-communities and R&D centers Small Footprint, Lilleoru, Hobukooli Park and Hundiallika Center as laboratories of a system-wide approach to design of resilient settlements.

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Gaia School

For children from 7-12 years. Each year a new 1st class starts, so today there are classes 1-6, and in 6 years there will be a full gymnasium of 12 years. The main site is in Tallinn with ca 80 children and there are four other locations in Estonia with a total of 120 students. Gaia Education’s whole-school approach enhances the environmental performance of schools as institutions, and promotes integrated governance, and stakeholder and community involvement by imparting the values and tools that today’s children and youth will need to build and maintain more sustainable societies.

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Training of Teachers

For the capacity development of educators, trainers and actors working in educational institutions to transform learning environments through interdisciplinary and participatory approaches. The training gives them the skills needed to think beyond their core subjects, move freely across disciplines and encourage students to embrace multiple worldviews to design solutions to humanity’s most pressing challenges. We are currently conducting the second yearly programme, which supports new teachers creating learning environments for Gaia School and Gaia Academy courses.

University of Tallinn

3-Year bachelor programme on Integrated Natural Sciences and Sustainable Development. The programme aligned the Estonian National Agenda for Sustainable Development with Gaia Education 4-D Design for Sustainability curriculum, currently in its 5th Version and translated into 10 languages, including Estonian.

Integrated Natural Sciences and Sustainable Development Syllabus

Half of the programme is comprised of subjects from Ecological and Natural Science, the second half is dedicated to topics relevant to Sustainability.

The Ecological and Natural Science segment is structured as a system of ‘spheres’:

  • atmosphere
  • lithosphere
  • hydrosphere,
  • biosphere etc.

and describes how these spheres operate and integrate, the importance of maintaining the delicate balance of these systems by living in harmony with them, and the skills which this will require. The segment also explores the reasons why `non-sustainable’ activities come about, and the contribution which the individual makes to them.

The Sustainability segment kicks-off with Insights to Sustainability Worldview, open to all students in the university. It is quite a popular course, with usually 60-90 students registered, which in their terms is an enormous number.

Modules of this segment include:

  • Ecological Self
  • Sustainability in Entrepreneurship
  • Human Ecology
  • Culture and Globalisation
  • Community and Settlement Development, offering a historical overview of communities in Estonia – how the society has developed over the thousands of years, and community building, with the focus on eco-communities.

Finally, they offer the module, Global Education, inviting the students to expand the boundaries of caring beyond the borders of Estonia, and eco-design, to develop the design skills for regenerative processes not just products.

If you are born in 2018 in Estonia is very likely that you will be able to join a Gaia School where you will learn by cultivating a school garden that not only produces food but is an essential underpinning of all subjects on the curriculum. You will then go on and continue your studies in ecology, biology, physics and mathematics, relating them to issues as diverse as soil, climate, integral water management, the cycles of carbon and nitrogen, the cycle of life, reproduction, habitats and construction, nutrition and health, and the crucial role of microbes in connecting humans with the rest of nature. As you grow up you will continue to learn about the place humans occupy in the biosphere, not as masters exploiting nature, but as co-creators of resilience with the entire construct of life. Without this central understanding, we humans will continue to err.

If you are interested to offer a Certified Academic Course based on Gaia Education 4-D Whole System Design Education contact

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