Creativity for the SDGs

NOTE: My first project video prototype was 18 minutes long. I had to cut and trim many parts of my reflection that you will therefore find in this post instead!

Screen Shot of my video

 In September, when attending Will Richardson’s workshop, I was a bit disturbed by his first question:

What do we mean by Learning?”

It made me think about the students who attend our “Better World Lab” and how they were actually learning. After an interesting discussion, he displayed a quote from Seymour Sarason saying that:

“Productive learning is where the process engenders and reinforces WANTING TO LEARN MORE


Source: S:Vermeulin, Better World Lab, nov 2017

In my video, I show one example of students’ project made by three girls. When they first came, they started to generate many ideas and decided to make one radio show about climate change. Later on, they realised that they wanted to do a lot more than one show so they explored the idea to have podcasted episodes on iTunes. Six weeks after they first opened the door of the lab, they are now developing a prototype to create a full website with podcasts, videos, links, comments and a page on how you can take action too! They have watched carefully how many websites were structures and now want to learn how to create their own. By observing them, I was impressed by their will to always “LEARN MORE”.




Why should we have a structure to be creative?

A few weeks after the launch of the lab, Tanya and I felt the need to reflect and make some adjustments. We noticed that while some students were moving forward, some were still confused about the steps they had to go through. We decided to revisit these steps and make them more visible in the lab. From our brainstorming, I used Pages to create visuals about what I called the “9 moves”.


CC S.Vermeulin

I made a visual for each move, printed a bunch of them so that each group could have their own and displayed some on the walls. We organised our space so that the first stations could be near the entrance with a TV+Apple TV, the SDGs app and a QR code we created which opens a Padlet with videos about the SDGs. The idea is to have a designated area to start your project and learn about the SDGs. 




Source: S:Vermeulin, Jeff Utecht in Luxembourg, 12 Nov 2017

A month after we introduced the 9 moves and noticed a real improvement, Jeff Utecht came to our school for four days in November. On the second day, he talked about creativity and he insisted on the need to structure the process:


“There is a structure in how to be creative”

His point made me think about what we did in our lab and I asked him if I could use the audio record I made with my “Notebook” app. Structuring the process does not mean that students have no ownership. Actually, it is almost the exact opposite since they independently advance from one move to the next one. Without ownership and agency, most students would probably not choose to spend their lunchtime in the lab. Tanya and I provide opportunities to create and take action. We are also here to support, give feedback, ask questions and give little technical advice when it is needed. This structure for creativity enlightens the idea that Process is more important than Product.


Why focusing on the SDGs?

We want to show them that while most of us consume online, we can also create with technology in many different ways. While it is fine to first have a time to explore and tinker, you quickly need a purpose to drive you. Our students are free to develop their own project and search the questions they come up with, all we do is providing a global and real context to deepen their thinking and develop empathy.

For instance, two grade four students came with the idea to make a presentation about dogs. There is nothing wrong with that, but after I explained them that our creative lab was focusing on the SDGs. As they were spending time learning more about the SDGs, they became very interested in SDG 14 “Life below water” and started to generate lots of ideas. Now, they are in the process of designing a board game about marine wildlife.

SDGs are universal and are therefore everyone’s business. With 17 goals, it is very unlikely that students cannot find one question that they are interested about. It is not always easy for a nine-year-old kid to take action against poverty or climate change. This lab tends to empower them, to make them feel like they can contribute to do something for the planet. When students finish their project, they share it through Flipgrid, Twitter and Youtube with the #teachSDGs community.

Moreover, if you give a sense and a purpose to your action, they can be even more powerful. In my school mission statement, it says that we inspire students to

”… act as responsible participants in a global society”.

By taking action for the SDGs in a creative way, I believe they do so.

The school also promotes the following lifelong learners attributes:

  • Inquiry

  • Critical thinking

  • Communication

  • Open-mindedness

  • Risk-taking

  • Creativity

  • Reflection

Once again, I believe that the Better World Creative Lab allows students to develop these attributes.

   Finally, we encourage all learners to make their thinking visible and share it with an audience. Our Lower School works closely with Ron Ritchhart to create and spread a culture of thinking. Technology offers many possibilities to make your thinking visible and share it outside the classroom walls. Students are very aware that if they want to make a difference, their voice should be global. They are usually very excited to share their creation on Youtube and social media. This is a really appropriate time to have a discussion with them about Digital citizenship as it is often one of their first digital footprints.

One of the limitations for me was about the way we connect globally at my school, as there are strong contraints about how both educators and students communicate for a global audience. Also, a social media policy is about to be released, which will clarify how we make our thinking visible to the World. For my own video, I did ask parental permissions for the students that I interviewed. Parents were actually very supportive and I feel grateful for that because: how could you tell a story without the main characters?


Final Reflection

This project is going to last for the rest of the year so I can still try to improve it. First of all, Tanya Irene and I have already made some adjustment, but many practical aspects could be improve. For instance, we will now ask students to bring their own device or a class device as we ran out of devices a couple of times. We also need to prepare in advance the raw materials that students need to design their games. Time management can also be improved since we both give up our lunch to run the lab. We are more than happy to do so, but some days are hectic if we cannot have a proper break to catch our breath.

I have noticed that I introduce the lab in a much more efficient and clear way than I did in late September. The 9 moves, the SDGs App and the way we have organised our space help me to explain this project to students. Students are now ready to go after a two minute long introduction. The tools used by students were adapted to their age and abilities as they are mostly the same we use in class: Touchcast, Minecraft, QR codes, iMovie, Adobe Spark, Clips. Only one of them -Audacity- needed more coaching because students were not familiar with it and it is a more complex software. Tanya Irene had the idea to use IKEA frames to leave basic instructions about the tools students use the most and we will ask students to design the instructions visuals with Adobe post or Canva.

I feel that I have met most of my goals as I have noticed real engagement, collaboration and creativity from all students. Their awareness of global issues and their will to do something have also been very high. Now, my challenge will be more about how I can make sure that the younger students manage their time and planning in a more efficient way. I will need to check more regularly with them what the next steps should be.

From two students on the first day of the lab to an average of 16 or 20 now, our numbers have grown every week, which means that there is a little buzz going on in the school.  Lunchtime is a precious time for teachers, not only to eat, but also to check their emails, prep their lessons, make copies and so many other things. Most of them have therefore never seen the Better World lab in action. I planned to share my final course video with my colleagues so that they can know more about the lab as many of them also teach the SDGs in their classroom!

At a global scale, this project has been shared through Twitter, Facebook Messenger, Flipgrid and Coetail. Most of my inspiration came from Coetailers and tweeter educators who posted interesting  and innovative ways to use tech tools. I was particularly interested in how you combine different tools to take expand the possibilities. At our school scale, I have created visuals which are displayed on each floor and a video which was shown during the school assembly. My final project video was also emailed to all staff members. I am grateful that our leadership team, as well as many colleagues and parents have shown a total support to this project.

Finally, I have learned a lot during this long journey about many different topics such as visual and digital literacy, PLN, project-based learning or blogging as a powerful learning tool, but my greatest learning is that you should never underestimate students intrinsic motivation, capacities and excitement about creating and sharing. I was really amazed to see their enthusiasm, their deep thinking and their total commitment while they could choose to spend their lunchtime somewhere else.




2 Replies to “Creativity for the SDGs”

  1. Hi Stéphane, Your project clearly was of great benefit to the students. I particularly liked to hear them talking about their concern for the SDGs. Although technology was embedded in the project, your students never lost sight of the educational goal of learning about issues around the world. Furthermore, it was clear that they were aware that their projects are improved by organising within a structure. In that respect, your own learning was also evident. I agree, as Jeff says, that creative products benefit from the imposition of a scaffolded process.
    Congratulations on your students both understanding the importance of global action on behalf of others and learning how to express their ideas in creative ways. As I understand it, your project exists presently in the space between the lessons of the formal curriculum. Do you foresee a way in which your teaching colleagues could make use of the experience you have gathered so that the ideas could be used in a wider context?


  2. Dear Stephane,

    Congratulations on a fantastic project. I want a Better World Creative Lab at my school, too! It’s great to see what the kids can accomplish there. Is it just for primary students or do the older students have access to it, too? I’m curious how kids were chosen for your project. Did they self-select or were they recommended by teachers or was this part of a class project? It seems your lab has audio and video recording studios? What other tools do you have for kids to use in dreaming of a better world?


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