Alberta Ministry of Education, Stanford University, Western University, Institute for Wellness Education, Middlebury College, University of Portland, Emerson College, University of Guelph, American College of Education, Lehman College – that is just the first page of a Google search on Wellness Education.
There is an academic, scientific and social/spiritual movement taking place worldwide right now that is moving away from the mainstream narrative of problems and illness towards a solutions-focused future of personal and global wellness.
Examples of existing solutions-focused schools, colleges and universities that are committed to personal and global wellness include Schumacher College, Swaraj University, Peace Boat, DSI, Earth University, Paititi Institute, Una Escuela Sustentable, Xploration Centre, EC Education and the United Nation’s own University for Peace.
At the fore of the academic movement, the Greater Good Science Center (GGSC) at UC Berkley study “the psychology, sociology, and neuroscience of well-being to teach skills that foster a thriving, resilient, and compassionate society” and publish the Greater Good magazine which turns scientific research into “science-based insights for a meaningful life”.
Positive News, Good News Network, yes! Magazine, Permaculture Magazine, Colibris Magazine, Ouishare Magazine, Transition Network, Pachamama Alliance, Low Impact, Drawdown, Solution Library, SolutionsU, Global Regeneration, de Correspondent and the movement for positive news, supported by university academics and journalists, is spreading worldwide and influencing the mainstream.
Barbara Fredrickson, award-winning social psychologist and Director of the Positive Emotions and Psychophysiology Laboratory at The University of Carolina at Chapel Hill published an article in 2011 that posits that positive emotions may even “undo the aftereffects of negative emotions” as they seem to broaden an individual’s thought–action repertoire, which in turn has the effect of building that individual’s physical, intellectual and social resources, including broadening one’s scope of cognition, attention and action.
Online e-learning courses include Intro to Permaculture, Permaculture Circle, l’université Colibris, Compassion Course, Solutionary Program, Ubiquity University, Gaia Education, Guardian Alliance Academy, Wim Hof Method, Palouse Mindfulness, Wizard Activist School, Udemy, and edX including the u.lab courses on personal and global transformation by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
WUWE is primarily interested in the growing academic and scientific movement that is actively involved in promoting this new narrative. This movement is:
The University of Nottingham prepares international students with the academic skills to be able to study a degree by tutoring how to “write an academic paper on a controversial issue”. Students learn how to write a controversy paper based on a heated debate within their own discipline in order to develop a deep level of criticality, or critical thinking.
In 2013, Oxford University and Victoria University of Wellington produced a film with classroom resources to tackle the controversial issue of climate change skepticism. On their partner website, it states “classroom teachers have the opportunity to support students at all levels to think about issues that are large and complex and affect us all” because “wicked problems are problems that are incredibly complicated and difficult to solve” and “involve environmental, economic or political issues”.
In 2016, the Organization of American Historians (OAH) published a collective statement signed by 1796 academics (as of January 5th, 2017) stating that in the USA, “Alarmingly, justifications for a Muslim registry have cited Japanese American imprisonment during World War II as a credible precedent” and “It is not just that we are at the cusp of what may be a massive rollback of civil rights and liberties, but our culture is also mired in confusion about facts vs. misinformation and a rebellion against knowledge and critical thinking”.
In the same year, Professor of contemporary Islamic studies at Oxford University, Tariq Ramadan, spoke about the Iraq war and ongoing ISIS attacks stating “what happened there and what is happening now is connected to policies that were decided in Washington and decided in London, which had nothing to do with human rights, had nothing to do with freedom and democracy; it was all about interests and geostrategic interests”.
A 2014 study by professors at Princeton and Northwestern universities found that “economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence”, concluding:
[we] need to learn more about exactly which economic elites (the “merely affluent”? the top 1 percent? the top one-tenth of 1 percent?) have how much impact upon public policy, and to what ends they wield their influence. Similar questions arise about the precise extent of influence of particular sets of organized interest groups. … We hope that our work will encourage further exploration of these issues.
In April 2018, Professor Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University took the opportunity during a televised debate on MSNBC about the 2018 missile strikes against the Syrian government to state: “I think we have to understand how this happened. This happened because of us. … We started a war to overthrow a regime. It was covert. It was Timber Sycamore. People can look it up”.
According to the mainstream narrative, for example, the war in Syria began because people armed themselves and formed groups to defend themselves against Assad’s regime; yet, with a little more investigation, we discover that the CIA was secretly arming rebels and, according to a 2017 report published by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Program (OCCRP), member of the Global Investigative Journalism Network, the Pentagon did not stop.
In collaboration with the Spencer Foundation which measures “the quality of civic and political engagement”, Stanford History Education Group have designed paper and digital tasks for classroom use to help students critically evaluate “the information that bombards them online” so that they are not “duped by false claims and misleading arguments”, stating in their 2016 executive report on civic online reasoning, “At present, we worry that democracy is threatened by the ease at which disinformation about civic issues is allowed to spread and flourish”.
Project Censored list academically Validated Independent News stories (VINs), select the top 25 stories for their annual book on news not reported in the mainstream, and provide resources to take VINs, critical thinking and media literacy into the classroom.
Lecturer at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Allison Butler, is on the team of Mass Media Literacy (MML) and board member of Action Coalition for Media Education (ACME). MML are educators who provide resources “to ensure that all Massachusetts students are taught the critical thinking skills needed to engage with media as active and informed participants” while ACME, founded in 2002 by more than forty media literacy educators from around North America, offers resources both old and new.
The Global Critical Media Literacy Project (GCMLP) is a collaborative initiative launched in 2015 by Project Censored, ACME and the Media Literacy and Digital Culture course at Sacred Heart University which analyses the “unprecedented amount of media content and digital technology that targets students”, and provides a free resource guide for educators.
Project Censored’s Director, Mickey Huff, is professor of social science and history at Diablo Valley College and lecturer in communications at California State University, as well as critical media literacy advisor for Credder, an online platform that allows users to rate news articles and sources for credibility using critical media literacy skills.
The Media Education Foundation produces documentary films that inspire critical thinking about the social, political, and cultural impact of mass media, and The Representation Project uses their documentaries on media to provide two separate eight-week courses for schools that help students “identify, critique, and analyze media messages and images that are targeted towards them” and “utilize their Social Emotional Learning skills” to communicate issues related to stereotypes.
Ultimate Civics have developed Activating My Democracy, a free American Civics unit for middle school and high school students after founder Dr. Riki Ott, while teaching at Occupy camps in 2011, realised people lacked the skills to actively engage in creating a functioning democracy.
According to Stanford University’s d.school, an integrated training curriculum does not fully address the fact that the high school model “was designed over 100 years ago to create and manage a skilled workforce for the Industrial Revolution” and “is stuck in time – as segregated, myopic and inflexible as ever”.
Over the past few years, they have prototyped two new school designs based on self-directed (student driven) learning: an up-and-running public Design Tech High School which focuses on students solving real-world problems using design thinking, and up-and-coming Design School X, which is a “deep equity consciousness and design thinking” model designed on “belonging and becoming” for all students.
NEXT school in India agrees that our traditional system of education is in need of a much needed upgrade. NEXT is India’s first Big Picture school. Big Picture Learning was established in the USA in 1995 with the sole mission of putting students directly at the centre of their own learning. Today, there are over 65 Big Picture network schools in the USA and many more around the world.
Founded in 2002, Shikshanter is another school in India that focuses on learner-centred approaches to education, including social-emotional learning, co-existence with nature, and democratic participation.
The Alliance for Self-Directed Education (ASDE) explain that “this movement, away from coercive schooling and toward Self-Directed Education, has been inching along for decades. It has not yet taken flight because most people still don’t know about Self-Directed Education and the success of those who have taken this route”.
The University of Michigan Sustainable Food Systems Initiative engages “students, faculty and communities at local and global levels”; for example, in 2017, Frances Moore Lappé of Small Planet Institute, which seeks “to identify core, often unspoken, assumptions” because “human beings see the world through culturally defined filters” or “mental maps” that take our planet “in directions that none of us individually would ever choose”, delivered a talk about the solutions to the crisis of world hunger to students, faculty and the community.
Zoe Weil, founder of the Institute for Humane Education (IHE), explains in her 2011 Tedx talk how “there is actually just one system that we just need to tweak a little bit, and if we do that, we can solve every problem in the world; and that key system is schooling”.
Today, IHE are attempting to bridge the gap between an integrated training curriculum, new schools and the growing popularity of self-directed online learning. Teachers can learn online how to integrate IHE’s Solutionary Program into their classrooms, and IHE also provide accredited graduate programmes in affiliation with Valparaiso and Saybrook universities that accelerate and deepen people’s critical thinking, humane education and change-making skills.
A 2013 report by the European Commission about “the mainstreaming of ICT-enabled innovation for learning in Europe and beyond”, concludes that there is “increasing frustration and puzzlement as to why education has not really changed in any significant way despite the rapid advances in technology” and calls for an ecological approach to education.
In 2017, 147 schools across 15 countries started piloting Think Equal, a new international social-emotional learning curriculum that develops not only critical thinking skills, but also empathy, appreciation and celebration of diversity with a vision to ending discrimination and violence, while Teaching Tolerance provide educators with resources that emphasise anti-discrimination, anti-bias and help schools educate children to be active participants in a diverse democracy.
In collaboration with Stanford University’s d.school, Project Wayfinder encourages students to explore world-awareness, self-awareness, and focus on purposeful action through their toolkit for educators, and The Future Project turns schools into “vibrant, engaging places” where every student can learn how to “imagine and build a future of their choosing” with skills that “bring their dreams for self, school, and society to life”.
The QUESTion Project, a semester-long elective designed to give adolescents space to wrestle big questions about who they are, where they are headed and what matters most on their journey through life, is offered in schools that value “a holistic approach to education”, while the Fostering Purpose Project, developed by researchers at Claremont Graduate University, also provides toolkits designed to help young people discover their purpose in life.
In conjunction with the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, The Adolescent Moral Development Lab, directed by Associate Professor of Psychology at Claremont Graduate University, Kendall Cotton Bronk, are currently investigating the relationship between purpose and gratitude – with an aim to develop tools for schools.
The Center for Wellness and Health Promotion at Harvard University offers workshops on such tools as mindfulness, meditation, yoga, sleep, stress-reduction and sexual health. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) by the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School (offered online free) has been scientifically shown to improve a wide variety of medical and psychological conditions, including depression, sleep disturbances, asthma, diabetes, cancer, heart disease and fibromyalgia.
MITRA is a Vipassana meditation programme promoting mental well-being widely used in state schools in India which can be applied to schools anywhere, and The Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are also building on initial research on emotion regulation to create their own mindfulness-based integrated training curriculum.
A 2016 report by Western Sydney University and Plymouth University’s Outdoor and Experiential Learning Research Network (OelResNet) explains “Over the past ten years there have been five significant reviews conducted around the focus of children learning in natural environments in the UK and further abroad” which show “outdoor learning can, and has made, a significant impact on improving children’s quality of life” in relation to health, well-being, and “character capabilities” such as empathy, creativity, innovation, and “their capacity to be successful learners and active contributing members for a sustainable society”.
As such, while schools such as Earth School operate separately from mainstream schools and Forest Schools offer nature-based learning to schools, Nature Schools are one example of mainstream schools adapting to the latest scientific research by taking their classrooms outdoors.
Greater Good Magazine
Good News Network
Great Transition Stories
Educate Inspire Change
Citizens For Global Solutions
Conscious Media Coalition
Coeō Geosocial Network
Global Regeneration (video)
We Our Children
7 Days Of Rest
Prepare For Change
Full Circle Project
One Billion Rising
Climate Revolution (video)
Plant For The Planet
Permaculture Institute Asia
Global Ecovillage Network
The Zeitgeist Movement
The Gift Economy Network
The Global Regeneration Network
Fellowship for Intentional Community
Global Opportunity Explorer
New Systems Design:
Incredible Edible Todmorden
Ubuntu Liberation Movement
Free World Charter
Global Declaration of Interdependence
Gross National Happiness
Movement For a Healthy Country
One Community Global
Cooperativa Integral Catalana
The Venus Project
The Internet of Ownership
Equitable Internet Initiative (video)
A Quest For Meaning
Our New Economy
In Transition 2.0
Mainstream Media – The Movie
The Representation Project
The Mask You Live
A Plastic Ocean
The Great Turning
The Power Of Community
Films For Action
The 10 Documentary Challenge
The Internet’s Own Boy
The Nutrition Source
Center For Healthy Minds
Action For Happiness
Open Future Institute
The Future Project
Institute For Humane Education
Global Indigenous Wisdom Library
Neuroscience of Yoga and Meditation
UMass Medical School
Natural Start Alliance
Discovery Child Care
Nature Based Learning
Schools & Colleges:
Design for Social Innovation
Next School (video)
The Earth Charter Education Center
University For Peace
Institute For Humane Studies
Forest Schools Education
Shared Earth Learning
Una Escuela Sustentable
Intro to Permaculture
Guardian Alliance Academy
Films For Action University
Wizard Activist School
The Crash Course
Wim Hof Method
Center For Mindfulness
Civic Online Reasoning
Mass Media Literacy
The Action Coalition for Media Education
The Global Critical Media Literacy Project
George Lucas Educational Foundation
The Animal Studies Repository
Animals & Society Institute
The Alert Project
The Swaraj Foundation
Shikshantar Research Institute
Shikshantar Research Center
Center for Ecoliteracy
Alternative Education Resource Organization
Alliance for Self-Directed Education
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