Students in Tokyo Elementary and Junior High Schools Come Up with Their Own SDGs Efforts

Many elementary and junior high schools in Tokyo are implementing SDGs-based education that emphasize globalization through efforts that are planned by the children themselves.
Students engaged in discussions with their counterparts from a junior high school in Indonesia. From this experience, the students were able to learn the importance of dialogue with people their own age from diverse cultural backgrounds. Photo by Hijirigaoka Junior High School

Tsukishima Daini Elementary School: Sending School Supplies to Cambodia

Students at Tsukishima Daini Elementary School in Chuo City have been learning about Cambodia through the "One School One Country" program*, as well as collecting and donating used school supplies to Cambodia. This effort is meant to contribute to the SDGs, specifically Goal 1 ("No poverty"), Goal 4 ("Quality education"), Goal 16 ("Peace, justice, and strong institutions"), and more.

The school also conducts charity fund-raising efforts for UNICEF every year. The more the lessons on the SDGs have taken root, and as the students participate in fund-raising efforts, the more their mindsets have changed. Students were stunned by the fact that approximately 26% of the total world population does not have access to basic sanitation facilities (toilets that can manage/process waste in a hygienic manner) (Source: "World Toilet Day Project," Japan Committee for UNICEF). They began participating in fund-raising with the belief that even if their individual efforts were small, that they would combine to become a great force.

*Effort in which schools in the host country of the Olympic Games choose countries/regions to support and learn about the culture, language, etc., of the country/region while furthering understanding each other's cultures through social interaction.

The school's representative committee led the UNICEF fund-raising efforts. They took the funds that were raised to the post office to send to the Japan Committee for UNICEF. Photo by Tsukishima Daini Elementary School

Students also learned about seawater pollution by plastics and other forms of waste, and planned and implemented beach clean-up activities on school trips to protect marine habitats. They also learned how important it is to make efforts in their daily lives to keep the ocean clean, such as carrying around reusable bottles and shopping bags instead of relying on single-use plastics.

Students engaged in clean-up activities at the beach as part of an effort to contribute to Goal 14 of the SDGs: "Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, sea and marine resources for sustainable development." Photo by Tsukishima Daini Elementary School

Nonomura Mana, the vice principal of the school, says, "Here, students are assigned research projects related to the SDGs from their fourth year onward, so we'll have students voluntarily come up with ideas for SDGs efforts."

Three fifth-years conducted a presentation as representatives of the school, and promised that the student body would do what it could to help achieve the SDGs by 2030."

Hijirigaoka Junior High School: International Collaborative Learning with Students in Indonesia

From 2020 to 2021, second-year students (at the time) at Tama City Hijirigaoka Junior High School participated in the "Art Mile Program." The Art Mile Program is an international collaborative learning program in which students learn about shared global issues with students their own age from around the world. Hijirigaoka Junior High School's interactions were with students from a junior high school in Indonesia.

Students first learned about the culture and history of Indonesia to deepen their understanding of the country, before engaging in collaborative learning with junior high school students in Indonesia. They then participated in discussions with their Indonesian counterparts about Goal 4 of the SDGs, to "Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all," and worked together to produce a mural. The right half of the mural was drawn by students from Hijirigaoka Junior High School, and the left half by junior high school students from Indonesia.

A mural created by junior high school students from Hijirigaoka Junior High School and junior high school students from Indonesia. Photo by Hijirigaoka Junior High School

The school organized mix-grade groups and set SDGs goals for them, with each thinking of and implementing efforts to achieve their goal. Such efforts have included growing their own flowers and vegetables and donating the proceeds from these to the Japan Committee for UNICEF, and raising awareness of the importance of fair-trade products by boosting understanding of the concept of fair trade and collaborating with the local community.

The students even tried using organic fertilizer made from fallen leaves. Each of these efforts—for instance, attaching recipes to daikon radishes to encourage more people to buy them—were planned by the students themselves. Photo by Hijirigaoka Junior High School

Miura Mari, a teacher in charge of the SDGs-related projects at the school, says, "SDGs-based learning isn't just a part of students' integrated learning—it also relates to various other subjects like morality and social studies. We try to teach it in a way that encourages them to really think for themselves. I think that's what has led to the voluntary SDGs efforts we're seeing at the school."

The school's principal, Aso Takahisa, says, "You can't just say 'Alright, let's engage in some SDGs activities' and expect it to last very long when the substance just isn't there. What we want to do is to 'till' the hearts of these students on a day-to-day basis to encourage them to come up with their own SDGs activities. I think that this will be what will establish the traditions of the school, and help cultivate people who will make good contributions to the international society."

Hijirigaoka Junior High School is implementing efforts related to the SDGs as an AY2021 ESD (Education for Sustainable Development) promotion school under the Tama City Board of Education.

The report on the results of SDGs education in Tsukishima Daini Elementary School and Hijirigaoka Junior High School were presented at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government event, "Summer SDGs Gathering" held on August 20, 2022 at the Tokyo International Forum.

The presentation by the two schools showed that SDGs education is being implemented in Tokyo elementary and junior high schools not just in classes but in various other settings, and that these efforts include interaction and collaboration with people from around the world. Students at these schools engage in research that is guided by their own interest in the subject, discover issues, and think about what they themselves can do to solve these issues. They then develop these ideas into efforts that help contribute to the SDGs in a more global manner.

Interview and writing by Onodera Fukumi
Photos by Tonomura Seiji
Translation by Amitt