Nordplus project turned upper secondary students into climate activists

By Kristina Wall at the Swedish Council for Higher Education

Young people’s engagement in climate issues is increasing, something YBC upper secondary school has taken note of. YBC has, together with a Swedish and a Danish school, started a three-year project to create a better future.

YBC, Young Business Creatives, is a public upper secondary school in Nacka, a municipality just outside of Stockholm. With programmes in entrepreneurship and creativity, the school’s vision is ”We will change the world”. The school has been a member of the international network Changemaker Schools since 2014.  The organisation behind Changemaker, Ashoka, supports initiatives in social entrepreneurship all over the world.

“Through the network, we had already made contact with Nordahl Grieg Vidergående Skole in Bergen, Norway, and Örestad Gymnasium in Copenhagen, Denmark,” said Oskar Sjögren, headmaster at YBC. “We wanted to develop cooperation and commit to young people’s drive to create a better future. That’s why we applied to visit the school in Bergen.”

The school’s application to Nordplus Junior Preparatory Visit was accepted and a first meeting with teachers and headmasters from the three schools was held in Bergen in January 2020. The meeting resulted in a joint application to Nordplus Junior for the three-year project “Nordic Changemaker Schools accept the UN global goals challenge”- which also was accepted.

“It was fun and instructive to meet across language boundaries. We discussed both the project’s vision and what would be possible to carry out,” said Ylva Broman, Swedish and social studies teacher at YBC.

One class from each school is participating in the project, which focuses on how we can fulfill three of the UN’s global sustainability goals. The funding received from Nordplus for travel was mostly earmarked for travel, something that’s had to be postponed because of the pandemic. So far, the students have only been able to meet digitally.

During the first year, the Swedish class in particular worked diligently with the goal stopping climate change. Ylva Broman explains ”we wanted to turn the students’ engagement into activism. We’ve worked with how to create changes within oneself, in one’s lifestyle habits and then raised that to what society can do. Students have completed different campaigns, for example created commercials for Nature and Youth Sweden and a second-hand shop, made a music video to draw attention to environmental degradation and met local politicians to hear what Nacka Municipality is doing to fulfill UN’s sustainability goals.” 

Hopefully, the classes will be able to meet in Bergen in March 2022 to continue working with a goal related to the ocean and marine resources. In 2022, focus will be on sustainable cities and communities when the classes meet in Copenhagen. Despite the fact the first year didn’t go exactly as planned because of the pandemic, it’s been successful:

”It’s exceeded expectations” said Ylva Boman. “We’ve completed an evaluation and the students think the Nordplus project is among the most fun they’ve done all year! They’re proud of the final products and, despite the digital setup and no travel, they’ve for example made Snapchat friends. Some things, however, have been difficult – like language comprehension and digital meetings.”

“More specifically, we’ve been able to work with our vision to change the world and gained increased understanding for Nordic culture and languages,” said Oskar Sjögren. “It’s cool to see that our schools are so alike and to work on a joint project. We want to show that young people’s opinions are incredibly important and that they can make a difference here and now.”

A greener future – theme for Nordplus

The project that YBC is working on falls within the framework of the Nordplus program's focus area A greener future. This means that UHR encourages applications for projects that stay within the theme and is linked to the development needs of the school.

The photo is from one of the student’s actions – a commercial for Nature and Youth Sweden.