Creating ecological citizens through transformative learning experiences

If the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us one thing, it is that we can no longer ignore humanity’s interconnectedness with the planet. Human behaviour has a direct impact on the earth’s ecosystems, and the coronavirus has shown us that we are very much part of, not separate from, those systems. If we are to secure a safer future, that awareness must form the basis of lives, careers, behaviours and policies.

If the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us one thing, it is that we can no longer ignore humanity’s interconnectedness with the planet. Human behaviour has a direct impact on the earth’s ecosystems, and the coronavirus has shown us that we are very much part of, not separate from, those systems. If we are to secure a safer future, that awareness must form the basis of lives, careers, behaviours and policies. It was with this in mind that we created our Sygnature Skills course in 2017. It informs, inspires and ignites young people to become ecological citizens by developing the skills and mindsets they need to act as catalysts for resilient futures and drive sustainable change.

Sygnature Skills obtains CPDSO accreditation

Over the four years that we have run the programme, we have practised the art of learning, unlearning and relearning what works and how mindsets are transformed. This process of honing and perfecting the programme meant that, in 2020, we felt ready to formalise the programme. We are now thrilled to announce that the CPD Standards Office (CPDSO) has recognised and accredited the Sygnature Skills programme, awarding participants 72 CPD points upon completion of the programme.

An asset for future progress

Organisations accredited by the CPDSO are recognised as offering a high level of positive learning opportunities, raising skills, knowledge and education. This is fantastic news for us but, more importantly, for our participants. Each will receive a formal CPD certificate of attendance, a deep understanding of the principles underlying complexity and social and environmental sustainability and, of course, valuable skills for the 21st-century workplace. Having an internationally recognised course under their belt will be a huge asset as they progress in their careers.

We are currently in the process of gaining accreditation for our Resilient Futures programme, and will then seek separate accreditation for our ‘train the trainer’ programme, as well as for key modules of each of our programmes, so that they can stand alone as short courses. These short courses will include training for teachers to provide them with a foundation in eco-pedagogy, and how to encourage resilience and sustainability thinking in their students.  Contact us to sign up for a course.

But what are these eco-pedagogies? What do they look like at their most effective? And what is their role in creating the ecological citizens that are so important for the future of the planet, and of humanity?

The need for ecological citizens

The world is at a crossroads: in one direction, climate catastrophe and, in the other, a brighter, safer future. The latter path will require a generation of ‘ecological citizens’ – people who have a fundamental belief in environmental and social justice, and in their responsibility to act accordingly.

But ecological citizens do not just appear, fully formed. They must be nurtured from a young age to care about the planet and understand its complex ecosystems.

They need to understand their own power to drive change.

Creating ecological citizens with transformative learning experiences

At Routes to Resilience, our objective is to nurture the latent ecological citizen in everyone. We do this through programmatic interventions with transformative learning experiences at their heart. Our programmes are informed by: 

  • Eco-pedagogies, including the theoretical construct of ecological citizenship
  • The head, heart, hand approach to developing eco-literacy
  • Socio-cultural learning through social interaction, negotiation and collaboration in solving real-world problems
  • Place-based pedagogies, where nature ignites learning through the physical reconnection of the human psyche with its interdependence with the natural world

Place-based learning

Crucial to our programmes is how we frame them in the context of place, history, nature and culture. This encourages a deep understanding of the world and a sense of belonging, which fosters active, long-term engagement with the subject matter.

We take our learners out of the classroom whenever possible, encouraging them to experience their natural surroundings in new ways. This is particularly important for young people who have not had the opportunity to travel even locally: learning about the world cognitively in the classroom is entirely different from experiencing it first hand. 

Learning ‘in situ’ also offers the serenity of perspective. It allows the learner to understand that they belong to something so much bigger than themselves, which in turn makes them feel more connected to the natural world but also to one another. 

A deeper understanding through mediative discovery learning

Another key aspect of our pedagogical approach to creating ecological citizens is mediative discovery learning. An example might be how participants explore a river, through their senses, investigation and discussion. By combining their observations and harnessing their collective understanding of the planet, learners co-create a collective understanding of the systems around them, the planet and the challenges it faces. 

The pedagogy of resilience in preparing people to create a brighter future

The approaches outlined above are brought together in our Sygnature Skills and Resilient Futures programmes. Both focus on developing resilience in people so that they are prepared for a resilient, sustainable future. Our Sygnature Skills programme is based on a head (think), heart (feel), hand (do) model, with immersive, place-based experiences integral to the heart element.

Resilient Futures, which targets school leavers and early career professionals, is primarily a career development programme, with a focus on nurturing personal resilience; however, we believe that resilience must include the desire to create a more resilient future for all of us and the planet. 

Community is key to resilience: one’s own resilience is stronger when one’s community is strong. Resilient Futures therefore focuses on developing both the inner self and the sense of self within a community. We do this through place-based transformative experiential learning, with three additional elements:

    1. Inspiration:
      Inspiration can and should be found close to home. We create opportunities for our learners to connect with local heroes who model eco-citizenship in their businesses or community work inspiring them to identify how they can make a difference in their own communities.
    2. Purpose:
      This introspective, immersive element of the programme uses the power of art to help participants discover what arouses their passions, and how those passions can be turned into purpose and a sense of agency, and value for their communities.
    3. Action:
      Our participants are always energised to discover that taking community action allows them to develop their passions, and that they themselves can drive positive change by leveraging their newfound and existing skills, knowledge and self-awareness.

A transformational, immersive and deeply personal education

The world needs people to drive meaningful and lasting change. Those people need to identify as ecological citizens, recognise their strengths and passions, and understand the complex, systemic nature of the problems that the planet faces. We, as their elders, must equip them with everything they need. At Routes to Resilience, we believe that transformational, immersive and deeply personal encounters are the best way to create those ecological citizens. 

If you or your organisation would like to partner with us to deliver one of our accredited courses, please contact us on