Chilean study visit

Milena Paez Silva (second right) with Neill Patton (right) with the teachers at St Peter’s the Apostle.

Earlier this month, the Network for Social and Educational Equity team welcomed Milena Paez Silva, a psysich’s teacher from Chile for a study visit to the University of Glasgow.

Milena, who works as a lecturer at Pontifical Catholic University of Valparaiso (PUCV), Chile, was a member of the team who worked with NSEE and Children’s Neighbourhoods Scotland (CNS) on our joint Amplifying Children’s Voices for Climate Change project ahead of the COP26 summit in Glasgow in November 2021.

The project used the capabilities approach to facilitate workshops with schools in Scotland, and Chile. These workshops formed a key part of an ongoing climate conversation between the schools, where pupils discussed climate action, local issues such as waste and litter, pollution, and extreme weather.

Milena’s visit has the purpose of strengthening connections established with schools in Clydebank and the NSEE and CNS’s team in the context of the project during 2021. One of Milena’s passions is working in robotics. She brought some robots with her while visiting Glasgow and did workshops with young people exploring issues of climate change through technology. 

Young people and climate change

Young people across the world will bear the brunt of the impacts of climate change, from increasing severe weather events to reduced biodiversity and growing levels of pollution, locally and globally. 

The workshops connected schoolchildren and teachers of Luis Cruz Martinez with those in West Dunbartonshire, allowing for shared understandings of climate change issues.

For teachers, the workshops allowed for knowledge exchange and pedagogical reflections about how to embed climate-related content into the classroom. For the students, the workshops provided a forum through which they can explore and voice their own climate concerns and situate local issues amidst a global context. 

Increase in critical thinking and communication skills

The interactive and participatory workshops also enabled pupils to increase their critical thinking and communication skills while building their understanding of climate change, locally and globally.

The perspectives and understandings co-produced in the workshops were presented to regional and national governments in an event to highlight children’s voices during COP26.

Since the event in November, researchers in Chile and Scotland have returned to the schools to evaluate the project, explore ways of extending its impact and embedding climate issues in all parts of the curriculum. 

Points to consider

The Chilean evaluation of the project, which took place before Chilean schools broke for their summer holidays in December, threw up many interesting points to consider, such as how to ensure the children and young people can convey their thoughts honestly.

Researchers achieved results when they encouraged the children to use puppets to say what they thought, while in Scotland there did not appear to be any shyness about coming forward. 

Both Chilean and Scottish researchers spoke of the important part individual teachers played in the project, with the Scottish teacher willing to embed the project in all areas of the curriculum (perhaps due to the Curriculum for Excellence) in a holistic way, but the lessons this then provided on taking the project forward. How to embed such approaches so that they do not depend on individual efforts?

Both researchers talked of the skills building generated by the project – empathy for others, renewed interest and enthusiasm for subjects connected to the project (parents remarked on this in Chile), willingness to find out more about each other’s countries and culture, pupils learning the importance of taking individual actions and the consequence of those actions, working in their schools and communities, etc, and having the opportunities to meet with senior policy markers such as Mayors, council leaders and the Scottish minister with responsibility for environmental matters.

Focus on grading

The researchers found that education systems with their heavy focus on grading and examinations made it challenging to persuade teachers of the value of the project. 

Milena at St Eunan’s

Part of Milena’s trip entailed a visit to the two schools in Clydebank that were part of the Climate Change project. At St Peter the Apostle’s secondary school, Milena and the team received a rapturous welcome as the school hadn’t received visitors in two years thanks to the global pandemic. 

Around 14-15 students from S3, S4 and S5 met with Milena and the NSEE team, to talk about the main activities they are pursuing through the climate change group in the school—one related to food waste and other to reusing school uniforms. Children’s Neighbourhoods Scotland’s local co-ordinator, Neill Patton, was there to suggest ways forward in relation to their projects. 

Dr Romina Madrid, one of the researchers from the NSEE team, said: “Milena’s visit is a great expression of the strength of the relationships and the collaboration we have been able to develop with colleagues from Chile and Scotland around the topics of student’s voice and climate change.”

Milena added: “It was fantastic to meet the team in person. After months of planning and working with the schools, the meeting in Scotland was a delight for me. I received a warm welcome at both schools I visited and seeing the faces of those students we were working with virtually was invaluable. 

“Many thanks to all the team who made this visit possible and to the students who put their skills to test recreating an environmentally friendly city using robots as a means of transportation.”

Ben Murphy, a researcher at CNS, felt the visit sparked exciting conversations for future work and gave the project reflection a deeper dynamic: “It was fantastic to finally meet Milena, and we had long conversations about our respective experiences with engaging young people with the climate crisis. We have also consolidated plans for upcoming work and widening participation in the project as well as our impact in terms of wider education changes.”



We are the Network for Social and Educational Equity, based in the Robert Owen Centre for Educational Change at the University of Glasgow. We work with governments, educational institutions, local authorities and teachers to promote educational change.

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About NSEE

The Network for Social and Educational Equity (NSEE) is part of the Robert Owen Centre for Educational Change (ROC) at the University of Glasgow.

It works in collaboration with schools, local authorities, Education Scotland and partner services to tackle the poverty-related attainment gap in young people’s education.

NSEE helps schools to use appropriate evidence and data within collaborative working approaches to critically examine context and current arrangements, make changes based on evidence, monitor the impact of these changes and reflect on what they learn.

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