The Happy Planet Index

What a great presentation by Nic Marks of the Happy Planet Index.  There is so much learning to be gleaned from this work.

First, the presentation does a great job taking statistical rankings and measurements that have guided so many economic, social, and development initiatives for the past 70 years and challenging their most basic assumptions – that being, economic growth and levels of production are appropriate ways to measure a country’s well-being.  In so doing, this challenge forces humans to recognize what it is that we might actually measure that will allow us to set goals that actually lead to healthier, happier lives and a healthier, happier planet.

Second, I really like the interconnectedness he draws between the planet and humans – not just in how our economic and production indicators that drive development have been systematically justifying, disregarding, and/or minimizing the destruction of the planet, but also how living more in harmony with the land does not require us to limit the human capacity for well-being, in fact it enhances it.

Third, I like his recognition that the power of now is what drives action and that a doomsday scenario that taps into our fears does not necessarily drive people to positive new attitudes and actions in creating a better world.  However, the powers of now that taps into how great we can be taps into a reservoir of innovation, commitment, and compassion that can dramatically shift behaviors and actions.

Finally, I really enjoyed the part of the presentation that looked at the five things you should do everyday to be happier.  The first being to CONNECT.  Social relationships are essentially to learning and development.  The more we, as educators, can leverage the power of social interactions and connections in our own work, the better learning environment we can create.  Allow students to work in small groups and work through problems and questions together. Allow them time to create and explore together.  Help students build connections with one another that they may not do on their own.

The second is to BE ACTIVE.  Now this may be tough for teachers, if we look at being active as solely physical education class.  With budgets for sports and exercise being cut, what are the ways that way can encourage action in the classroom.  Tapping into kinesthetic methods of learning and teaching is a great way to get students moving throughout the classroom.  Check out the activities section of this site to find some activities that may work in your classroom.  Submit your own 🙂

The third being to TAKE NOTICE.  As Marks says:

how aware are you of things going on around the world, the seasons changing, people around you?  Do you recognize what bubbling up for you and trying to emerge?  Based on a lot of evidence from mindfulness, cognitive behavioral therapy – very strong for our well being.

This I find to be very connected with an educators focus on emotional intelligence.  Check out this chapter from Daniel Goleman’s book, Emotional Intelligence.  I think this also taps into naturalistic ways of learning and allowing students to work and learn outside in nature, as opposed to always inside a classroom.

The fourth is KEEP LEARNING.  Marks stressed learning throughout the whole life course and emphasizes learning into one’s old age.  I think this can also be applied to learning throughout the whole day, not just in the classroom, but in informal setting as well.  Now, of course, we are always learning to a certain degree, but are these learning experience always connected and cultivated in such a way that in reinforces positive knowledge, skills, and attitudes?  In my classes I always have a component to the course that allows to self-guided learning.  Some of the homework assignment are reading required by the course, while other assignments ask the students to explore on their own, stories, people, videos, images, experiences that are related to the course content.  It makes the whole experience a learning one for my self as well because the course becomes about more than regurgitating information the students have read in books, but actually bringing new ideas, resources and experiences into the field.

Finally, five is GIVE.  This is something that I believe can be instilled in every lesson regardless of the subject matter.  Why do we learn what we learn?  Why do we develop certain skills?  What’s the point of going to school?  Its to develop our capacities to give to friends, family, community, and the world at large so that they may all be made more healthier and happier.  This for me is the goal of education.  If that can be instilled or communicated into every lesson, I have found it gives a strong sense of purpose in learning any field.

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