:: Starter Activities - Print Version

Belief Circles
This activity aims to help students to think about their own ideas and understand other possible viewpoints on sustainability issues as an ordinary teenager.

When to use the activity
It’s likely to be most useful when students are dealing with sustainability for the first time at AS or, less likely, at A2. It’s intended to make them think as ordinary consumers, not as designers. At A2 you may wish to use it as a reminder to students embarking on major coursework that we all bring values into our designing and making decisions.

Who is the activity for?
This activity can be used with a small group or the whole class. It is suitable for both AS and A2 level students, though the statements should be simpler for AS level.

Sustainability issues considered
The activity can be tailored to meet your own requirements at the time you use it. You can target environmental issues, social issues, economic issues or all three. Teachers can make up additional statements as needed – those given are suggestions only.

Assessment Criteria
As a starter activity, this may not be anything more than something that sows seeds but students should become more aware of themselves as consumers and how their decisions impact on lives and livelihoods elsewhere.

The Activity and hints on how to organise it 

• Prepare a number of statements in advance dealing with the sustainability issues you want students to consider. Print them in bold, large print on cards so students can read them from a few feet away.

• Give each student a card to write his/her name on, also bold and large.

• Organise students on chairs in a circle, and include yourself in the circle; participate if you wish.

• Explain to the group that you are going to place a card on the floor in the centre of the circle, on which is written a statement. Tell them you will ask them to think about their opinion about the statement. You will then ask them to place their name card as near to or as far away from the statement relative to how much they agree or disagree with the statement itself. Their cards can be places anywhere between the front of their chairs and next to the statement card.

• Explain that they must only put down their name card when you say so, not when they’ve made up their mind. This avoids everyone following the ‘leader’ in the group and should ensure everyone thinks about the issue for themselves.

• Read out the first statement, put it in the centre, read it again and allow about 30 seconds thought, then ask students to put their cards down. Include your own, if you wish.

• Ask one student to explain why they have put their card in a particular position. It may help to choose an extreme view to provoke discussion. Ask others to explain their positions and debate for as long as appropriate.

• Do the same thing with further statements until you are happy that the relevant issues have been raised. If you wish, ask students to write down the values they have at the moment about the issues highlighted.

• Draw some conclusions about how our values affect our choices as consumers and designers.

Belief Circles - Suggested Statements

AS Environmental

• I believe it’s the government’s job to make sure waste is disposed of properly, not mine.
• I believe people who use cars should have to pay high taxes to pay for the damage they cause to the environment.
• I believe we don’t need to bother about using up resources. There will always be plenty for everyone.

AS Social

• I believe people in other countries should learn to look after themselves. They’re not our responsibility.
• I believe women are exploited far more than men in the world.
• I believe it’s more important to be trendy than environmentally friendly.

AS Economic
• I believe that what I buy in the shops is my business and doesn’t affect anyone else in any way.
• I believe people should always get a fair wage for the work they do.
• I believe the most important thing in choosing what we buy is value for money.

A2 Environmental
• I believe we’ll always find new resources even if we use up those we’ve got now.
• I believe it’s just not possible to produce something without it doing a bit of environmental damage.
• I believe that, wherever possible, producers should try to use renewable materials and sources of energy.
• I believe it makes sense to try to design all products in such a way that they can be reused or recycled.

A2 Social
• I believe it’s much more important to be able to get a product easily than to be bothered about where it has come from or who made it.
• I believe that people have a free choice about where they live. If they choose to live where there’s a danger from pollution then that’s their problem.
• I believe that when children are used to make products, their families will be better off because there’s another income.

A2 Economic

• I believe there’s poverty in every country. We should be bothered about our own poor people, not those in other countries.
• I believe people who make products have a much harder job than those who sell them so they should get more of the profits.
• I believe it doesn’t really matter whether something is needed or not – making new products always creates jobs for people.