Teaching climate change and sustainability in the education sector should be compulsory. This is a viewpoint held by many, including UNESCO, who called for environmental education to be part of the school curriculum by 2025 (UNESCO, 2021), recognising its crucial role in shaping a sustainable future! In this post, I will delve into how it is our responsibility to both the children and the planet to teach sustainability, the importance of teaching sustainable life skills and why getting children involved in decision-making is crucial for their empowerment.
‘Education for all is a human right, and education about a crisis that is currently upon us is also a right’ 16 year old Aishwarya Puttur, Teach the Teacher
The above quote perfectly sums up the primary reason why environmental education is imperative i.e it should be a right to be educated on events that will affect all of us. According to the IPCC (2023), there is over a 50% chance of a 1.5°C warming between 2021-2040 with implications for drought, flooding, and global heating. As a result, the younger generations are most likely to experience the more severe events, so it should be compulsory to educate these generations.
In the same way, it is our responsibility to the planet to teach the next generation that will inhabit earth how to be environmentally responsible. As discussed in the Spark-Y Youth Action Blog by author Alyssa Abel (2019), it is essential for schools to raise the next generation into eco-conscious world citizens who have a deep understanding of the climate crisis. An important step towards a transformation to eco-conscious citizens is to re-imagine the relationship with the environment. Instead of an extractive relationship where we take resources and pollute, we have a more respectful relationship whereby we treat the planet with respect eg reduce emissions, plant trees, and in turn, the planet looks after us (provides us with clean air and available food).
But how can and should we teach sustainability in schools?
Teaching sustainability life skills
According to the Education for Sustainable Living Framework by the ‘Partnership for Education and Research about Responsible Living’ (2016), being eco-conscious should be taught as a series of life skills which include moderation and sufficiency (PERL). Sufficiency could refer to teaching how to grow your own food and preserve it while moderation could be taught in terms of how to buy fewer clothes and use less energy. Critical thinking skills are also crucial as a sustainability life skill. For example, in terms of assessing how sustainable a certain practice is, one must think of the various impacts and stakeholders involved. Teaching and developing these analytical skills is essential to ensure a deeper understanding of sustainability.
The importance of children as environmental decision-makers
Sustainability should not just be taught, but something to participate in!
Children’s participation gives them an opportunity to share their ideas about issues that affect them, children are likely to support the outcome if they have been involved in developing it (Commissioner for Children Tasmania, 2015). In this sense, having children come up with sustainability ideas (and other aspects of environmental decision-making) and enacting them in school would give them a sense of responsibility and ownership of the issue, increasing their confidence and developing a drive for sustainability that they will carry into their adult life! It is our responsibility to the children and the planet to teach the next generation about sustainability and let’s help them get involved!
Get in touch if you would like us to come to your school to educate your pupils with our cross-curricular and positive approach to climate change through talks, workshops and events. Stay tuned for the next blog post where we will be presenting ways to be more sustainable in school, including ways to make children the decision-makers.
Written by Climate Change Communicator, Catrin Lewis.
Abel, A. (2019) Why sustainable education is crucial for the next generation, Spark-Y Youth Action Blog. Available at: https://www.spark-y.org/blog/2019/11/18/why-sustainable-education-is-crucial-for-the-next-generation
BBC News (2021) Could you teach your teacher about climate change. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/58707330
Commissioner for Children Tasmania (2015) Involving children in decision-making: Your quick practical guide. rep. Available at: https://www.childcomm.tas.gov.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Guide-to-making-decisions-booklet.pdf.
IPCC (2023). AR6 Synthesis Report: Climate Change 2023. Available at https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/syr/
PERL (2016) Learning to Do, Education for Sustainable Living, Practices from around the world. Available at: https://www.oneplanetnetwork.org/sites/default/files/learning_to_do_final.pdf
UNESCO (2021) UNESCO declares environmental education must be a core curriculum component by 2025. Available at: https://www.unesco.org/en/articles/unesco-declares-environmental-education-must-be-core-curriculum-component-2025.
Cup of Couple (2021). People Holding a Globe. Pexels. Available at: https://www.pexels.com/photo/people-holding-a-globe-6963622/