Latest student-led climate protests mirrored a tremendous need for schools to provide opportunities to develop their student’s global, environmentally conscious minds.
Contrary to many beliefs, modern education isn’t all about teaching young people the traditional concepts of, say, Mathematics and English – it’s also about growing informed citizens and confident adults.
The purpose of schools, after all, is to produce contributing community members. Yet, in order to best prepare young people for the future, schools should model and help them understand the purpose and the importance of environmentally friendly practices.
This can help students make more informed decisions that can improve and maintain the world we live in.
The curriculum plays an important role in all this.
The NSW geography curriculum for years 11 and 12, for example, suggests students learn about responsible values and mindset towards sustainability. However, the curriculum doesn’t specify how these values and attitudes should be taught, leaving it up to the teachers and schools to design the methods.
What is Environmental Education, and Why is it Vital?
The U.S Environmental Protection Agency defines environmental education as “the process that allows individuals to investigate issues, engage in problem-solving, and take necessary action to improve the environment.” The result? More environmentally conscious individuals with a deeper understanding of environmental issues and the aptitudes to make informed and responsible decisions.
With unlimited access to information, it’s important for students to have the skills to understand the information and apply it to the world around them – to focus on using the information rather than just absorbing it.
Until recently, education systems have mostly prepared young adults to perform various roles in a relatively predictable world. However, the world as we knew it has changed, and we can no longer expect the same old same old. Students will soon have to face complex sustainability challenges, demanding new attitudes and skills to be developed.
Building on case studies from the U.S and Finland, practitioners and scholars provide an understanding of the transformation the education system demands in the face of rapid environmental and societal changes. Essentially there is a shift from widespread anxiety over climate change towards positive approaches, full of actionable hope for a better future. With the facts continuing to come in about climate issues, schools need to teach young individuals that each choice has a benefit and a consequence.
Students saving energy
Many Australian schools have already implemented solar panels. As a matter of fact, more than 1,400 schools across NSW have had solar panels introduced since 2011 to produce at least some of their electricity. After a project ended in 2013, nearly 60 percent of Australian schools have solar panels installed.
Dapto High School’s agriculture, maths, and science classrooms were the first in Australia to experiment with the Hive sustainability classroom.
The concept relies entirely on solar energy and has a monitor in the classroom so the teachers and students can see how much energy they’re using. What’s more, students and teachers can also learn how their school’s energy waste compares with other related schools.
A team of so-called” green student warriors” together with their principal can also get this information sent on their phones -they can see from home when the lights or air conditioning has been left on in the sports hall after the game, for instance.
Having access to live energy data can also help the institution manage events that require much more energy, like the air-conditioning in summer.
Recycling action plan
Most areas have already implemented recycling programs. Schools can now engage in a variety of initiatives alongside their student environmental group. For instance, the schools can put out a call for those interested in being part of the environmental group and be in charge of installing Vinnie’s blue bins or using different machines available to recycle plastic cans and bottles.
A recycling action plan aims to increase sustainability and recycling awareness through various activities such as workshops for kids to make reusable tote bags out of old garments. This is an easy and clear way to help students inspire useful habits that positively impact the community.
Waste management audits
Most colleges have now given students the freedom to plan and organize events such as student-led sustainability conferences. In doing so, students come together from both private and local public schools to discuss, learn, and tackle the environmental challenges in their communities.
The events involved lectures from young climate activists as well as groups working on how to reduce plastic bottles and food waste. Schools can now implement numerous programs that tackle the food waste problem -they are able to establish a composting program where the compost can be re-used to community lots, schools’ gardens and more. Additionally, some organizations collect food, which can be done with the cafeteria program’s food preparation side and student lunches.
Choice of literature advocating green practices – There are a number of authors and titles that promote taking care of our environment and environmental themes. What their parents didn’t know about the environmental crisis, they learn now by experiencing it and googling examples.
Emphasizing re-use – Now more than ever, schools hold events that help people give away items their children may have outgrown by repurposing them for younger kids. For instance, schools can hold book fairs where students donate old books, and younger students can take them home.
Such events not only promote a sustainable and environmentally friendly atmosphere – but they also encourage healthy lifelong habits.
The gist of environmental education is to present young people with the opportunity to think critically about the decisions and choices they make to support a sustainable environment.
This, in turn, feeds a reflexive worldview, which constantly grows awareness about factors shaping student’s habits, ideas, and thoughts about how the world works. In a society faced with inequalities and injustices, learning about social cohesion is paramount