Yesterday as a number of my students chose to discuss the school strikes on climate change with me, I decided it was time to talk to them about how the fight against climate change goes far beyond policy change. That politicians, governments and world leaders aren’t the only ones that need to take action.
Starting the Discussion
When student’s asked me my thoughts I decided it was time to talk to them about behavioural change. I asked many of them to consider the actions they take to fight climate change. Many of them had little to say except we recycle.
We discussed the benefits of raising awareness through protests and strikes and that through such action we can ask for change, but it also requires us to change.
As a Geographer I teach the science, the evidence and the impacts. We touch on ecological footprints throughout and consider ways to reduce ours, we explore in detail mitigation and adaptation methods too. But I’ve forgotten to put taking action into my curriculum design.
Often I think young people feel helpless when it comes to global issues. They have little say in the matters that will concern them in the future. Take the EU referendum for instance, I’ve worked in two schools during the entire process from proposal to now, both very different contexts. However, the EU referendum intrigued the students and engaged them in politics. I remember the day the results were announced and it was all many of my students talked about for the rest of the day; many disappointed, a few pleased others just unsure. But what they understood was that their futures were influenced by the decisions of others and that they had no say in the matter. They felt angered by this. Many of my current students feel the same way.
But acting on climate change is something they can do. We need to empower young people to see that dealing with world issues isn’t beyond their control. If they want to see change in the world, they mustn’t be apathetic about it. Small changes make a big difference. Our choices influence decisions being made my others. For instance, if we start to boycott instead of supporting polluting brands, they will eventually change their ways.
Prior to training to teach I worked for several months with Global Action Plan on their EcoTeams project.
EcoTeams originated in the Netherlands in the 1990s and since then over 150,000 people have participated worldwide.
An EcoTeam is a group of householders who get together once a month over a five- to six-month period to follow a step-by-step process of manageable actions on sustainable living. Team members measure their household’s environmental impact, share their experiences and agree together on practical lasting changes.NSMC
The project involved providing workshops to EcoTeam leaders that would then set up EcoTeams in their local area. The idea being that each team would take weekly changes to their behaviour with the ultimate aim of reducing resource consumption, their ecological footprints and their environmentally detrimental behaviours.
Reflecting on the climate strikes has got me thinking about how we as teachers, school leaders and adults can support young people in changing behaviours, attitudes and ultimately influence policymakers.
Working in an International Baccalaureate schools means we provide opportunities for ‘Creativity, activity, service’ within the diploma and at KS4. We’ve introduced the community project to year 9’s this year and students started to explore ways of taking action in their school community.
Whilst there are plenty of extra-curricular opportunities. This has got me thinking about how to develop this into the curriculum right from year 7.
At present we are teach about energy resources in the UK and within the topic they learn about the UK’s energy mix, the pros and cons of renewables, nuclear and fossil fuels, we explore and debate fracking and consider how the UK could become a ‘Zero Carbon Britain‘. I’m now considering how we can develop activism and behavioural change into this unit.
How do you develop student actions on global issues? Would love to here more on what others are doing, feel free to leave a comment.