“Education is an essential element of the global response to climate change.” These words might be seen as really common ones but surprisingly there are found on the webpage of the Unesco. They are then followed by this phrase: “It helps young people understand and address the impact of global warming, encourages changes in their attitudes and behaviour and helps them adapt to climate change-related trends.”
These are powerful words but teaching climate change is not so easy as people think. It is important to tell the kids, from an early age the truth about the environment and what is happening. But at the same time is necessary to give them hope and encourage them to be passionate and be positive about their capacity to make a change.
I believe that empowering children should be done by proposing a good curriculum. They should ask questions about what they are curious about, they should be given the tools to find and understand the answers themselves. If they are active in the learning process students learn best. Being given facts to memorize is not challenging and rather boring.
Education is not only useful to grow conscious and active children but it plays a key role in innovation and investment in environmental actions. Only with the opportunity to understand , these children will become adults that care about sustainability and will choose behaviours and lifestyles that match the ideas they learned at school.
Regarding the topic of climate education, we interviewed Diana van Mersbergen at the COP23 opening ceremony. She is a primary school teacher working at the Bonn International School and she told us her experience teaching this subject.
“The themes from COP are very much part of the curriculum. Every year, every class will have a unit of study of what we call “Sharing the planet”. In different grade levels they might do different things. For example in grade 3 they study climate change, in grade 4 they learn about water systems in the world and so on.
We have been invited to come here and open the ceremony. After this experience we will talk about it and teach them about climate change and what they can do as children.”
When we asked what she would recommend to other teachers around the world that want to approach this theme with younger children and teenagers she answered: “I think that there are so many teaching resources to teach this topic. Every child in the world should know about this because it will affect them and their children if we don’t do anything. What is important for children to know is that they have the power to make different choices for themselves. Environmental problems mostly happen because we don’t really care about what happens to others; if it is not touching me today, I don’t care. We want to teach these children that it does matter, everything you do, even little things are important. The choices they will have to make will not always be easy. Even if others do not act you should do it because it can make a difference.”
After speaking with the teacher we met Colombe a French elementary student. “I am going to represent my school in the opening ceremony; I like being here and I think that talking about climate change is important. In the north pole the ice is melting and I want to do something for it. I am here only for the opening but in the future maybe I want to come back to the conference.”