Climate change lessons in equipping kids for the future

Climate change lessons in equipping kids for the future

Climate change lessons in equipping kids for the future

Italy took a significant step in 2019 by becoming the pioneer country to include climate change as a mandatory subject in its curriculum. However, it raises the question of whether children around the world are receiving adequate education about global warming and the environment in their schools.

Monica Capo believes in getting her students a little dirty. At her primary school in Naples, Italy, she teaches them how to plant flowers and harvest vegetables, making climate change more tangible and less intimidating.

Capo’s goal is to foster a love for nature and create a strong connection with the environment. She believes that this connection is crucial for understanding the importance of addressing climate change.

Italy took a groundbreaking step in 2019 by making climate change a mandatory subject in the national curriculum. Students aged 6-19 now receive 33 hours of climate change education each year.

Capo utilizes these hours to teach practical lessons, such as tree planting, recycling, water conservation, energy reduction, and the impact of fast fashion.

She carefully balances the need to educate without instilling fear or anxiety in her young students. Capo understands that the sooner they start learning, the better equipped they will be to make a difference.

Read Also: What is climate misinformation

The future of today’s children is filled with uncertainty

Capo understands the impact that rising temperatures will have on the future of her students. Global warming predicts a substantial rise in extreme weather events such as droughts, wildfires, and floods during children’s lifetimes.

This rise in temperature is expected to reach 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above the pre-industrial era. Currently, around 1 billion children are already at a high risk of facing climate-related challenges such as water scarcity, diseases, and displacement.

The United Nations recognizes climate change as a crisis that directly affects the rights of children. However, not all schools are adequately preparing young people to understand and adapt to these changes in the world.

A diverse assessment

Climate change lessons in equipping kids for the future

Despite the Paris Agreement acknowledging the importance of education in tackling the climate crisis, fewer than one-third of the countries that committed to the agreement actually include schooling in their national climate commitments.

This lack of emphasis on education has also trickled down to the classroom. UNESCO analyzed 100 national curricula in 2021, revealing that only half of them actively mention climate change, often providing brief coverage. A staggering 70% of young people surveyed by the UN organization admitted to lacking the knowledge to understand or explain climate change. In the UK, a survey conducted between 2020 and 2021 revealed that over a third of students claimed to have learned very little or nothing about the environment in school.

However, as the climate crisis becomes more tangible through record-breaking temperatures and extreme weather events, there is a growing global consensus that “children need to be aware and equipped with the necessary tools to be part of the solution,” as stated by Stefania Gianni, assistant director general for education at UNESCO.

Read Also: Is Thailand’s ‘Clean Air Act’ Sufficient to Eradicate Pollution?

Countries leading the way in education

Italy’s recent curriculum change has sparked excitement in classrooms and garnered positive feedback from teachers, as reported by the Association of Italian School Teachers and Managers. Capo updated textbooks and provided educators and schools with more resources.

However, Italy is not the only country making waves in climate education. Since 2020, renowned science agencies have provided updated climate change teaching materials to all secondary schools in New Zealand, though not mandatory. These materials cover various topics, including the stories of climate change activists and guidance on discussing eco-anxiety with students.

Mexico also made a significant move in 2019 by amending its constitution to emphasize the importance of understanding and protecting the environment within the education system.

A universal approach is not applicable

Gianni, from UNESCO, emphasizes that there is no universal approach to climate education. She believes that the way it is taught should be tailored to the specific needs of each location, whether it’s Berlin, Rome, or a small village in Nigeria.

According to Gianni, curriculum updates alone are not enough to bring about change. She suggests a more comprehensive approach, which includes engaging the local community in climate change education, promoting sustainable school buildings, and improving teacher training.

Instruct and train teachers

Climate change lessons in equipping kids for the future

It is crucial to provide education and training to teachers in order to address their lack of knowledge on the subject. According to a global climate education review conducted by the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia in 2023, this is an essential step.

Capo, the passionate founder of Teachers for Future Italy, stands out as someone who has the confidence to teach climate change. However, a UNESCO survey revealed that only 40% of teachers in 100 countries felt confident in explaining the severity of climate change. Additionally, a 2020 survey conducted in Europe found that a lack of expertise was the most common reason why teachers did not include climate education in their lessons.

Read Also: How do we fight wildfires as temperatures rise?

Empowering students

Capo believes in the power of education to empower students in tackling the climate crisis. As a teacher, she sees the classroom as a direct channel to young minds, where she can provide accurate information and debunk misinformation they may have encountered online or through Italy’s climate-skeptical government.

Capo acknowledges that platforms like TikTok often spread disinformation about climate change, so she feels it is crucial to teach her students how to distinguish between fake news and the truth. She wants them to be well-informed and equipped with the skills to critically analyze information.

While many students show interest in the topic, Capo also recognizes that they may feel overwhelmed or anxious about the climate crisis. To address this, she emphasizes the importance of knowledge and action as a counterbalance to anxiety. She strives to instill a sense of hope in her classroom, reminding her students that they have the power to make a difference.

“I want every student in my classroom to understand that we can take action and there is still hope,” Capo affirms. “Having hope is essential in creating positive change.”

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