Sustainability Education–the exploration of sustainability issues as an essential component of the school curriculum-is beginning to gain popularity around the world; but much more needs to be done to ensure that every student of every school system is acutely aware of the challenges that lie ahead for society, the environment, and the planet as a whole.
When we entered preschool, we learned by repeating after the teacher. We memorized the alphabet after reciting it aloud and we learned our times tables by repeating them after the teacher. As we grew older and entered high school, learning became less about memorization and more about thinking for ourselves. We were taught to question the facts presented to us. And the final step of our learning journey was when we were taught to innovate and explore our own ideas. We were taught to find multiple solutions to a problem and to do it in a creative way. As someone who has just graduated from high school, I can speak to this learning journey. I went from repeating, to memorizing, to understanding, and then to innovating. But why do I mention this development of skills? I think that this timeline of learning development can open up a discussion as to why it’s important to teach about sustainability in schools.
Why Sustainability Education Is Critical
The global environmental movement is growing stronger by the day. More people are learning about these issues and are demanding change. While the voices of the masses can push for change, the innovation and experimentation in the environmental field also drives a huge amount of progress. Afterall, how would wind power and solar power have come about without innovation? These inventions that can minimize our impact on the earth emerged because people explored – they got creative and stepped outside the box.
If the timeline of learning holds true, students need to repeat information, then memorize it, then understand it, to finally be able to think of new and creative solutions. With this in mind, environmental issues should be a huge part of a child’s education if we really want to see this field thrive and develop. Just as a student learns about the immune system in school and then goes on to become a doctor or pharmacist who develops a new drug or vaccine that saves hundreds of thousands of lives. How do we expect kids to go out into the world and innovate in the field of environmental action without learning about it as part of the school curriculum?
I was fortunate to attend a school where environmental issues were extremely important and were woven into our curriculum. In fact, as a student, I pushed for more curricular connections to sustainability and climate change. However, a lot of schools don’t offer the opportunities mine did. So I leave you with this thought: if we keep saying that it’s up to the next generation to tackle climate change, to solve the environmental issues, and develop new technologies, how do we expect them to do that without giving these issues equal teaching space at school? Just as we know that repetition, memorization, and understanding lead to innovation. Then shouldn’t we at least start by giving students a basic education on environmental issues if we want them to reach that point of innovation?