Today there’s no doubt that the topic of environmentalism is on everyone’s mind. It’s the word on everyone’s lips in the White House, in the cafes, over dinner with friends and in the papers. So why isn’t it in the classroom?
There’s still a lot of controversy surrounding the topic of climate change, pollution and environmental waste. A significant portion of the U.S. still believes that a curriculum involving environmental education should be relegated to state law or that it shouldn’t be taught at all. If the current political climate gives us any clues, it’s that we won’t have any definitive national curriculum in public school regarding environmental change any time soon. State and federal officials are still hashing out if and how environmental education will be taught, if at all.
Still, there is an upward trend in environmental education. A survey from Inverness Associates led by Paul Chapman showed that more schools are starting to incorporate environmental education and sustainability in the classroom. Many schools are implementing strategies for environmental curriculum, student leadership, nutrition, sustainability and more. Schools have launched awareness and sustainability programs for students with great results. These are just a few of the findings that can be used to teach kids to be greener.
Create an Organized Group within the School
Change has to start from the top. School administrators, leadership, department heads, teachers, faculties and students all need to get together to negotiate plans and a curriculum. Many schools found success by creating a club or team led by a lead teacher or coordinator. If they have the resources, these schools then organize field trips, clubs and extra-curricular programs to get students involved.
Reduce the School’s Environmental Footprint
Perhaps one of the easiest ways to educate students about the environment is to lead by example. The simplest place to start is to teach students about waste and recyclables through practice. Teaching kids how to separate their recyclables while telling them why it’s important helps them take more initiative to be proactive in the future. Other schools have taken measures to reduce the use of hazardous chemicals, pursuing energy efficiency alternatives, or even using renewable energy resources.
Arguably the second most important topic in our schools has to do with health and nutrition. Many schools have found a way to integrate the two in a lesson about health and sustainable grown and organic food. Some schools now cultivate their own gardens to teach children about where their food actually comes from and how to responsibly consume it.
The toughest issue, as mentioned before, has to do with the lack of a unified curriculum. The best schools have constructed a curriculum and have taught administration and faculty how to introduce it on campus. Without a unified curriculum, some schools have trouble prioritizing an already complex task during the school year. However, schools are still providing broad experiences in the realm of hands-on learning, outdoor field experiences, gardens and even service projects.
When it comes to teaching the youth environmental awareness, we still have miles to go. But this study and others show that strides are being made in the field and we’re cultivating what will be the most environmentally self-aware generation that ever was. Whether you’re a student, a parent, a member of faculty or administration, there are small initiatives you can take toward environmental education. We may not have a comprehensive curriculum, but these small steps show that we have a brighter and more aware future ahead.