Poppy Flint from Learning for the Future Waltham Forest on how different teaching techniques can foster critical thinking
Is there a route out of the current climate crisis? Many cities and local authorities have declared climate emergencies and are drafting plans.
Strategies often focus on measurable carbon reduction, technology or infrastructure. However, the human element is essential if changes are to be supported by communities, if people are going to seek careers in green jobs, and if we are to reduce overall resource consumption rather than consuming more, more efficiently.
Education is, without a doubt, crucial to these objectives. What exactly should this education look like? For many years school children have been given facts about global warming and run campaigns to recycle and turn off lights. But how does this translate to forging a sustainable future?
Waltham Forest Council has declared a climate emergency and pledges to work with schools “to embed awareness of the facts about climate change” into teaching and activities. It is heartening that educating young people is a key consideration, but research in the fields of education for sustainability and behavioural change demonstrate that facts alone do not make sustainable behaviour second nature.
It is a complex challenge for the classroom; we must avoid the narrative that individual ignorance, action or inaction is responsible for climate change, or that simply providing facts is a climate solution. Both of these approaches can leave students feeling powerless. Purpose-driven education and training for the future is the answer. Learning that focuses on climate issues must also foster collaboration, critical thinking and leadership.
Such learning offers direct solutions, such as building the knowledge and skills required for jobs that will make a just transition to equitable, low-impact lifestyles possible. It also offers indirect solutions such as helping citizens of all ages cultivate a sustainability mindset, keep pace with technology, and engage in local democracy.
This doesn’t mean every lesson needs to be about climate change, far from it. Such education and training for the future doesn’t exist as a separate lesson or project. Instead it must be ongoing and integrated into the values and practice of our institutions.
Numerous organisations, including Thames21 and Green Schools Project, are already running programmes that give learners the ability to tackle complex issues and build resilient communities while prioritising ecological wellbeing.
Learning for the Future Waltham Forest believes such projects should be a central part of the climate emergency strategy and can lead to a flourishing future. We are a network of people who believe that education and training is vital for inspiring and preparing people of all ages for a thriving future.