What is it and Why do we need it?
Environmental education (EE) is just what the phrase says it is: education about (and for) the environment.
Environmental education practitioners focus on how educational activities can address the current environmental crisis. We look at the huge melting pot of socio-ecological concerns, how politics dominates the natural landscape, global economics and the concept of environment as percieved by the world’s diverse cultures.
Where does Education Fit In?
Those in environmental education also focus on the history of education and how this has influenced where environmental education is going. Education, as we know, has emerged from many old, deep-rooted ways of teaching and thinking. ” Lifelong learning” is becoming a buzz word as education is forced to adapt to ongoing change.
It is important to note that environmental education is not ” a thing to be implemented” but rather a range of diverse educational processes that respond to environmental issues and risks in different settings.
In 1991, environmental education was defined by Huckle like this: “Education for the environment should be a shared speculation with pupils on those forms of technology and social organisation which can enable people to live in harmony with one another and with the natural world”.
In 1999, a workshop organised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation Environment Programme (UNESCO/UNEP) declared that environmental education should consist of:
- awareness – an appreciation of, and sensitivity towards, nature (biodiversity), as well as for total environment and associated problems
- knowledge – of ecological and other scientific foundations, socio-political foundations, environmentally-related problems and issues, alternative solutions to them and action to be taken
- attitudes – concern about problems, values, ethics, moral reasoning, moral efficacy (the power to produce a desired result or effect), personal responsibility, willingness to participate or act
- skills – critical thinking, problem-solving, implementation and evaluation of action plan
- participation – personal and community-based involvement in environmental issues.
In today’s rapidly changing world of Covid 19, climate change and over-population leading to ecological collapse, the United Nations has formed an environment strategy for environmental education and training.
In this strategy, environment is understood to encompass the natural and built environment, socioecological and economic aspects of environmental issues, and political dimension of environmental protection. In this context, environmental education and training includes aspects related to a wide variety of environment and development issues that affect and are affected by human activities and natural phenomena.
Recognising that the capacity of human society to address environment and development issues and risks differs according to context, culture, skills and patterns of environmental change, this strategy recognises the need for appropriate education and training, skills, technology, infrastructure, access to resources and information for enhanced environmental management capabilities.
” The condition of the environment (human and non-human) is increasingly subjected to degradation. As a consequence, the sustainability of life on our planet is under threat. The reasons for human exploitation of the environment are manifold and complex. However, it is only the actions of human beings that can ensure that all future generations (of all life forms) derive benefit from our environment in ways we do today. Education can and should play a role in bringing these realities to learners who will become our future scientists, politicians, businessmen, lawyers, teachers, engineers and so on. More importantly, education can contribute in learners to take action towards environmental improvement.” (Lesley Le Grange Department of Didactics, Faculty of Education, University of Stellenbosch).
… ” in many countries, globally, the implementation of EE is a prerogative of individual teachers. At the same time, it appears that as it is the case with South Africa; school curricula do not guide teachers on which topics to select or how to select and use them for the purposes of implementing EE. More importantly … [there is a dearth] of research that focuses on the identification of topics that could enable EE implementation in the school curriculum. “
What do we Need in South Africa?
We need better implementation of EE in South Africa where teachers are uncertain what to teach and how to incorporate environment into their classroom subjects. Teachers are under huge stress and have little time to invent new lessons for huge classes of learners. EE should be incorporated into each and every subject in a way that teaches the children about the situation they face in reality.
Our children need to learn how to survive in an ever-changing world where climate is getting wilder, resources are thinning out and space is dwindling. Technology can assist, as can a positive attitude to tackle change in extraordinary ways.
It is great news to hear that UNESCO is trying to reform education globally: UNESCO’s Futures of Education initiative aims to rethink education and shape the future. The initiative is catalyzing a global debate on how knowledge, education and learning need to be reimagined in a world of increasing complexity, uncertainty, and precarity.
With accelerated climate change the fragility of our planet is becoming more and more apparent. Persistent inequalities, social fragmentation, and political extremism are bringing many societies to a point of crisis. Advances in digital communication, artificial intelligence, and biotechnology have great potential but also raise serious ethical and governance concerns, especially as promises of innovation and technological change have an uneven record of contributing to human flourishing.
Knowledge and learning are humanity’s greatest renewable resources for responding to challenges and inventing alternatives. Yet, education does more than respond to a changing world. Education transforms the world.
Earth School wants to be part and parcel of these forward-thinking processes. If you read our website, you will know that we promote an holistic comprehension of the Earth and our place as humans on the Earth. Environmental Education weaves through all subjects including science, biology, geography, history, mathematics, English and more.
Earth School chooses to act, to turn the tide. We all need to find and implement new systems and – most important of all – bring on the kids! What do we do when top experts from all over the world keep telling us that the world is at a tipping point? And that humanity needs to act now to save our futures, all of our dreams, our connections to Nature…
We take this message to heart. We are teaching our pioneering group of children, aged 9 to 15, in one of the greatest classrooms on Earth – South Africa’s natural environment. We film relevant issues in our context, lessons learned and ways to take action. We invite collaboration!