Have you ever wondered if and how the kids of this generation are learning about climate change?
There’s no doubt that education about climate change is important. It’s one of the most pressing issues of our time and it will continue to challenge us well into the 21st century and beyond. Education helps to inspire and inform the next generation of leaders, thinkers and changemakers. Every year, more countries are beginning to implement climate change education into their primary and secondary school curriculums.
Some countries are leading the way — let’s take a look at some of these amazing initiatives from all around the world!
Sweden’s Holistic Approach to Climate Education
In Sweden, students are educated about the environment and changing climate almost on a daily basis. It’s no surprise that the home country of Greta Thunberg — prominent youth climate activist and founder of Fridays For Future — is facilitating the next generation of environmental champions.
Aspects of the environment including ecology, conservation, and climate change have been an integral part of the Swedish curriculum since 1969. Lessons about the environment aren’t confined into a single subject, but instead, they are spread out across different subjects — from science to home economics.
Respect for the environment is integrated into the daily routines for the students at Ormige Skola Elementary School, located east of Stockholm. Students remove their shoes before entering a classroom to reduce the need for chemical floor cleaners that harm the environment, they learn about and practice composting with their leftover lunch, and their classrooms are decorated with world maps and images of animals.
“To encourage independent and critical thinking, encourage students’ own voices, encourage students to take a stand; that’s an important focus in education in general in Sweden,” says Johan Öhman, a professor of education at Sweden’s Örebro University.
Italy’s Mandatory Climate Education
In Italy, students will be required to learn about climate change and sustainability for 33 hours per year, or up to one hour per week. Starting in September this year, Italian students will begin to see aspects of climate change being taught in subjects like geography, civics, maths and physics. Doing so helps students to understand the connection of climate change to all areas of life.
“I want to make the Italian education system the first education system that puts the environment and society at the core of everything we learn in school,” says Italy’s Education Minister Lorenzo Fioramonti.
This will make Italy the first country in the world to have mandatory coursework focused on climate change in all public schools.
Bangladeshi Solar-Powered Boat Schools
In Bangladesh, students aged 5 to 11 learn about climate change a little differently… they’re taught on wooden boats! During monsoon season, students in Northern Bangladesh file onto solar-powered wooden boats to learn about sustainable farming, climate change adaption and biodiversity conservation. These solar-powered floating classrooms ensure year-round education for Bangladeshi kids.
“They are actually standing on the ground zero of climate change,” says Mohammed Rezwan, executive director of the Dhaka-based Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha nonprofit group, which runs the project.
“If we provide them with timely education on climate and how to survive the present challenges and prepare them for future, bigger challenges, then actually they will be able to adapt to the changing climate.”
The project helps to teach entire communities about climate change adaption and resilient farming methods. The 54-vessel fleet consists of schools, libraries, health clinics and training centres, which serves about 97,000 people in flooded areas of Bangladesh.
New Zealand Curriculum to Include Climate Crisis and ‘Eco-Anxiety'
In New Zealand, students will have access to climate education from the country’s leading science agencies — including tools for students to plan their own activism and cope with feelings of “eco-anxiety” about our climate emergency.
The new curriculum will put New Zealand at the forefront of climate change education worldwide. Education about climate change will be taught to students between 11 and 15 years old, but will not be compulsory.
“[The curriculum] explains the role science plays in understanding climate change, aids understanding of both the response to it and its impacts – globally, nationally and locally – and explores opportunities to contribute to reducing and adapting to it impact on everyday life,” says Chris Hipkins, New Zealand’s education minister.
New Jersey’s New Climate Change Curriculum
New Jersey will be the first state in the U.S. to include climate change education in its K-12 curriculum.
New Jersey's first lady, Tammy Murphy, met with 130 educators state-wide to encourage the significant change. She says that New Jersey is already dealing with problems caused by climate change — including disappearing shorelines, algae blooms, super storms and hot summers.
"This generation of students will feel the effects of climate change more than any other, and it is critical that every student is provided an opportunity to study and understand the climate crisis through a comprehensive, interdisciplinary lens," she said in a statement.
Aspects of climate change will be included in a range of subjects — from science, to social studies, to performing arts. The new standards will go into effect in the 2021-22 school year.
Australian Kids Deserve Climate Education
Since 2010, there have been calls for climate change to be part of the Australian curricula for primary and secondary education.
These demands were detailed in UNESCO's Climate Change Education for Sustainable Development (CCESD) program, in an effort to increase “climate literacy” among young people. Despite this, Australia has not designed, implemented or funded a coherent educational approach to our climate emergency.
It has never been so important for the next generation of Aussie kids to be educated about climate change. Thankfully, many excellent initiatives have been developed especially for schools, such as the CSIRO’s Sustainable Futures, Cool Australia, Future Earth, the Climate Reality Project, Climate Watch and Scootle. There are also the successful Reef Guardian and Sea Country programs.
In Australia, we still have a long way to go — but there is hope!
Make your voice heard and demand better education about our climate emergency for students all around Australia.