How schools can prepare young people to tackle climate change
Barry Mansfield with Martyn Steiner, Halcyon London International School,
- Credit: Halcyon School
Schools don’t need to start teaching about climate change - they need to start teaching around climate change.
Despite the popular narrative, all children in all schools are already learning about the causes and consequences of climate change. It is part of the National Curriculum.
The problem is that the depth and the manner of teaching have, generally through no fault of schools themselves, been wholly inadequate.
At Halcyon, we emphasise the importance of teaching climate change as context, not content - finding ways for learning about it to be embedded across the whole school curriculum in topics that are already being taught.
All schools have full curriculums and busy teachers, so finding room to incorporate separate, disconnected, pro-environmental content into courses is unachievable as well as undesirable.
Instead, we recognise that the knowledge and skills already present within a broad and balanced traditional curriculum can be powerful tools in the fight for a liveable earth, especially if explicit links are made to environmental impact.
For example, convincing people to take action will require confident persuasive writing skills. Our English lessons which teach these skills have been adapted to look at the ways in which NGOs persuade their audiences about the importance of rainforests.
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Of course, it is also important that we take action to model sustainable behaviour within our own shared space and through our experiences at school: something that can take place through both the curriculum as well as the co-curriculum.
Through science classes, students have been tasked with finding ways of insulating our campus, and have been delegated roles in mock-COP26 conferences. Climate data can be used to fuel mathematical investigations, which encourage young people to think seriously about how to tackle real world problems.
We hope that by ‘green seasoning’ our curriculum in this way - sprinkling in a flavour of environmentalism into all learning, all year round - we will build a culture of concern for the natural world, and an authentic sense of empowered urgency to act.
Anything less would be to fail to show our students the true shape of the world they already live in.
Barry Mansfield is director of Halcyon London International School, Marylebone. Martyn Steiner teaches geography, environmental systems and societies at the school halcyonschool.com