We start on the premise that sustainability is a heavy subject, and we often find grown-ups struggling to understand it. So, how do we expect school students to understand it and importantly, put it into practice? If that thought crosses your mind, you may be underestimating the smartness of young minds today. We have umpteen examples of how teenage kids are voicing their opinion on social topics. In fact, they articulate it much better because they clearly know that the stakes are much higher for them and strongly relate to the importance of securing a better tomorrow for themselves. This needs to be strengthened further through an ideal mix of right techniques, a mature ecosystem and efficient mentorship for these smart young minds.
School managements have a significant role to play in equipping their students with the right environment to drive behavioral changes in their formative years. During their developmental years, children’s bright, vibrant minds must be harnessed to develop a strong ecological identity.
This blog outlines an ideal ecosystem for Sustainability Education at our schools today, to equip our young learners, the citizens of tomorrow with the necessary tools and knowledge to shape in them the sense of responsibility towards protecting the future of our planet. Such a holistic ecosystem for the new-age student is made up of 4 components.
Some schools have already taken a lead and are teaching their students about the significance of climate change and global warming. The significance of getting young minds to think about these serious changes in the environment has been noted by the United Nations too. The World’s Largest Lesson initiative by the UN helps students learn about this subject in the classroom environment through appealing infographics, comic strips, quizzes, video content and poster designs. It appreciates that kids learn better through these techniques than monologue delivery in a classroom setup.
It must be emphasised that such learning cannot be sporadic and through one-time interventions. It is important to seamlessly blend it with the core curriculum learning and deliver it in a planned, phased manner throughout the academic year. While Sustainability Education may not be a mandate in the education boards’ curriculum, it is significant from an all-round student development perspective. It is significant that students understand the implications of the individual actions they practice and see around them, through interactive engagement.
This is a known learning approach in most schools. When it comes to Climate Education, it has been observed that Experiential Learning is a powerful complement to the classroom learning approach. It can take many avatars and here are a few examples for you to consider for your school students depending on their age bracket - Farm Visits, Playful Learning, Nature Walks, Hands-on Composting, Field visit to a recycling center, Experiencing a zero-waste store etc. The common theme with each of these experiential learning approaches is that they ensure that the young minds get a very hands-on experience with various facets of sustainability and nature.
Experiential learning techniques can also be leveraged to develop mentorship skills within students, especially among the high school students. These age-appropriate experiences help students develop a greater awareness of the world around them. Further, with appropriate support system at schools these students are well-prepared to ideate and shape ideas that could develop into tomorrow’s solutions.
This component within the sustainability education ecosystem is one of the most engaging one. It supports the other components that take an academic year approach to learning, with projects that engage students for shorter durations, with a specific purpose. The variety of such projects could be fairly wide and each project would provide ample opportunities for teachers and students to explore the subject together.
At Quest conducted a summer program based on the project-based learning principles. The program was called Summer Naturally, and had the objective to educate students on SDG12 (Responsible Consumption and Production) in an extremely explorative way. The results across students between Class 5 – Class 10, demonstrated how effective this learning technique is.
Schools that are aiming for Green Campus or Carbon Neutral Campus, would be executing multiple projects in their campuses related to Solar Energy, Water Management, Green Zones, Waste Management etc. It is during the execution of these projects that the schools should consider involving students and teachers as volunteers/observers.
In this age of modern education, tech-based methods are commonplace. The students find it easier to learn through digital channels, if they are structured well. Schools must explore ways to leverage digital learning for Sustainability education. This could be achieved in multiple ways.
Firstly, engaging learning content can be easily rendered through the digital channel for a better understanding. Such content helps students appreciate the facets of the planet that they would not be exposed to, in their daily lives. It is this overall understanding of the world that shapes them into informed changemakers of tomorrow.
Further, digital learning methods can also be leveraged to help the students track their own sustainability actions. It is well understood that the sustainability journey is a very long one and it always helps an individual to keep track of the journey timeline over days, weeks, months and years. A sustainability journal for each student, along with planned interventions like classroom learning, experiential learning and project-based learning, will keep them enthused and excited about how far they have come.
Finally, technology can be leveraged to build a sense of community and camaraderie among students. They should have constant visibility into how far they have come together as a group. Recognizing and rewarding journey milestones, could be an encouraging factor. One must explore gamification techniques, through digital badges, leader boards, peer-group analysis etc to make sustainability fun for the students.
With a 360 degree approach to Sustainability education, you are assured of your students picking up the most relevant life and learning skills effortlessly. Each individual has multiple interconnected avenues to explore the subject and depending on his/her interest, an appropriate journey shall be taken. Schools can plan the role of an ideal enabler and with a structured approach like the one detailed above, the learning will be natural and organic.