Earth Education UK

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Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Children, their world, their education

Children, their World, their Education
I went to this seminar in Birmingham last week.
The stimulating and inspiring presentations by Professor Robin Alexander of the Cambridge Primary Review and Cathryn Gathercole, Director of Tide gave me much food for thought.

I was asked to feed back my impressions at the seminar and my notes are being published as a “Think Piece” by Tide.
Here is my “Think Piece”.
Many of us have spent the past 15 - 25 years lobbying, cajoling and entreating national government of all political hues to regard education for sustainability and global citizenship as being essential for our young people in the 21st Century.
Faced with inaction from national governments around the world to the impending and growing crises of climate change, conflicts over oil, land and religion and global inequalities who do we turn to in order to ensure that our children, the citizens of the future receive the education that  need in order to face the challenges of the future.
As National Governments are not fit for purpose, who might our allies be?  Who should we be engaging with?
The media?  All too often the understanding of journalists, broadcasters and their editors is superficial and their interest short-lived. The BBC in their concern for balance, give equal airtime to Climate Change deniers as they do to reputable scientists.
Industry and commerce? Traditionally regarded as the antithesis of a sustainable future, some leading Industries are starting to recognise and acknowledge the importance of environmental and social sustainability as well as economic sustainability and some far-sighted CEOs realise that the future may not lie in continued growth and globalisation. 
Local communities? Local groups such as Transition Towns can support schools in developing the 30% of their curriculum that should be locally relevant and arguably gives young people their best chance of becoming active and empowered global citizens.
Meanwhile, teachers can provide role models for their pupils not only by living sustainably themselves but by modelling the practices of a sustainable and just society in the way they teach, in the ways they interact with their pupils and in the ways in which schools conduct themselves. The General Teaching Council for Scotland have embedded Learning for Sustainability throughout the professional Standards for Teachers to support teachers in actively embracing and promoting principles and practices of sustainability in all aspects of their work. Now we have no English GTC teachers in England will need to give themselves permission to adopt the same principles as their colleagues in Scotland for no one else will!  Perhaps time to re-visit the Schumacher briefing paper of 2001 by Stephen Sterling “Sustainable Education – Re-visioning learning and change”.
Some of what Robin Alexander said, gave me hope that earth education still has much to offer schools despite a lacklustre National Curriculum.

 Excerpts from Robin Alexander's presentation. 
• Human influence on the climate system is clear. Recent greenhouse gas emissions are the highest in history. Recent climate changes have already had widespread human and natural impact.
• Continuing greenhouse gas emissions will increase likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and systems.
• Climate change threatens sustainable development.
• Limiting climate change will require substantial reductions in emissions which, together with adaptations, can limit climate change risks.
• Adaptation and mitigation are key and complementary strategies for reducing and managing the risks of climate change.
• No single option is sufficient by itself. What is required is policies and co-operation across multiple scales: international, regional, national and local
‘Educated citizens have a greater ability to make informed decisions on how to use resources and preserve ecosystems.’

“Pessimism turned to hope when witnesses felt they had the power to act. The children who were most confident that climate change would not overwhelm them were those whose schools had replaced unfocussed fear by factual information and practical strategies for sustainability.”

Children, their World, their Education: final report of the Cambridge Primary Review

John Rhymer

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Young Voices - Research from COIN.

Research from COIN will be of interest to earth educators. Do check this out and let us know how you think we can respond to these findings through our programmes and activities. In particular, i can see some opportunities within programmes such as SSIII to use the COIN "Narrative Workshops".
Today COIN releases ‘Young Voices’, a major new report looking at young people’s attitudes to climate change.
Supported by the Grantham Institute at the London School of Economics, this is the first British study to ask young people themselves for their advice on how to engage their peers more effectively, and to propose and test new climate change narratives specifically designed to engage 18-25 year olds.

Commenting on the study, Dr Adam Corner, COIN’s Research Director, said:
“Our research suggests that many young people care deeply and passionately about climate change. However, there has been a collective failure to talk to young people about climate change in a way that inspires them. Too many assumptions have been made by communicators, which haven’t been tested. Working directly with young people we have been able to trial a series of narratives about climate change, providing valuable insights for anyone interested in improving communication about climate change with this group.”
The findings revealed that many current climate engagement strategies may be failing to reach young people.
Some of the key findings and recommendations from the report include:

·         For young people, climate change is fundamentally about the ‘here and now’ – describing the effect it will have on future generations, as campaigners and scientists often do, undermines the urgency of the problem.
·         Young people want to hear how climate change relates to (and will affect) those aspects of their everyday lives that they are passionate about - but communicators must take care not to ‘trivialise’ the issue by failing to link the ‘personal’ to the ‘political’.
·         Fighting organised scepticism is mostly seen as a waste of energy by young people – scepticism is relatively uncommon among the young and talking ‘solutions not science’ is a much better approach.
·         Young people often find it hard to talk about climate change with their peers - there was a fear that talking about climate change would set them apart as ‘preachy’ or ‘un-cool’.
·         There is widespread doubt that there is a ‘concerned majority’ among the general public who support action on climate change - communicating a ‘social consensus’ on climate action may be just as important as the scientific consensus.
·         Young people have very little faith in mainstream politicians – so it makes more sense to ask young people to challenge (not support) politicians on climate policies. Campaign messages should clearly set out what needs to be done – who, when, where and what young people can do to make a difference – and which policy prescriptions support this.
·         Climate jargon is unfamiliar and off-putting – phrases like ‘managing climate risks’, ‘decarbonisation’ and ‘2 degrees’ are seen as hollow and vague. People want to hear about specific policies and how these relate to protecting the things people love and are passionate about.
‘Young Voices’ uses COIN’s ‘Narrative Workshops’ method, which explores study participants' values, aspirations and views on climate change before formulating different ‘narratives’ for testing (short pieces of written text that use different language to describe climate change and climate policies). This allows careful attention to be paid to the words and phrases that people respond positively to, and provides a vehicle for building on the core values that underpin public engagement with climate change.