Experts are calling for lessons in schools focused on climate justice to help children adapt to the ongoing crisis

Experts are calling for lessons in schools focused on climate justice to help children adapt to the ongoing crisis

Experts are calling for lessons in schools focused on climate justice to help children adapt to the ongoing crisis

Fridays For Future protesters during the climate strike march on October 1, 2021 in Milan, Italy (Getty Images)

Fridays For Future protesters during the climate strike march on October 1, 2021 in Milan, Italy (Getty Images)

On a warm summer evening in April, a group of eighth grade students from a government society school in the southern Indian city of Chennai hosted a play entitled Time to change.

The group of students called Thenikuzhu – which means a swarm of beesTamil – wrote the script for the climate change show themselves and performed in a packed auditorium, with tickets sold for around $ 2 each.

by Tenikuzhu The science fiction game involves a heterogeneous group of scientists, who invent a time machine, travel to the future and return dejected for the fate of the planet. The search for how young minds use their new invention to repair the planet forms the main storyline of the captivating comedy spiced with anecdotes of actual climate justice events of the present and past.

“We chose the name Thenikuzhu for our class because honey bees are a fundamental species and we felt that children were the keystones of climate action, ”says Meera B, a former Teach for India fellow, who teaches the class of about 80 students The independent.

A keystone species is one that has a disproportionate impact on the ecosystem relative to its population size.

“Initially the children were given an exercise in the classroom to write essays, and one of them wrote about how she would go back in time and solve some problems. From this, my co-teacher Nikita and I came up with an idea to link time travel and climate change, which we gave the kids as a starting point for writing the play. They did the rest themselves, “says Ms. Meera.

The teacher from Chennai believes that bringing climate change discourse into classrooms through art and activities is critical to fighting the global crisis.

Thenikuzhu performs Time For Change, a science fiction work about the past, present and future of climate change (Vishwam Sankaran)

Thenikuzhu performs Time For Change, a science fiction work about the past, present and future of climate change (Vishwam Sankaran)

One approach teachers could take to present the speech to students in low-resourced schools who are already understaffed is to incorporate concepts of climate change into the subjects they already teach.

“For example, in a math classroom exercise on calculating averages, children were asked to monitor the air quality index data of different neighborhoods for one day and we calculated the average value of these data points.” , Ms. Meera explained.

In particular, he says that educators in countries like India need to bring climate justice discourse into classrooms to make real progress against the crisis that threatens the future of humanity.

“Most of the resources I find for middle school children are not easily integrated into the local curriculum. There are exercises like keeping water logs and calculating the carbon footprint that are part of some study programs. While these are helpful to some extent, they don’t meet the realities of these children, ”Meera says.

“The children I teach have the least impact on climate change and seem to bear the worst of it. So I don’t want to teach them anything more where the burden falls on the individual. But there is a greater need for school curricula that focus on what to expect from governments and industries, ”she adds.

Last year, the United Nations also released a 128-page report explaining how the climate crisis is a children’s rights crisis with the greatest impact felt by children in poorer settings.

Experts agree that climate change curricula in schools should be built to meet local needs, while also teaching some general concepts about the realities of the crisis felt around the world.

“First of all, they should have a basic idea of ​​climate change and what it can cause such as sea level rise, cyclones, floods and droughts, regardless of where they live. So they can relate to. these depending on where they live through activities, such as talking to grandparents or people in their community, which are tailored to each class, “says Mala Balaji, a researcher working for the non-profit organization Climate Action at Citizen consumer and civic Action Group (CAG) based in Chennai. .

The need of the hour is also to start from the younger age groups, experts say.

“We are seeing quite a lot of climate education resources for middle or high school students, but for younger students there is a huge resource gap,” says Keya Lamba, co-founder of Earth Warriors. , an international organization that seeks to enable schools to incorporate a solutions-based climate curriculum.

Citing recent research published in the journal PLOS One, Shweta Bahri, another co-founder of Earth Warriors, pointed out that if only 16% of children in high- and middle-income countries received climate education, there could be a reduction. future carbon emissions of about 19 gigatonnes.

“COP27 in Egypt is fast approaching – we hope to see a conference roundtable that addresses climate education as a valuable tool for climate action,” says Ms Bahri.

“Governments need to work faster to incorporate climate education into curricula, to create a timeline for its implementation and make it a reality for all schools. Too often we talk about it and nothing is ever done, ”she adds.

Ms. Balaji agrees.

“Although climate education was one of the topics raised in COP26 and there were a lot of expectations, it vanished and no major action was taken,” he adds. In COP27, the CAG researcher hopes that tangible goals will be set to strengthen the ability of educators and teachers around the world to provide accurate information to their classrooms on climate change.

Experts point out that while climate change finds superficial mention in subjects such as social sciences and environmental studies, many countries lack a universally shared separate pedagogy for climate change with a learning continuum.

COP27 can be a platform where these issues are addressed and tangible goals are set for introducing climate change education into classrooms.

“Every time at COP events, the outcome is tepid, so I hope something concrete comes out of this and climate change education is at the forefront of discussions,” says the Chennai-based researcher.

COP2, experts say, can also stimulate progress by channeling funds towards climate education, particularly for schools in settings with limited resources.

“Finance and partnerships have the potential to be the biggest accelerators for climate action. Non-profit organizations and other impact entities are best placed to support the implementation of climate education policies on the ground, ”says Jai Warrier, co-founder of the Bangalore-based Non-Profit Initiative for climate action.

Mr. Warrier says it is urgent, through COP27, to fund the collection of more localized climate data, make it easily accessible to educators and individuals, and create incentive structures for climate content creators, trainers and others to provide this information in classrooms.

“It is absolutely vital to strengthen the skills of teachers and educators to provide accurate information, integrate local content and promote critical thinking about climate change mitigation and adaptation,” Ms. Balaji noted.

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