Sustainability education: educating young change makers

manthinkSustainability education: How do we ensure that future generation are equipped to deal with the challenges they will face? Climate change consequences and overpopulation are two of the major issues forcing us to take a good look at the way we live including our diets: the production and distribution of food; land ownership; the nature of work and the entire economic system.

One of the greatest tasks for society then is to equip children with the attitudes, values, knowledge and skills necessary to rethink and change current patterns of action and to secure healthy, just and sustainable futures for all. (Davis and Cooke, 1996)

Sustainability Awareness

Knowledge and information about the world around us is more available than ever before. Society is finding ways of solving social and environmental problems and making the shift towards creating change. But practical change is slow.

The education and upbringing of our children is strongly influenced by institutions like child care centers and schools but the home environment is still central in allowing children to make sense of this world.  Curriculum by its very nature lags behind modern developments because of the need to go through various stages of design, development and approval of content. Once issues are part of the mainstream curriculum, they are almost out of date again.

In order to achieve rapid change we need an education system focused on fostering the skills, confidence & responsibility to develop ‘the future we want’ and need.  You can check it out here: Bring on the education revolution and save the planet.  While we wait for this to happen, we need to complement the structured education we provide to children and young people with information and experiential learning which helps them to become compassionate and capable adults ready for what lies ahead.

Bringing up Aware Children:

And there are sufficient private initiatives on offer. Travel Kids Club is a new and exciting project aimed at teaching young children more about the world around them and giving them the opportunity to create change through the choices they make. It’s a fun, educational membership package delivered in the mail to children each month. The kids learn about other countries, cultures, social and environmental causes and are provided with the opportunity to choose a charity of their choice each month which receives a monetary donation from the Travel Kids Club membership fee. The project creators believe that with the help of the internet we can create a global conversation to change the focus of our culture and lives for the better.

The world is not left to us by our parents, It is lent to us by our children. (African proverb)

In our increasingly connected world initiatives like these are essential to ensure children and young people grow into broad minded world citizen equipped to navigate and shape their world.

Early Childhood Education:

We need to go a step further. Change in consciousness is happening but it needs to happen faster and it needs to happen at the source – with our children. Early childhood is the most rapid period of development in a human life. Events in the first few years of life are formative and play a vital role in building human capital, breaking the cycle of poverty, promoting economic productivity, and eliminating social disparities and inequities. You can read more about Early childhood development around the world.

How Early is too Early? Early Childhood Sustainability Education:

If education has a dominant role in helping society progress to a sustainable way of life and if early education is an important consideration in the development of a child then doesn’t it make sense that we start sustainability education in early childhood? We should be aiming at creating the next generation of change-makers now.

In the ‘It will be a wasteland if we don’t recycle’—Sustainability and intentional teaching in early childhood‘ article by Early Childhood Australia the author talks about how children are well aware of what sustainability means, while some adults still grapple with the terms and practices and whether or not we should be teaching it to our children.

One teacher set up a recycling experience for children and illustrated the outcomes for the teacher, children and parents highlights how capable young children are of understanding complex concepts. This has been evidenced by many studies as well.

‘It will be a wasteland if we don’t recycle,’ stated a four-year-old child in a recent preschool study.

If this quote doesn’t motivate us to help our children to cope with the demands of the new world nothing will. What are your thoughts?

  • Thank you for including Travel Kids Club in this thoughtful piece! We often ponder the question of how young is too young to learn the need for conservation and sustainability? When I was a kid there was a nationwide campaign to “be a tidy kiwi”, it worked, it is ingrained in my psyche. I hope we can create a similar effect on our members and hopefully see even a small result from sharing the stories we come across.

    • eileen

      Education starts from the cradle and continues so if you are passionate about education then this generation of kids are the key to changing the world and its environment. I think it is such an exciting time in the world to make a difference no matter how small. I have my own Facebook page named “Difference matters” and its about educating people predominately women to be independent thinkers and take control of their lifes.