Updated: Jan 7, 2020
Environmental and sustainability education encourages children to acquire the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values necessary to shape a sustainable future in the 21st Century. It relies on experiential teaching and learning methods that motivate and empower learners to change their behavior and take action.
In order to reach a sustainable society we must learn to balance the needs of the planet, with the needs of people and profit. Educating children for a sustainable future requires far-reaching changes in the way education is often practiced today.
"Sustainability education should never be viewed as separate from regular education - instead it’s a new lens through which we must all learn to view the world."
A Planet On the Brink
Why do we need to teach sustainability education to children? Well, great question. We are now living in a world where human beings are consuming resources at a rate equivalent to 1.7 Earths per year, well beyond what our planet can sustain. Earth’s biosphere (the thin layer all living things we call home) in drowning in non-biodegradable plastic waste. And perhaps most worryingly of all - Earth's biological diversity has declined in size by 60 percent in just over 40 years - a trend that’s expected to get worse due to climate change.
Put simply, humanity and the way we feed, fuel and finance our societies and economies is pushing nature, and the services that power and sustain us, to the brink.
Time for Change
Outdoor environmental and sustainability education is vital for cultivating well-informed and responsible global citizens with a changemaker mindset on sustainability challenges. It’s an essential piece of the puzzle for learning to live in balance with Earth’s natural limits, while empowering individuals and communities to restore our planet’s life supporting systems before it's too late.
"Humanity and the way we feed, fuel and finance our societies and economies is pushing nature, and the services that power and sustain us, to the brink."
Education is the key to a sustainable future. However, what's clear is that not all kinds of education support sustainable development. Education that promotes economic growth alone may well also lead to an increase in unsustainable consumption patterns. The time has now come to integrate sustainability education into our current education systems worldwide.
Outdoor sustainability education helps to enhance curriculum learning based inside the classroom, while providing the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes that empower young people to contribute to sustainable development and take action outside the classroom.
A 21st Century Lens on Learning
Outdoor sustainability education helps prepare 21st Century learners for the future. By building core 21st Century skills, such as critical thinking and problem solving, it better prepares children for success in the workplace in adulthood. What's certain is that sustainability education should never be viewed as separate from regular education - instead it’s a new lens through which we must all learn to view the world.
To achieve meaningful change on sustainable development, it’s crucial that today’s youth are well-informed of local to global sustainability issues, and develop well-formed values, centered on evidence-based understanding and critical thinking. But being well-informed is only half of the answer. We also need to change our behaviors and take real-word action. Encouraging action on sustainability is a key component of outdoor sustainability education.
Balancing Planet, People & Profit
The need to collectively re-think and re-define how we value, protect and restore our planet has never been greater. Now is the time to reflect on the way we educate our children for the 21st Century. Environmental and sustainability education is vital for reaching a sustainable society that balances the needs of the planet, with the needs of people and profit. But the clock is running out and whether we can come together on a planetary scale to restore the big rock we call home is still far from certain.
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