Updated: Aug 6, 2019
Environmental and sustainability education means incorporating key sustainable development issues into teaching and learning; for example, climate change, disaster risk reduction, biodiversity, poverty reduction, and responsible consumption. The UN's Sustainable Development Goals break down the complexity of worldwide sustainability issues into a comprehensive framework of 17 specific objectives for the global community to achieve by 2030.
It also requires participatory teaching and learning methods that motivate and empower learners to change their behavior and take action for sustainable development. Education for sustainable development consequently promotes competencies like critical thinking, imagining future scenarios and making decisions in a collaborative way.
5 Pillars of Top-notch Sustainability Education
There is no ‘correct’ pedagogy for sustainability education, but there is a broad consensus that it requires a shift towards active, participatory, and experiential learning methods that engage the learner and make a real difference to their understanding, thinking and ability to act.
"Evironmental and sustainability education means incorporating key sustainable development issues into teaching and learning."
We've identified 5 key pillars of environmental and sustainability learning that cover a host of pedagogical approaches or tools that you might like to bring into the learning environment of your school, business or organization.
1. Critical reflection – including the more traditional lecture, but also newer approaches such as reflexive accounts, learning journals, and discussion groups.
2. Systems thinking and analysis – the use of real-world case studies and critical incidents, systems analysis, project-based learning, stimulus activities, and the use of the education institute or organization as a learning resource.
3. Participatory learning – with emphasis on group or student-led learning, developing dialogue, experiential learning, action research/learning to act, and developing case studies with local community groups and businesses.
We recommend gaining a better understanding of the sustainability issues facing your local community through a community mapping exercise to inform collective action to maximize impact.
4. Thinking creatively for future scenarios – by using role play, real-world inquiry, envisioning future scenarios, problem-based learning, and developing new local to global sustainability solutions.
5. Collaborative learning – including contributions from guest speakers, work-based learning, interdisciplinary/ multidisciplinary working, and collaborative learning and co-inquiry.
At Outdoortopia, we subscribe to the Changemaker Model of Experiential Education, which we adapted to nurture what we call the Changemaker Mindset, building on the original work of Kolb (1984) that focuses on the experiential learning process.
In our view, achieving the Changemaker Mindset is the ultimate goal of education for sustainable development, as developing a new generation of informed and eco-literate young people with an empowered attitude towards creating change is vital to achieving a sustainable future in the 21st Century and beyond.
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