Environmental Solutions as Transformative Sustainability Education Focus for Grades 6/7 to 10
(12-16 Year Olds)
Intermediate students can learn the state of their planet by exploring sustainability and environmental solutions.
The focus for the intermediate level or middle years (grades 6/7 to 10, or ages 12 to 16) of the green curriculum is sustainability and environmental solutions.
The urgently needed shift to sustainable development and a renewable energy-based economy will only come about if today's students gain knowledge, skills and attitudes that did not even exist when many of us, their teachers, were in school.
"It's perilous and foolhardy for the average citizen to remain ignorant about global warming, say, or ozone depletion, air pollution, toxic and radioactive wastes, acid rain, topsoil erosion, tropical deforestation, exponential population growth."
– Carl Sagan
Today's students need brand new knowledge and a whole new set of skills to ensure they are part of the solution to global warming and other environmental and social-economic problems.
Intermediate students have the right (and the maturity) to truly find out the state of their planet, what's going on in their world, and what their future is looking like — even though most of it is bad news.
It therefore makes most sense to present it within a problem-solving context, in hands-on ways, to help them keep their optimism intact and use their creativity to be part of the solution.
Picture your students learning with a solutions focus. Imagine the change that could be unleashed if young adolescents focused their energy and creativity on environmental solutions, by learning about
- renewable energy technologies and ecological literacy in science
- ecological economics in math
- indigenous ways of living with the land in history or geography
- the role of media, advertising and Hollywood in the sustainability crisis through media literacy studies in English/Language Arts.
With their interest in social action and interaction at this age, it's important to empower intermediate students by finding venues and opportunities to put their problem-solving creativity to work in real-life situations.
"Students taught environmental awareness in a setting that does not alter their relationship to basic life-support systems learn that it is sufficient to intellectualize, emote, or posture about such things without having to live differently. . . . Real learning is participatory and experiential." – David Orr
Teachers of these grades (according to their subject specialty, but hopefully in cooperation with other subject teachers) can help their students:
- learn the
state of their planet
- understand the role of the 3 Rs in reducing our ecological footprint and lowering our greenhouse gas emissions from (over)consumption (less waste = fewer greenhouse gases)
- use the ecological footprint concept to understand carrying capacity and overshoot
- understand the historical, political, cultural, social and economic origins of environmental issues and problems of inequity
- learn the science behind environmental issues, including global, regional, local (even schoolyard-based) issues, such as:
- global warming and climate change and all its ramifications (this is the one essential learning in the educational endeavour, and the one fundamental learning for sustaining the future; beware of misleading or outdated resources)
- ozone depletion (yes, still a problem)
- biodiversity loss and mass extinction of species (ours will be one of them if we don't make the necessary switch to renewable energy as rapidly as possible)
- habitat destruction
- water pollution
- smog and air pollution
- acid rain (like tissues in a box, this problem was "fixed" in North America but keeps popping up elsewhere as we export our industries overseas)
- wetland destruction
- persistent pollutants and toxic body burdens
- environmentally mediated human diseases (from cholera to cancer)
- nuclear radiation
- topsoil loss and soil degradation
- waste management and the 3 Rs
- become experts in energy conservation measures, renewable energy sources, zero carbon emission technologies, carbon sequestration, and fuel-efficient hybrid cars as well as electric vehicles and solar-powered cars
- become more ecologically and scientifically literate, so that they understand the following:
- positive and negative feedback loops
- weight of evidence
- peer review
- different timescales
- exponential growth
- the precautionary principle
- ecological limits to science, technology, and economic growth
- study math, history and geography with environmental examples and case studies
- use language arts, art/music/drama, and foreign language study to communicate about environmental and social equity issues
- discover the environmental health/physical fitness impacts of environmental and social problems:
- smog and physical exercise
- sun safety
- impacts of different diets on health and the environment (for example, diets high in meat aren't good for the body or the planet)
- participate in school greening, community-based environmental projects, local environmental hearings, and global environmental campaigns
We humans have (almost) all the technology we need
to safeguard the future. Intermediate level students have the energy and the power to push the necessary changes — and the creativity and the brainpower to invent what's
still needed to save the world!
Need an Incentive to Encourage Your Students to Come Up With Environmental Solutions?
In 2007, Sir Richard Branson offered the Virgin Earth Challenge, a $25 million prize to "encourage a viable technology which will result in the net removal of anthropogenic, atmospheric greenhouse gases each year for at least ten years without countervailing harmful effects."
The reward is for the first person (or group) who can create "a commercially viable design which results in the removal of anthropogenic, atmospheric greenhouse gases so as to contribute materially to the stability of Earth’s climate."
Sir Branson commented, "By launching the $25 million Virgin Earth Challenge, the largest ever science and technology prize to be offered in history, we want to encourage scientists and individuals from around the world to come up with a way of removing lethal carbon dioxide from the earth’s atmosphere.
"By competing for this prize they will follow in the footsteps of many of history’s greatest inventors and innovators. But in this case potentially save the planet. It is our hope and belief that the winner of The Virgin Earth Challenge will help to reverse the collision course our beautiful world is currently on."
Dr James Hansen, Director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, a climate change expert, and one of the judges for the prize, remarked: "I think we have a very brief window of opportunity to deal with climate change ... no longer than a decade, at the most. [W]e must explore all means, both known and unknown, to help alleviate this crisis."
Virgin Earth Challenge
is no longer accepting entries, this competition might show your students that scientific understanding coupled with creativity can be rewarding!
Go from Environmental Solutions (Grades 6/7-10) to Sustainable Development (Grades 11-12)
Return from Environmental Solutions to Greening the Curriculum
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