Teaching Outside the Curriculum Box
Takes Courage

I suppose education would be chaotic without mandated curriculum, but we all know that curriculum can become outdated.

Some (maybe much) of the curriculum we teach is now irrelevant, especially in a world heading for the collapse of human civilization and the mass extinction of species (including our own) due to global warming and climate change.

If we don't do something fast, that is. And one of the fastest ways to create societal change is by seeding it at school so that children take it home and get their parents to change. This strategy has worked in many places with recycling, and it's succeeded with non-smoking campaigns in North America.

Curriculum review and change doesn't happen fast enough to save the future. We need to start teaching "outside the curriculum box." Anything that isn't in service to the Earth and the future is now useless and undesirable — a waste of good learning time, energy and resources.

It takes courage to buck the system and stamina to swim upstream.

Here's an example.

I was once asked to present in a science class where the teacher had decided the focus would be on note taking. The topic of that lesson? Ecological principles!

(I couldn't believe that the most important scientific learning of the year was relegated to a lesson on note taking. Needless to say, I did not focus on note taking. The students and I did all sorts of fun, hands-on group work, exploring ecological principles.)

In most schools, we are still teaching science devoid of ethics, without emotion, without connection to the rest of the world — while the world's greatest scientists are now expressing fear and concern about the future of life on Earth.

Meanwhile, we still graduate students who think their mark in science is more important than what they can do with what they've learned.

We teach science without teaching scientific literacy. In many schools, we even teach science without teaching the most basic of ecological principles. Most kids won't become career scientists — though all students can be and become community scientists, and many of them have to watch their scientifically illiterate parents play armchair climate change experts.

How can we still be teaching that science (indeed all of education) is separate from life, in a way that separates science and all learning from life? Teaching science — or anything in our education system — "outside the curriculum box" would not let this happen.


To download Transformative Environmental Education: Stepping Outside the Curriculum Box [pdf], an article I wrote for the 2009 Canadian Journal of Environmental Education, simply click the link. You can also right-click to download it (control-click for Mac users) and view it in Adobe Reader, or print it.

Do you have a favourite story about teaching for sustainability outside the curriculum box? About outdated, irrelevant or crazy curriculum you've been mandated to teach? Please send it in and I'll
share it with others. (Your email address will not be used.) Thanks!

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