It's time to Teach the Future!
It's time to Teach the Future!
Climate change and biodiversity loss are two of the biggest issues facing humanity.
Plenty of children are aware of the crises but don’t feel that they have the power or the knowledge to make a difference. This leaves them feeling anxious and unsupported.
Meanwhile, other children feel completely disconnected from nature and lack the motivation to protect the natural world. This is bad news for the planet because soon it will be up to them to protect it.
Teach the Future is a youth-led campaign that aims to tackle both of these experiences by improving environmental education in schools and by giving young people a louder voice in tackling the climate and biodiversity crises.
Outdoor education: the key to inspiring children to protect nature
The first step to giving children the knowledge and desire to protect our planet is to give them more opportunities to connect with nature: research conducted by the RSPB suggests that a deeper connection with nature encourages positive behaviour change, making people more likely to act for the environment.
Sadly, many children in the UK spend as little as 16 minutes in nature a day, and at least 75% of UK children spend less time outdoors than prisoners. This means that an entire generation is rapidly disconnecting from nature.
One way we address this at Earthwatch is through outdoor learning in schools.
Outdoor learning isn’t a subject or topic: it’s a way of teaching. It goes beyond simply teaching facts about nature, it delivers activities that develop a more meaningful and emotional relationship with the environment.
However, teachers often see outdoor learning as an unachievable addition to their already heavy workload. A 2008 study of 334 schools found that although time, money and space affected whether or not a school would offer outdoor learning, the biggest factor was the adults' will to make it happen. One reasons for this might be the pressure of the National Curriculum. While it supports outdoor learning in principle, it also focuses heavily on exam performance. This can make it hard for teachers to justify outdoor learning.
To combat this, Teach the Future wants to make outdoor learning a core part of the curriculum.
Giving children the skills to take action
Lack of connection to nature isn’t the only problem for young people when it comes to environmental action: a lack of knowledge about what to do to make a real difference is also a widespread issue.
Only 4% of UK children feel that they know a lot about climate change. This is frustrating for them in a time when they are bombarded with news about the climate crisis. Without opportunities to learn how to protect our environment children may feel helpless, alone, and that they have been left to clean up a mess they didn’t make.
To give children back a sense of security and control they need to be educated about environmental issues in a thoughtful and structured way. The American Psychological Association suggests that fostering optimistic opinions and empowering people to act for the climate on an achievable scale will build resilience and belief in one’s ability to make positive change.
Teach the Future plans to do this by incorporating the climate and biodiversity crises into the National Curriculum.
Training the trainer: putting ideas into action
To achieve Teach the Future’s aims teachers themselves will need training both on outdoor learning and on the wider issues of the climate and biodiversity crises - three-quarters of teachers do not feel they have adequate training to educate students on these subjects.
Our own outdoor learning programme, Teach Earth, gives teachers practical ways to incorporate the UN Sustainable Development Goals and other environmental issues into their lessons in ways that align with the National Curriculum. We hope to see more of this sort of programme through Teach the Future.
Find out more about the Teach the Future and their demands here.