Teaching and learning sustainability are both difficult. It can be taught today, today! If you just do a Google search for ‘sustainability’ in a classroom you will find tons of sites on the Internet that claim to help with teaching and learning sustainability. Well, it might be possible to make use of those sites, but I can assure you that they are nothing more than rewrites of popular author’s articles with added ‘sustainability’ ideas.
For me, it is very important to teach sustainability if I want students to engage with the topic and have a realistic perception of it. The fewer students think about the topic or are confused by it, the better.
Here are my top tips for teaching sustainability in the classroom:
- Make facts and concepts personable
Students have a hard time comprehending concepts. To teach sustainability, I think it is best to make the facts and concepts personable – for example, the concept of recycling can be made more fun and personable. In Explore dimensions, I and my students have discovered that most people are uncomfortable with the concept of recycling. Want to lessen your student’s discomfort? Try playing a board game that lets your students play as either a recycling specialist or a recycling inspector.
- Discuss what makes sense to recycle
Schools may have diverse materials and curricula. However, most of them have one thing in common: they encourage students to recycle. Sadly though, many students consider their school as their personal landfill and throw away its share of books, computers, toys and other waste. This is wrong and it is detrimental to the environment. To discuss what is considered recycling and then find practical ways to make it a useful tool in your classroom. For example, what can be recycled? The material from which a cup is made, or a piece of paper? Or a bottle?
Tips for teaching sustainability in the classroom
• Label your resource book: it is your key to implementing sustainability in your class. Writing notes and making observations are great ways to label your resource book. As you collect information about different materials and the various ways they can be used – write notes or make observations to guide you through resource books, recycling guides and locally available materials.
• Cultivate an interest in green living: every human being needs air, water, soil and food. We need to take care of the planet to survive. So why not teach your students about green living – and ensure that they have an interest in it, too? End your lesson plans by sharing how sustainable living can affect the planet. And encourage students to pursue an interest in the environment and the ways we can save it.
• Promote the understanding of critical thinking: the planet’s resources and the way we manage them have important implications for everyone’s survival. If we want people to be critical thinkers, it is a must to educate them on critical thinking processes. Show them how to find information, how to identify information, how to research and communicate effectively, and even create working strategies to address differentials and conflicts.
• Test all – all – all of your “foundations” or empirical facts and instructional techniques. carry out research in your classroom seriously so that when you do write your foundation, you will have valuable feedback from your learners or former colleague(s) in designing your curriculum.
• Continually evaluate: do you really know who your students are? Are they motivated? Do they realize their personal responsibility to reduce their carbon footprints and to encourage the environment? Do your students need more help in character education? Consider all your options and activities and make adjustments as necessary (but consistent and viable activities).
• Stretch your resources: does your community have special resources (teachers, technology, etc.)? Do other teachers in your position have the same resources? Does your unique resource enhance the learning environment?
• Mark – Marketing, Professional Development, and other crucially needed resources: Marketer, the coach, prepare, serve.
• Plan – keep planning for sustainability throughout the school year.
• Innovate – keep looking for ways to make learning more innovative, fun, interactive, and compelling so that your students will draw out more of the resource.
For schools and teachers around the globe, the 21st century means more opportunities than ever to promote innovation, creativity, collaboration, and the environment. It is a golden era to ignite dreams and foster success for today’s youth – a renaissance. A renaissance moment for sustainable, ethical, and responsible action.