There have been long-standing calls for government to prepare students for a climate-changed world by embedding climate education across the curriculum. This will also help promote climate-positive behaviour in students, for whom the climate crisis will be one of the defining challenges of their lives.
For these reasons, Friends of the Earth has compiled a Climate Action Plan for Schools and Colleges, thanks to funding raised by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, containing a checklist of 50 measures to empower students and teachers to take meaningful climate action. By practically engaging young people in solutions to climate change it is hoped that climate anxiety, which is a prevalent and emerging issue, will be alleviated too.
Jenny Thatcher, head of youth and families at Friends of the Earth, said:
“Young people face a reality that generations past haven’t had to contemplate with the same immediacy. Climate anxiety is therefore understandably high, but so too is the desire to live in a world with a stable, flourishing environment. The wave of school strikers across the planet has underlined the need for educational institutions at all levels to join the wider movement to avoid climate breakdown.
“The climate crisis is yet to be made part of the formal curriculum, which it must be, but that doesn’t mean schools and students can’t make easy climate wins now. The Climate Action Plan contains so many simple and immediate things that can be done to minimise the impact of transport, food, nature, energy and waste, as well as cost savings and creative ideas for delivering on the curriculum.”
A recent study, published in the journal Environmental Education Research, found that 72% of teachers were already teaching or talking about climate change with their students, which shows the need for more resources.
Suggestions from Friends of the Earth’s Climate Action Plan for Schools and Colleges include:
- Joining the School Streets programme: School Streets is an initiative which restricts vehicle access to roads near schools at drop-off and pick-up times. Areas which have already introduced School Streets have yielded impressive results in reducing air pollution, promoting active forms of travel, and improving the overall health of young people and the communities they live in.
- Introducing meat-free Mondays: food production accounts for 14.5% of global carbon emissions, and the meat and dairy industry is responsible for the lion’s share. Pledging to keep Mondays in the canteen meatless will aid an easier transition to lower meat consumption, and allow time for caterers to adapt to meat-free cooking.
- Greening the curriculum: there are many opportunities to promote learning about the climate emergency within the school curriculum. From the impacts of air pollution in science lessons, or using English classes to perfect persuasive writing techniques through crafted letters to decision makers, embedding climate right through the curriculum is the aim.
- Connecting with community nature initiatives: programmes such as Wild in the City are aimed at getting Black, Asian and minority ethnic students, who typically face greater barriers in accessing green spaces, out in nature and learning new skills.
- Switching to green energy: just like homes, schools and colleges can be powered by green energy. Opting for a provider that is fossil fuel free and offers only 100% renewable energy is a simple, but effective way to reduce the environmental impact of running school buildings.
- Holding a plastic free competition: encourage staff and students to rethink their relationship with plastic, by challenging them to commit to a week or month without single-use plastic. Go the extra mile to see who can go the longest without single-use plastic. Ensure the plastic-free prizes are plentiful.
- Influencing food suppliers: join the public caterers that serve millions of meals in schools, colleges, and universities, who’ve already vowed to cut the amount of meat they serve by 20%.
Laura Chow, head of charities at People’s Postcode Lottery, said:
“Climate change is one of the greatest challenges we face, and it can often feel daunting knowing where to begin with tackling the issue.
“The Climate Action Plan contains lots of simple ideas and actions that we can easily implement into our daily lives. Collectively, these actions have a big impact on helping protect us from climate change. It’s by working together that we can make a difference and I’m delighted players of People’s Postcode Lottery are supporting this initiative.”
Jenny Thatcher concluded:
“Schools and colleges play an obvious role in shaping students to take their next steps into the world. We can best address climate anxiety by empowering young people to take an active role in their communities, and in influencing their own futures. The only thing left is for government to make climate front and centre of all policy, and that includes education.”