Once, environmental studies in middle and high school might have meant a lesson or two on air pollution, the diminishing ozone layer, and the need to recycle properly.
But today, young people acutely aware of the existential threat of climate heating — and the fact that it’s happening right now, not in just in the vague future. Schools across Canada are upping their game, and offering much demanding, more scientifically based courses on the environment, sustainability, and climate change that often include field research.
“Kids are living in an era of climate crisis and we don’t want to scare them,” said Richard Christie, senior manager of sustainability at the Toronto District School Board, in an Oct.14 article in the Globe & Mail. “We want them to have tools for citizenship and to galvanize them.”
In Nova Scotia, sustainability and environmental studies are integrated in the International Baccalaureate high school degrees offered by most public and private schools. In addition, Green Nova Scotia, a project of Efficiency Nova Scotia, the province’s only efficiency utility, sends employees into schools to offer lessons on reducing energy consumption and waste.
Teachers say that environmental studies is one topic that most students pay close attention to. Part of the purpose of the courses is to help students overcome feelings of fear and helplessness about climate heating and show them how to act effectively. “It’s a powerful thing for them to see, be part of, and actually contribute to something they can change,” Lindsay Butson, an eighth grade teacher in Scarborough, Ontario, told the Globe & Mail. “A lot of our kids don’t have background knowledge about climate change when we start, but once they learn about it, they become quite passionate.”
The Globe and Mail: Climate Heating Pushes Schools to Improve Environmental Literacy