Today’s school leavers have lived through a time like no other, with Covid-19 bringing lockdowns, home-schooling, cancelled examinations, assessed grades and delayed university places. Not only have they been forced to switch the classroom for the kitchen table, but looking ahead to their careers, the sands of economies are shifting like never before.
Industries that are certain to grow in importance, however, are those taking steps to help mitigate climate change. The urgency of the planet’s plight comes in the form of daily reminders of wildfires raging and deadly floods. The youngest generations stand to be the worst affected and now fluent in social media, they are able to share their opinions and fears.
They need to be supported with tools and resources in the classroom, says Christopher Graham, a teacher, educator and writer. 'Climate references can be embedded into most school subjects, geography, history, science for example and also languages,' says Graham. 'Students can discuss the crisis in a new language.' He suggests that, in addition to climate-change specific lessons, environmental issues can be woven into daily lessons, with age-appropriate discussions and topics. 'Children can see how climate issues fit into their world,' Graham says. Schools could begin teaching students early about the scale of the crisis, he says. 'This is a crisis that impacts on us all, and that we can all – regardless of age – do something about,' Graham says.
There are tools for teachers to help students better understand climate change, while navigating the danger of eco-anxiety. For instance, through the British Council’s Climate Connection platform educators can access various lesson plans, podcasts and videos to help improve climate literacy from primary to school-leaver age. There are also free courses for anyone wanting to learn about sustainability via a MOOC (massive open online course) created by the University of Edinburgh.
As part of its ‘Climate Action in Language Education’ programme, the British Council has produced a variety of lesson plans that English teachers can use to integrate climate change themes into existing curricula, aimed at a variety of age groups. Subjects range from sports to storms, families and fashion, available for classroom-based lessons or online teaching. Primary learners can be encouraged to think more about greening their own classroom, for example, while young teenagers can learn about fast-fashion through upcycling a T-shirt.