Educators call for climate justice-focused classes in schools to help children adapt

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Oon a warm summer evening in April, a group of eighth grade students from a government school in the south Indian city of Chennai staged a play entitled Time for change.

The student group that bears the name Thenikuzhu – what does a bee swarm mean intamil – wrote the script for the play about climate change himself and performed to a packed auditorium, with tickets selling for about $2 each.

Tenikuzhus science-fiction game involves a diverse group of scientists who invent a time machine, travel to the future and return dejectedly over the fate of the planet. The quest for how the young minds use their new invention to restore the planet forms the main plot of the highly engaging piece laced with anecdotes of real-life climate justice events past and present.

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“We chose the name Thenikuzhu for our class because honeybees are a cornerstone species, and we felt that the children are the cornerstones for climate action,” said Meera B, a former Teach for India fellow, who teaches the class of about 80 students. TBEN.

A capstone species is a species that has a disproportionate impact on the ecosystem relative to its population size.

“Initially, the kids were given a class essay writing exercise, and one of them wrote how she would go back in time and solve some problems. From this, my co-teacher Nikita and I got an idea to connect time travel and climate change, which we gave children as the impetus for writing the play. They did the rest themselves’, says Ms Meera.

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The Chennai teacher believes that bringing the climate change discourse to the classroom through art and activities is crucial in the fight against the global crisis.

Thenikuzhu plays Time For Change – a sci-fi play about the past, present and future of climate change

(Vishwam Sankaran)

One approach teachers can take to introduce discourse to students in resource-constrained schools who are already understaffed is to incorporate climate change concepts into the subjects they already teach.

“For example, in a math class about calculating averages, kids were instructed to track the air quality index data from different neighborhoods for a day, and we calculated the average value of these data points,” explains Ms. Meera.

Most importantly, she says, educators in countries like India need to bring climate justice discourse to classrooms to make real progress against the crisis that threatens the future of humanity.

“Most of the resources I find for high school students are not easy to integrate into the local curriculum. There are exercises like keeping water diaries and calculating carbon footprint that are part of a particular curriculum. While these are helpful to an extent, they don’t address the reality of these kids,” Meera says.

“The children I teach have the least impact on climate change and seem to be the most affected by it. So I don’t want to teach them anymore of something where the responsibility lies with the individual. But there is a greater need for school programs that focus on what they can expect from governments and industries,” she adds.

Last year, the United Nations also published a 128-page report explaining how the climate crisis is a children’s rights crisis with the greatest impact felt by children in poorer environments.

Experts agree that climate change curricula should be developed in schools to meet local needs, while also teaching some broad concepts about the reality of the crisis being felt around the world.

“First of all, they need to get a basic idea of ​​climate change and what it can cause, such as sea level rise, cyclones, floods and droughts, no matter where they live. After that, they can relate to this depending on where they live. through activities, such as talking to grandparents or people in their community, that are tailored to each classroom,” said Mala Balaji, a researcher who works for the Chennai-based nonprofit Climate Action at Citizen Consumer and civic Action Group (CAG).

The necessity of the hour is also to start with the youngest age groups, experts say.

“We see quite a few climate education resources for high school or high school students, but for younger students there is a huge resource gap,” said Keya Lamba, co-founder of Earth Warriors, an international organization that aims to to enable schools to embed a solutions-based climate curriculum.

Citing recent research published in the journal PLOS One, Shweta Bahri, another Earth Warriors co-founder, emphasized that if only 16 percent of children in high- and middle-income countries received climate education, there would be a reduction in carbon emissions. could be in the future by about 19 gigatons.

“COP27 in Egypt is fast approaching – we hope to see a special panel discussion at the conference addressing climate education as a valuable tool for climate action,” said Ms Bahri.

“Governments need to work faster to incorporate climate education into curricula, create a timeline for its implementation and make it a reality for all schools. It is talked about too often and nothing is ever done about it,” she adds.

Ms. Balaji agrees.

“While climate education was one of the topics covered in COP26, and there were a lot of expectations, it kind of fell away and no major actions were taken,” she adds. In COP27, the CAG researcher hopes to set tangible goals to strengthen the capacity of educators and teachers around the world to deliver accurate climate change information to their classrooms.

Experts point out that while climate change is mentioned ephemerally in subjects such as social sciences and environmental studies, many countries lack a separate, universally agreed-upon climate change pedagogy with a learning continuum.

COP27 can be a platform to address these issues and set tangible goals for introducing climate change education into classrooms.

“Every time at COP events, the outcome is lukewarm, so I hope something concrete comes out of this and education about climate change is at the forefront of the discussions,” said the Chennai-based researcher.

COP2, experts say, can also drive progress by funneling money into climate education, especially for schools in resource-constrained environments.

“Finance and partnerships have the potential to be the biggest accelerators of climate action. Non-profits and other impact entities are best placed to support the implementation of climate education policies on the ground,” said Jai Warrier, co-founder of the Bangalore-based non-profit Initiative for Climate Action.

Mr Warrier says there is an urgent need through COP27 to fund the collection of more localized climate data, to make it easily accessible to educators and individuals, and to create incentive structures for climate content creators, trainers and others to share this information in classrooms. to provide .

“It is absolutely crucial to strengthen the capacities of teachers and educators to provide accurate information, integrate local content and promote critical thinking about climate change mitigation and adaptation,” noted Ms Balaji.