Contributed by JGI Canada Intern, Michelle Mockus. Toronto, Ontario.
The state of the environment, especially with climate change looming, is often expressed with ambivalence and at times, negativity. The situation can seem stark, but there is still hope. For me, this hope takes the shape of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). ESD is pretty amazing and has great potential to ignite change…and here’s why:
ESD recognizes natural systems and creates conceptual connections between our expansive environment, society, and economy and the many disciplines taught in schools. In taking a broader, holistic perspective, education is more likely to facilitate the development of ethical and sustainable values in its students, and to allow learners to take an approach that works within the means that we have been granted; the boundaries of the Earth. It also is an incredible way to develop critical thinking skills.
Environmental literacy has been on a bit of a decline, which should be pretty scary for most of us. Especially, as the environment encompasses and is interconnected with everything we’ve ever known…ever. An example of this growing ignorance is that two-thirds of the American public failed a basic environmental quiz (No Child Left Inside). In a time where education systems should be highlighting environmental issues and the interconnectivity between the environmental, societal and economic factors contributing to these issues, this gap should not be increasing. This is where I think JGI’s education programs come in to save the day!
The educational programs offered through JGI Canada foster a greater connection with nature through the amazing work of teachers and youth program facilitators. Resources support educators in incorporating ethical and sustainable values into projects that they are already engaged with, on top of projects that they wish to begin with their class. Through direct professional development (in partnership with Learning for a Sustainable Future) and use of the Protecting Sacred Water Guide , classrooms can become a space to critically examine the root causes of community issues and the importance of becoming a global citizen.
A new resource for elementary teachers will be available in the fall, and will use the community-centred conservation model JGI employs in Africa to build understanding around the interconnectedness of the society, environment and economy, and the importance of understanding the root causes of community problems. Conducting classes this way can broaden student understanding to encourage a systemic perspective of the world, while simultaneously building necessary critical thinking skills. JGI’s education program links theory with practice. The Protecting Our Sacred Water Guide outlines a 12 step process for action planning that not only informs of the variety of systems at play in a student’s local community, but also encourages and empowers youth to discover ways to create change in these systems. We learn many societal principles from our bouts in educational institutions, so when these principles incorporate the larger environment, we are in luck. The more youth that become aware of their local community, the better they are able to understand what needs to be done to improve it.
JGI’s campaigns also cater themselves toward this line of thinking. If you don’t happen to be a teacher, you can still access JGI’s incredible set of resources. This is through the new campaign structure. Two new campaigns will be launched throughout the coming school year, each accompanied by a plethora of support materials that encourage youth to get involved. These campaigns will focus on actions that can be initiated in their local communities that will affect change toward solving global problems, specifically those in JGI’s program areas in Africa. The campaigns are a fun and fruitful way to work at a not so intimidating community-level toward the earlier mentioned goal of becoming a more active sustainable world citizen. Sign-up for JGI’s e-news for updates on the campaigns over the coming year, and follow this blog for updates on how to get involved with JGI.
ESD is a ridiculously important tool for creating a nation of global citizens who understand the complexity of local and global problems, and who are working toward addressing the root causes of these issues. Human populations are inevitably dependant on the larger Earth, so an educational system that recognizes this is key for our future on this planet. Ultimately, education can motivate youth to achieve a more a socially just and ecologically balanced society. This is the amazing goal that I am so thankful and excited to help JGI Canada work to achieve.
If any (or all!) of these programs have caught your interest, I encourage you to learn more about Roots & Shoots by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are already well-acquainted with Roots & Shoots and you have a success story, I would love for you to share your story with us. To share, attach a comment to this post or to our Facebook page, or email us at the address above. I am excited to hear about your experiences with these amazing programs!