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Earth Day 2024 Focus: Prioritising climate education to drive behavioural change

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This year’s priority of Earth Day is focused primarily on accelerating climate education as a critical measure to tackling climate change. A new report released before Earth Day on April 22nd emphasises how climate education can support behavioural changes for the future.

Despite a growing connection to nature and our local environment, many industry experts suggest there is still a high level of inactivity towards addressing the challenges of climate change.

Bryce Coon, the director of education for Earth Day, believes that driving momentum and energy in the younger generations can accelerate climate action for now and the future. 

The importance of knowledge for the future

Many teachers have shown concerns about the necessary processes to support young people with anxieties surrounding our environment and climate change. Bryce Coon highlights the benefits of climate education, beginning with supporting teachers to enable what he refers to as “green muscle memory” – identifying habits, routines and beliefs young people should embrace to allow consistent and sustainable action. Coon believes this process can contribute to lessening climate-related concerns.

Even small processes like reusable water bottles have become ingrained and become a daily routine for millions, significantly reducing the volume of waste produced.

Over the years, studies have highlighted that we have increased our awareness of climate change and have become more concerned about taking action. Many individuals believe governments should be doing more and prioritising climate education. 

The challenges with climate education

The inclusion of climate education in the curriculum has faced several challenges. Studies have suggested that a lack of time in education to teach climate change is a potential barrier. Some educational groups have stated that a lack of adequate resources prevents further integration of climate change education into the general curriculum.

There is mourning evidence that shows the benefits of promoting climate education and its influence on creating environmental and sustainable behaviours. Some studies suggest that scaling climate education can be as effective as other large-scale strategies to reduce emissions. Research highlights how demonstrating the values of climate education can create greener, more sustainable decisions. The United Nations declared climate education as a critical agent in addressing climate change issues.

Defining the path to climate education

More educators are implementing steps to integrate climate education in schools. Many people have had firsthand experience of the impacts of climate change, and creating community resilience to this has influenced their approach to education. Professionals are supporting teachers with building the skills and knowledge to introduce climate education into the classroom.

Incorporating climate education into the curriculum can happen in many ways, both in and outside of the class. Environmental education can combine with mainstream curriculum, within science and in subjects such as English, Maths and Art. Additional teacher training is becoming more popular to meet rising demands to integrate climate education into the classroom.

Integrating education that reaches the values and beliefs of young people can influence behavioural changes on a larger scale. Teachers will inevitably discover opportunities to incorporate project-based learning activities to climate challenges, create a lasting impact, and strengthen behavioural change.

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