A New Generation of Environmentalists: Why Eco-Topics Should Be At the Forefront Of Every Child’s Education

The world today is facing ever-increasing environmental challenges, with some even suggesting that climate change will be the biggest threat to the next generation. In fact, a recent UN report warned that around 120 million extra people worldwide could be living in extreme poverty by 2030 as a result of climate change. An increasing world population means more pressure on food production and energy, as well as the inevitable increase in plastic waste.

While saving the environment may seem like a monumental task outside the abilities of school children, it is important to raise awareness of the issues the world currently faces so the new generation are better equipped to tackle and prevent environmental problems.

This doesn’t mean holding assemblies that are all ‘doom and gloom’ and telling children that if they don’t recycle the world will end. On the contrary, lessons in environmentalism should teach children the little things they can do to make a change, about respecting the environment and sustainability, teaching them to be less reliable on the supermarket for food and aware of the amount they waste.

It could be argued that in schools today the lessons taught on the environment in either science or geography focus on a very one-sided and gloomy picture. A better focus on environmentalism could tie in the economics behind energy and innovative ways of dealing with waste. Getting children actively involved in school projects and outside in the environment, learning to grow vegetables or reducing their carbon footprint by walking to school. This method is far more effective than lecturing them in a classroom and can bring a new level of learning to the topic.

Of course, many schools already follow these guidelines as a part of the Eco-Schools Project, one of the largest international school award programmes that aids schools in becoming sustainable and eco-friendly. This fantastic project works at raising awareness and actively getting children involved in sustainability as well as tying the programme into the curriculum.

However, there are still many schools in the UK that fall short of providing children with decent knowledge on environmental issues and a sustainable lifestyle. A shocking number of children around the UK are unaware that bacon comes from a pig or don’t know the impact that single-use plastic has on the local environment. Teaching children where food comes from and how to grow their own should be a focus in every school, as should reducing waste and recycling.

From teaching small environmental projects and sustainability, the picture can then be widened to the rest of the world, tying in other topics like ethics and economics. Having pupils growing their own produce can link to the importance of supporting small-scale, local farming and the damaging effects of large-scale industrial farming. You could also look at the benefits buying local has on the rural economy or look at how small-scale farming could be the future for sustaining and feeding an increasing population, especially in poorer countries.

Equally, teaching new ways of recycling methods, like the brilliant houses made from recycled plastic in Colombia can build a more interesting and creative picture for pupils when it comes to recycling. Small projects like this in schools can really help encourage the next generation to take an interest in protecting the environment, and can also tie in topics of geography, culture and economics.

In an increasingly urban world, it is vital to remind ourselves and our children of the importance of protecting the environment and the consequences if we do not. Teaching children to be sustainable and encouraging creative ways of saving the environment means that the new generation will be equipped with fresh and resourceful ideas, which can then be used to protect the world we live in and sustain it for the future.