Learning for the future is about so much more than the science of climate change and how to reduce carbon emissions. The causes and solutions to the climate emergency aren’t something that can be calculated and dealt with in a neat, convenient way. It’s messy, political, often frightening and there aren’t always right answers, but the solutions can be creative, beautiful and provide benefits far beyond simply sustaining our existence.
Despite being a food grower I have a fondness for snails. There are an incredible 43,000 (or there-abouts) species of these shelled gastropods – land snails, sea snails and freshwater snails.
To me snails’ shells are works of art; a symbol of the awesomeness of nature, a reminder to take the time to observe closely, be curious and ask questions. All things I want to inspire through creative and educational projects.
Whether starting from an artistic or scientific* view, a humble snail can provide us with myriad connections to consider.
Swifts are magnificent fliers, skillful and playful when catching airborne insects. They are so well adapted for their annual migration that they can even sleep while flying.
These small birds were brought to my attention through a local open participation art project called 1000 Swifts. It celebrated the public opening of Walthamstow Wetlands where these birds come to breed in Summer before returning to Africa, approximately a 12,000 mile round trip. Now I spot them annually, a delightful symbol of the change in seasons. Their population is severely affected by the redevelopment of old buildings and creation of new high rises.
Projects like 1000 Swifts show how creative ideas can spread messages, hope and action.
Research in the fields of education for sustainability and behavioural change demonstrates that facts alone do not make sustainable behaviour second nature.
Teaching that provides a strong knowledge base while instilling a sense of agency and enthusiasm for jobs that don’t exist yet is a complex challenge for the classroom. We must avoid the narrative that individual ignorance, action or inaction is responsible for climate change, or that powers out of reach are both responsible and going to provide solutions.
Both versions can leave students feeling powerless and set up an unhelpful, distracting dichotomy between individual v. systems change.
Purpose-driven education and training for the future is the answer. Learning that focuses on climate issues must also foster collaboration, critical thinking and leadership.
Such learning offers direct solutions, such as building the knowledge and skills required for jobs that will make a just transition to equitable, low-impact lifestyles possible. It also offers indirect solutions such as helping citizens of all ages cultivate a sustainability mindset, keep pace with technology, and engage in local democracy.
This doesn’t mean every lesson needs to be about climate change, far from it. Such education and training for the future doesn’t exist as a separate lesson or project. Instead it must be ongoing and integrated into the values and practice of our institutions.
*Science tangent –
Shells are predominantly made of calcium carbonate. A common place mineral found in many forms, from limestone rocks to kale and now an essential part of modern construction and agriculture. Sadly increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is leading to ocean acidification. This is reducing the thickness of the protective shells of snails and other animals that have been forming shells for many millions of years.
A snail is a reminder to take the time to observe closely, be curious and ask questions. All things I want to inspire through creative and educational projects.
Swifts show how creative ideas can spread messages, hope and action.