3.2 Different forms of educating people about the environment
Before we look at the different contexts in which environmental education can be part of, let’s have a word about education in general:
Many people, when they think of education, they picture a school classroom or a university, maybe some course they had to do in order to qualify for a job position and so on. However, learning is pervasive and constantly present in all facades of life. It comes in different contexts and approaches: Learning can be carefully structured in the context of formal educational system (school, collage, university etc.); semi-structured, in non-formal education workshops with activities and games that facilitate learning or not structured at all, in informal everyday conversations, tasks and life experiences that teach us something new and help us to improve.
The guiding principles of environmental education mentioned above, are in line with this broader and more holistic understanding of education highlighting how it should be a lifelong process, have an interdisciplinary approach and take place in diverse learning environments.
In formal education, environmental awareness can be embedded in the curriculum since most of the subjects can help to offer a global understanding of the problem and the possible solutions. For example, during science classes, students can better understand how climate change is caused, why trees are important and why we should protect the bees. In geography students can get an understanding of how environmental problems have affected different parts of the world and different cultures, in history they can see the origins of the problem and reflect on the relation that humans have had with the Earth throughout the years. Economics, philosophy, even literature, all the classes, when having the “environmental lenses” on, could offer to the students a different perspective to this topic.
Therefore, if you are an educator, a parent or a student, it’s important to try and bring environmental issues to discussion in order to raise awareness and make your students or peers more environmentally conscious.
Now, if you’re not part of formal education in any way, you can still contribute or participate in environmental education initiatives offered in different contexts. Environmental groups, youth organizations, NGOs, scouts, or other institutions, organize workshops, or events whose aim it to educate the public about the environment. It can be an outdoors activity aiming to strengthen the connection of people with nature, the screening of a documentary with a follow up discussion on the topic, a treasure hunt which involves learning about trash management in the city and so on. Non-formal activities are usually more playful and involve learning through experiences which has a strong impact on the participants while allowing them to develop their critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
So, whether you are someone who wants to be more aware of environmental issues and learn more about how to protect the planet, or someone who wants to contribute in spreading awareness, you can always participate in such events or team up with the organizers to share your expertise and passion as an environmentalist!