Colorado students demand immediate, solution-driven climate education before it becomes irreversible

    The Urgency of Teaching Sustainable Solutions in Schools

    In today’s world, where climate change poses a significant threat to our existence, it is crucial to educate students about sustainable solutions. Instead of simply teaching the science behind climate change, educators should adopt a more solutions-oriented approach. This is the belief of Martin Ogle, a passionate advocate who aims to spread this approach to classrooms worldwide. Ogle emphasizes the importance of empowering students to design a future economy and job market based on a deep understanding of our place as human beings within the living system.

    By taking this approach, students are better prepared to face the challenges our world is currently encountering, rather than being overwhelmed by them. It is essential to foster a sense of empowerment and agency in young people, enabling them to take action and make a positive impact.

    Ogle suggests two significant shifts in schools to achieve this goal. Firstly, sustainability principles should be integrated into various subjects of the curriculum, including math, English, social studies, and science. Secondly, the connections between sustainable practices and all career paths should be explicitly highlighted. This way, graduates will enter the workforce equipped with the knowledge and mindset to implement sustainable practices and contribute to a greener future. Ogle refers to this approach as the ALL Careers approach, as it helps students grasp the concept of climate change in an empowering manner.

    Unfortunately, environmental studies often become an elective subject by the time students reach high school. In many districts, students may graduate with little knowledge about climate concepts if they do not choose to take an earth science class. This lack of emphasis on sustainability in traditional curricula highlights the need for change.

    Students are increasingly demanding a new approach to teaching about climate change. Stella Corzine, a 16-year-old student at Peak to Peak Charter School in Lafayette, expressed her desire for a forward-thinking perspective. Instead of focusing solely on the negatives of climate change, she believes students should be encouraged to think about adapting as a society and creating a better future through sustainable practices.

    Ogle’s approach has garnered support from students like Corzine, who appreciate feeling empowered rather than depressed when it comes to climate change education. Corzine has even assisted Ogle in creating case studies of businesses that have adopted sustainable practices, showcasing the positive impact that individual companies can make.

    Teachers play a vital role in implementing sustainability education. Kristie Letter, an innovation and design teacher at Peak to Peak Charter School, encourages her students to think creatively and design sustainable products. Through upcycling discarded materials, she challenges her students to create innovative solutions that may one day change the world. Letter believes that environmental projects at schools should go beyond simple trash clean-up events and instead focus on empowering students to be environmentalists and change-makers.

    While some teachers may already incorporate sustainability concepts into their lessons, many face challenges due to time constraints and lack of resources. Letter emphasizes the need for state education leaders to develop classroom materials that all teachers can utilize across different subject areas. This would ensure consistent and comprehensive sustainability education for all students.

    Although the state of Colorado has academic standards emphasizing problem-solving, critical thinking, and civic engagement, sustainability concepts are not explicitly mandated. Joanna Bruno from the Colorado Department of Education explains that teachers are free to use sustainability concepts to meet these standards. However, Katie Navin, executive director of the Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education, argues that most teachers are already overwhelmed with various demands and cannot be expected to incorporate sustainability education independently. She suggests the creation of classroom resources on sustainability by state education leaders to support teachers in delivering comprehensive and engaging lessons.

    In terms of preparing students for future careers, the concept of sustainability gains increasing relevance. Nearly 40 percent of Colorado students are now enrolled in career and technical education classes, exposing them to various career pathways. Nevertheless, Ogle believes that sustainability education should extend to all students, regardless of their chosen career paths. By infusing sustainability concepts throughout the curriculum, students will be better equipped to address the challenges of a rapidly growing green economy.

    Multiple organizations and initiatives are emerging to support teachers in teaching sustainability skills. Green Teach for Opportunity is one such initiative that aims to connect teachers with the skills needed to prepare students for sustainability-focused jobs. Founder L. Julian Keniry highlights the importance of guiding students and identifying career pathways in these emerging sectors. Green Teach for Opportunity offers teachers a free starter kit and access to industry professionals, ensuring students receive up-to-date knowledge and guidance about sustainability careers.

    The urgency of teaching sustainable solutions in schools cannot be understated. Teenagers, who are deeply concerned about the future and anxious about climate change, crave an education system that equips them with the knowledge and skills to make a difference. Their voices must be heard, and educators must respond to their needs. By adopting a solutions-oriented approach to sustainability education, schools can empower students to create a more sustainable and vibrant future for all.

    Latest articles

    Related articles