Climate Education

4 teachers building climate literacy this year

We’ve seen a lot of resilience and flexibility during the pandemic, especially from educators. When the coronavirus pandemic shuttered classrooms around the world, many teachers transitioned regular content to digital learning, while still integrating environmental activities and experiences into the curriculum. 

Earlier this year, Earth Day Network launched the Earth Day Schools initiative, partially to highlight how teachers have incorporated environmental education into their schools. The initiative also connects teachers around the world with environmental education resources and stories from their peers.

Below are four examples of teachers working hard to build climate literacy in their classrooms.

Juliana Nzeki

Biology and Geography Teacher, Star of the Sea High School

Mombasa County, Kenya

This year, Juliana Nzeki’s classes focused on biodiversity, highlighting the important role bees play in crop pollination and food security in their community. Students maintained beehives near the school and studied the pollination process. They even developed entrepreneurial skills by selling their honey to the locals. When the number of bees dropped or honey production slowed in the hives, students learned how pollinators serve as indicator species of environmental problems. 

“Environmental education is very important to me because I know that our very existence is dependent on nature and so we must take care of the environment and always remember that biodiversity is interdependent,” Nzeki said.

Nzeki connects her students to these issues, even digitally, and looks forward to hosting workshops and tree plantings to engage the wider community.

Andrea Zahrte

Chemistry and Geography Teacher, German International School Boston

Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Andrea Zahrte teaches a wide range of ages, so she has to get creative when integrating environmental science and sustainability into the classroom. Some of her students watched short films about energy use and brainstormed how to save energy at home. Others persuaded their parents to bike to work, when possible, instead of driving a car. Her students also designed Earth Day posters. 

“As a teacher, my goal is to empower young people to take responsibility for their future and shape it for their generation,” Zahrte said.

Zahrte introduced complex issues, such as reducing ecological footprints, adapting to climate change, eco-friendly travelling and plastic chemistry and consumption. All her students explored the history of Earth Day and the environmental movement through Earth Day Network’s website.

Gražina Ozarovskytė

English Teacher & ENO Coordinator, Grigiškės Šviesos Gymnasium

Vilnius Municipality, Lithuania

Gražina Ozarovskytė typically organizes in-person events — Climate Cycling Day, Clean Up Day, Earth Day — and hosts lecture series on food waste, recycling, climate change and ocean health. But in the interest of social distancing, teachers at Grigiškės Šviesos Gymnasium coordinated digital activities for students on Earth Day’s 50th anniversary. 

Students watched The Story of Plastic, introduced eco-friendly actions in their homes or neighborhoods, created stop-motion videos and wrote monologues and essays on plastic pollution. In addition to building environmental literacy, these tasks also help students with learning english.

“We have already started a campaign ”Plant a tree at home” that was organized by Earth Day Network, Earth School and ENO,” Ozarovskytė said. “I am proud to announce that we have already got about 80 trees planted at home.” 

C. Siva

Public Relations Officer, Subbiah Central School

Tirruppur, India

Students at Subbiah Central School have been growing food for their families at home since April. Because of school closures, teachers are connecting with students and parents via WhatsApp to guide them through planting, nutrition and science lessons. Families are growing spinach, pomegranates, custard apples, jasmine, drumsticks, aloe vera, onions, mint and sprouts, all at home. 

“Environmental education is important to me because it will equip and prepare the children for the future,” C. Siva said.

Teachers hope these lessons will help students productively use their free time and develop a healthy, lifelong hobby. 

Research shows environmental education benefits students by increasing motivation, developing critical thinking skills and building a foundation for conservation behaviors later in life. But environmental education is not a formal requirement in many countries.

That’s why Earth Day Network is working to get climate and environmental literacy formalized in schools. Pledge your support for formal environmental and climate literacy standards in schools and stay connected with our work. 

And if you’re a teacher, sign up as an Earth Day School to access resources and support for your environmental and climate education initiatives. To share your classroom or informal project with our network, email your story and photos to [email protected]