Climate and Environmental Literacy
Students Deserve Climate Education
September 13, 2023
Incorporating fresh subjects and approaches for learning into school curriculum isn’t a new idea, but the urgency it now demands for the benefit of youth worldwide is unprecedented. Climate education is the single most important subject students need if we want a generation able to adapt to a global landscape plagued by the climate crisis.
A great example to reference as we fight to formally introduce climate education into schools is Social Emotional Learning. Teaching Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) to K-12 students was both a response to the increased exposure of youth to violence and a proactive initiative, embraced by schools worldwide to equip youth with skills essential for their overall well-being and personal development.
Social-Emotional Learning implementation in schools evolved significantly over the past few decades. Initially, SEL concepts were informally integrated into educational philosophies, emphasizing holistic development. In the 1990s, the idea of “Emotional Intelligence” gained traction, highlighting the importance of understanding and managing emotions.
Then, in 1994, the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) began to play a pivotal role in promoting SEL as a critical component of education. Since then, extensive research has supported the positive impact of SEL on academic achievement, behavior, and overall well-being.
Remarkably, the framework for SEL is accessible across the United States, with all 50 states incorporating SEL competencies into their educational standards. The formal integration of SEL in schools underscores its vital significance. Similarly, we now stand at a juncture where we must convey the crucial importance of formally incorporating climate education.
Climate education is a linchpin in tackling the global climate crisis, a concern impacting every individual on the planet. 53 years ago on the very first Earth Day, students and future activists came together with a rallying cry for education as a catalyst to a greener future.
It was a critical moment that led to the formation of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Clean Air Act, and the Clean Water Act. Since then, individuals fighting to protect our planet have rallied together behind the one constant truth: education nurtures empowerment, enlightenment, and an unwavering drive for progress.
While progress has been made, climate education has not yet reached the level of formal integration we envision. This raises a thought-provoking question: if we can recognize the profound significance of SEL, why is it a greater challenge to understand the importance of climate education?
Students want to feel heard and acknowledged. By formally integrating climate education into K-12 curricula, educators would be able to give them the tools to effectively understand the truth about the climate crisis, communicate their feelings about it, allow for more critical thinking, and foster a sense of agency to actively fight the most pressing global challenge of our time.
We need problem solvers, critical thinkers, and optimists. Students are the future, they are the now. As we navigate the climate crisis, climate education emerges as a force shaping society’s understanding and action, propelling us toward a future where preservation, progress, and responsibility intersect. EARTHDAY.ORG’s environmental literacy initiatives spearhead the cultivation of an environmentally conscious future, nurturing both dedication to the environment and a green economy through skilled and sustainable innovation. To learn more, please visit: earthday.org