Groups push for more emphasis on climate change in Alberta curriculum

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Groups push for more emphasis on climate change in Alberta curriculum
WATCH ABOVE: Alberta’s school curriculum is in the process of a major overhaul. An Alberta environmental group and the president of the Alberta School Boards Association are calling on the province to make teaching about climate change a greater priority in schools. Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports – Nov 4, 2017

Students and teachers from 14 Alberta schools got together in Calgary on Saturday to celebrate “150 ways Alberta Schools show Climate Leadership.”

Each school had a display showcasing their work with projects ranging from eco-friendly building materials to alternative energy sources.

Central Memorial Grade 12 student Shauna Kelly is proposing a Climate Charter that would create financial incentives for any school board willing to decrease their environmental footprint and increase environmental education in their schools.

“All kids, especially in Alberta, should be aware of what they’re doing and be able to make a difference in our futures and in decision-making processes,” Kelly said.

The event was hosted by the Alberta Council for Environmental Education (ACEE). The non-profit group advances environmental education in Alberta schools and is pushing for more emphasis on climate change in the Alberta curriculum.

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READ MORE: Government one step closer to rewriting curriculum for Alberta schools 

“There is absolutely not enough education around climate change in Alberta schools,” said ACEE executive director Gareth Thomson.

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“This can be a very intimidating subject if you don’t know how to teach a controversial issue. This can be an intimidating subject for a teacher in the middle of an oil patch part of Alberta.”

The current $64-million overhaul of the Alberta school curriculum will cover areas like computer coding, mental health and climate change. Proposed items include energy efficiency and sustainability.

READ MORE: 60 years of climate change in southern Alberta tracked by new website 

“More education about the environment and more education about energy and climate is something teachers desperately need but it’s not a priority right now.

“Because it’s not a priority, it’s not being imparted to teachers, and consequently, it’s not being imparted to the students,” Thomson said.

READ MORE: Environment commissioner says Canada is not prepared for climate change

Mary Martin is a Calgary Catholic school trustee and president of the Alberta School Boards Association. She says Alberta’s curriculum needs more work when it comes to climate change.

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“I would have to say unequivocally there does. The days of denying climate change are clearly over,” Martin said during the Climate Leadership event on Saturday.

“What is absolutely critical — and I think everyone will agree on — is the need to ensure that we are competent and fluent in all aspects of environmental sustainability. That is a critical concept.”

There are a number of reasons why teachers may shy away from climate change, including not wanting to scare students. But advocates point out there is also a practical solution side to teaching about climate change.

READ MORE: Alberta researcher says climate change contributes to more extreme wildfires 

“When students get a chance to roll up their sleeves and do something to help the environment, it makes them hopeful.

“It makes them positive for the future and it makes them understand that they can make a difference,” Thomson said.

“We are not here to tell students what to think. We are here to help students learn how to think about these critical issues that will affect their lives for the rest of their lives.”

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