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