05 June 2009

184 To Go - What Children Don't Know Will Hurt Them: Let's Teach the Carbon Cycle, Deeply!

A dear young friend spoke to the Eco Club at my school the other day. It was unseasonably hot, so they gathered in the shade under some trees in the school yard.

Nadia and her sister are joining other Canadian youth this summer in bicycling across this vast country to make people aware of climate change and its threats to their future. (She's one of my climate heroes!)

Before telling the students about her trip, and about the sustainable transportation event she's planning here in our community before she goes, she asked them what they know about climate change.

Educators everywhere, listen up! Our children do not understand the carbon cycle. They do not understand global warming. They do not understand climate change. And they certainly do not understand how it threatens their future. They are still stuck in the "Don't Litter" mode.

Now, if you look at GreenHeart's Green School Curriculum Model, you'll see that I believe (or at least I still want to believe) that we can wait until students are about 12 years old before we start focusing their attention on environmental solutions. (Get it? They will need to understand the problems before they work on the remedies, but their focus is positive and creative.)

But starting before then (at about age 8 or 9), students must learn how the Earth works and how life works on Earth. Knowing both carbon cycles (long and short) should be required for graduation from elementary school; full ecological literacy should be a requirement for secondary school graduation.

Two or three carbon-cycle-illiterate generations are responsible for the mess we're in. Let's make sure the students in our care become a generation that is creating the solutions instead of perpetuating the problems.

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I would appreciate hearing your thoughts or questions on this post or anything else you've read here. What is your take on courage and compassion being an important part of the solution to the climate change emergency?