Sustainability is important not just for the present but also for the future. By having schools promote and teach sustainability, we can be sure that future generations will continue to focus on sustainability and taking care of our planet.
But just how can schools teach sustainability?
Sustainability can be promoted and taught in schools by engaging students and being proactive. Focusing on energy efficiency and advocating for zero waste are essential parts of sustainability, and schools can have a major impact in making a difference while leading by example.
What is sustainability in the classroom?
Sustainability starts in the classroom – bringing environmentally-conscious practices into the classroom helps teach students how to be sustainable and its benefits.
By being more sustainable in schools, teachers can promote sustainability, causing it to become normalized and, in the future, far more widespread.
This can also lead to better health for students, who can engage in growing their own food, recycling, and using eco-friendly materials.
How can schools teach sustainability?
The first stage of teaching sustainability is to lead by example. By making a conscious effort to incorporate sustainable practices, schools can show the benefits and how easy it is to make eco-conscious decisions.
Simple steps showing sustainable options can help, like:
- Cycling to work or taking public transport
- Installing solar panels
- Producing food in a school or community garden
- Using sustainable packaging
- Purchasing recycled paper and notebooks
Any means of engaging with sustainability can teach students the importance of it.
Some schemes might be more expensive for the school – like providing bus passes to staff and/or students – but might have a greater impact on local environmental efforts.
Other options, like growing food in a school or community garden, can get staff and students involved to produce goods for the school.
How do you teach children sustainability in school?
Getting children involved in sustainability is one of the best ways to teach children sustainability.
Forest schools, where students learn in nature, are one example of a sustainable teaching practice that teaches children to appreciate nature and be wary of dangers. Unique skills and lessons can be taught outdoors – and the health benefits of getting outside are immense, including reducing stress!
Activities set outdoors are a great way of teaching practical skills and social bonding.
Another way of teaching children sustainability in school includes getting involved in local schemes or making green clubs. Gardening clubs, litter-picking expeditions, and upcycling art projects can get children working together and benefit the local ecosystem.
How can schools promote sustainability?
The easiest ways for schools to promote sustainability are to make simple changes or eco-conscious practices a part of daily life.
Schools that adopt a sustainability scheme could demonstrate energy efficiency, advocate zero waste, use eco-friendly cleaning products, encourage eco-friendly transportation to school, start gardening and environment projects for students, and more.
For energy efficiency, schools should:
- Close doors and windows to trap heat on cold days instead of turning on heaters
- Open windows and doors on warm days
- Turn off lights and open curtains to let light in whenever possible
- Use smart thermostats and allow staff to turn on the heating and air conditioning in individual classrooms only when the room is occupied
- Use energy-efficient light bulbs and appliances in all rooms
Schools should advocate zero waste wherever possible, especially:
- By providing water fountains and refill stations
- Use sustainable packaging
- Set up a recycling point in front of the school
- Compost all food waste and grass clippings
- Allow access to compost heaps for the public
How do you encourage children to be sustainable?
Children don’t know what’s sustainable and what’s not. They might not even know what sustainable is! So teaching young children sustainability is easy enough just by actively involving them in sustainable activities or reading books with environmental themes.
For older children, getting them involved in sustainability requires getting them engaged. You can do this by spending more time in nature, like visiting national parks and different natural features.
Starting a vegetable garden is a great way of getting children interested in gardening, nature, and cooking. You can incorporate culinary lessons into gardening, especially by growing staple foods like potatoes, onions, lettuce, and tomatoes.
The best way to encourage children to be sustainable is always to lead by example. Make sure you’re being sustainable and always working to improve how eco-friendly you are.
What are sustainable practices in schools?
Sustainable practices in schools are ways to promote sustainability and teach students how to be eco-friendly.
There are many sustainable practices that work for schools, so choosing just a few and adding more each term can help you transition into a sustainable school.
The fundamental sustainable practices for schools include:
- Saving energy
- Recycling and reusing
- Upcycling crafts
- Reducing water consumption
- Including students in eco-friendly projects
What are schools doing to be sustainable?
Even schools that aren’t set up to be sustainable are engaging in some fundamental sustainable practices, but it’s usually not enough to be considered sustainable.
Most schools already strive to save energy, but that doesn’t mean the schools are energy-efficient. Switching to efficient light bulbs and making sure empty classrooms don’t have heaters or air conditioning on all the time can really make a big impact.
School gardens aren’t rare, but many take the lazy route of using synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. These gardens can be improved by using compost as a natural fertilizer and educating staff and students on sustainable agriculture.
With enough work and space, a school can even grow essential food for the canteen!
Switching to sustainable school supplies isn’t at the top of most schools’ lists, but using recycled paper, compostable notebooks, and plastic-free stationery can turn out to be cheaper and better for the environment over time.
If a school has over a thousand students, it could be cutting out tons of plastic!
Why is sustainability important in schools?
Teaching and achieving sustainability is crucial in schools because they educate the next generation. No matter how successful we are in fighting climate change, future generations are always going to need to do a bit more, especially to avoid going back to our unsustainable practices.
Sustainability can even teach students better health, fitness, and social skills.
According to the Ecologist, “learning early is the best way to create good habits that last a lifetime”. Schools can not only teach the importance of sustainability but also create a “sustainable and ethically focused environment”.
Why is sustainability important in early childhood education?
The earlier a child learns about sustainability, the better they’ll be set up for the future. This doesn’t have to be difficult either.
Instilling sustainable practices in early childhood education can help children develop the values and attitudes they’ll need in the future, especially when looking at nature.
Caring for the environment is something every child can do without even thinking about it, from simply not littering to setting out water for local wildlife.
The sooner our children know how to look after the environment and our planet, the more they’ll care for it in the future. It also teaches them responsibility and can have a role in building resilience and capabilities in children.