Commemorating Earth Day: The Importance of Environmental Education
Earth Day in 2023 will be recognized on April 22 and like each year since the first Earth Day in 1970, it will raise awareness of environmental issues, mobilize support for the planet, and promote action for a more sustainable future. According to EarthDay.org, one of the themes of this year is a call to action to “Invest In our Planet!” For those of us who support international education, among the most important ways we can invest in our planet is by supporting what is often called “climate literacy.” Simply put, this means helping to create generations of children, adolescents, and young adults who are prepared to stop environmental degradation, promote sustainable development, and manage climate change and its impacts. USAID’s new Policy Framework 2023 identifies responding to climate change as one of the greatest challenges of our time, and one of the Framework’s top priorities.
Environmental education means different things to different people depending on their ages and stages in life. For the youngest learners, environmental education might mean the inclusion of simple sentences appreciating the beauty of the Earth, and the warmth of the sun, and hands-on activities can be beneficial too. Young learners might learn how seeds germinate with enough water and sunlight, and grow into young plants. For adolescent learners, environmental education might mean combining lessons about Earth’s ecosystems with community recycling projects, or school gardens, or community beautification projects. For older youth, school curriculum might be supplemented by after-school youth development clubs like 4-H International, Boy or Girls Scouts, or Future Farmers of America or similar clubs with major environmental lessons and activities that can also involve the broader community. These are all networks of clubs that have international programs and materials.
School-based extracurricular clubs in developing countries dedicated entirely to environmental education, such as Chongololo Clubs in Zambia, or Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots Clubs across Africa, engage school children at all ages. And for older youth transitioning to the workforce, there are opportunities to develop skills for employment in the green and blue economies.
In support of Earth Day in 2023 there could be no more important way to invest in not only learners, but our planet, too.