NZAEE Webinar: Climate Education

NZAEE Webinar: Climate Education

Educating for a Changing Climate

This NZAEE webinar was recorded in June 2022 and covered a range of important ideas, questions and opportunities for teachers to consider when thinking about how to prepare ākonga for a climate-changed, low-carbon future. Guest speakers included Rachel Bolstad, Kaihautū Rangahau | Chief Researcher at the NZ Council for Educational Research (NZCER), and teachers Kate Armour and Brent Silby from Ao Tawhiti Unlimited Discovery in Ōtautahi Christchurch.

Click on the link above to watch the full webinar (50 minutes) and use the links provided below to access the related documents and links that are mentioned by the speakers.

Linking research with practice

Rachel discussed some key findings and resources from NZCER's ongoing climate education research with schools in Aotearoa. Reflecting on the significance of Matariki and what it means to be good ancestors, Rachel covered topics including climate justice, with links between colonisation and climate impacts, the importance of honouring Te Tiriti and uplifting indigenous knowledge, and the personhood of nature.

"If education is to be part of the systemic change that's needed, what would that actually look like and what might need to change? This is all big stuff and can be quite challenging to process - they're not matters we can skim over lightly. Our research briefings include discussion questions to help support these conversations." Rachel Bolstad

She also highlighted what schools can do, with opportunities at the national and local level, such as the Emissions Reduction Plan and Carbon Neutral local government initiatives that require reporting on carbon emissions in education settings (this Carbon Footprint pilot provides more information about what this could look like for schools). The curriculum refresh process, including the introduction of Aotearoa New Zealand histories, and changes to NCEA also present opportunities to integrate climate education across learning areas, ideally working towards a whole-school approach.

The NUWAO design competition is an example of a local, innovative and engaging context that teachers could use to promote creativity, long-term thinking and discussion of community-focused solutions.

Āhuarangi climate course at Ao Tawhiti

Kate and Brent share their story of the development and highlights of the new Yr 9 - 11 climate course at Ao Tawhiti. Covering Social Studies, Philosophy and Science, the course has been adapted to cater for junior students along with those working towards Level 1 NCEA standards.

"Our aim is to hear what the students are saying and then try to alter our programme to suit what they actually need to learn at the time." Brent Silby

Teachers worked together to plan the overall structure and asked students what they would like to see included in the course:

  • Why climate change matters
  • How all students can be involved (all learning areas, not just Science)
  • How to look after their mental health
  • How to listen to people with different viewpoints
  • Be clear that it's possible to do something (be hopeful)

The students have really enjoyed the Philosophy component of the course (see below for resource suggestions), along with trips outside the school (e.g. composting workshop) and the focus on topics they are personally interested in. They have recently taken part in the We Share Solar programme with Kia Kotahi Ako.

An exciting next step is the imminent launch of the Climate Action Campus which will act as a satellite campus, also used by other local schools, where students can engage with a range of opportunities for taking action. These could include growing and planting natives, composting, nature play, starting their own business etc.

Ao Tawhiti Presentation slides

Course Outline for Āhuarangi Climate course

From Brent: For those interested in Environmental Philosophy a good starting point is Simon P. James (2015) Environmental Philosophy - An Introduction. It is accessible and doesn't require an academic background in philosophy.

Other resources suggested by webinar participants included:

Philosophy for Children NZ

The IF Machine (book and website)

Zinn Education Project - using role-play to explore climate justice