Education the key to sustainability
A project is underway to enable teachers to play a vital role in ensuring the next generation has the skills, knowledge and values to reduce human impact on the planet and create ecologically and socially sustainable communities.
James Cook University, in collaboration with the Queensland University of Technology and Griffith University, is leading the project to develop a Queensland-wide approach to embedding education for sustainability into pre-service teacher education.
Project leader Professor Bob Stevenson, a tropical research leader at JCU’s Cairns Institute, says education systems have a key role to play in preparing future citizens to live sustainably.
“Many schools and preschools throughout Australia are developing whole-school approaches to sustainability education that are supported by national and state policies and curriculum frameworks,” he said.
“The education of teachers, however, lags behind in developing the skills and knowledge to initiate and implement such approaches.
“At JCU, the School of Education has a history of embedding education for sustainability in teacher education dating back to 2001, while many other Queensland universities are only just beginning to plan such activities.
“Education students at JCU build foundation knowledge in their first year by exploring the underlying science and complexity of social and ecological challenges. They also develop practices to engage children in learning to understand and address these challenges in proactive ways.
“In their final year, students forge partnerships with organisations and communities to design, implement and reflect upon projects that promote social and environmental sustainability.
“For example, one student worked last year with teachers in a primary school to develop an English as a Second Language homework programme that caters for refugee students. Another student worked with the education officer at the Sea Turtle Foundation to develop education resources for use with early childhood students.”
Professor Stevenson says the project is aligned with the Australian National Curriculum and the aspirations for education for sustainability in the Melbourne Declaration (2008) and other national documents.
“Representatives from all Queensland teacher education institutions and other agents of change in the state’s education system are engaged in a multi-level systems approach, involving collaboration at the state, institutional and course levels, to develop curriculum practices that reflect a shared vision of education for sustainability,” he said.
Issued July 24, 2012
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