Today, as population rises and resources are consumed and reduced, greater environmental sensitivity is necessary and crucial. People concerned with the environmental future have to face the challenge of educating the public about the problems facing our world, raising awareness of environmental issues and creating an understanding of them, due to the imperative need for change.
Environmental education: a long-term solution
The long-term solution to environmental problems is the environmental education. It is harder for adults to adapt and change than it is for younger people who are still searching for the ideals and principles they wish to follow in their lives. Therefore, during the years there have been several remarkable efforts to promote environmental studies at primary and secondary schools, as environmental education of children is a powerful, efficient and useful force for the change in attitude and practice essential to real and effective improvement. Teaching children to comprehend and appreciate their world would make them more open to their responsibility to the environment, and teaching them how to respect that commitment at an early age will make it easier for them to develop an earth-healthy lifestyle. However, the impact of environmental education programmes for young people will not be immediate due to the unavoidable time lag before the pupils or students are in planning or decision-making roles. Community education offers a further alternative opportunity to raise awareness and improve understanding of environmental issues. It is likely to have a more immediate and direct impact than school education on environmental problems because it can involve all sections of society, including decision-makers and those who will be affected by environmental strategies. (Evans SM, 1996) (Davis, 1998) Children, teachers and communities are all involved in the environmental education, working together towards the resolution of environmental questions and issues. Adults – teachers, parents and others – engage with children in classrooms or homes: therefore, they need to become much more concerned with and involved in personal and community decision about current actions and future prospects, and environmental education is of paramount importance. (Clemson University, 2013)
What’s going on in London?
A great example: Vital Regeneration Vital Regeneration is an award-winning London charity based in Westminster. It started out in 1998 and was established an independent charity in 2005. They develop projects that deliver skills, confidence and aspiration to people living in and around Westminster’s most deprived neighbourhoods. (Vital Regeneration, 2013) Going Green A successful example of environmental education to communities is “Going Green”, the Vital Regeneration’s estate-based sustainability programme, which promotes positive environmental behaviour. Community Green Champions promote recycling, composting and energy efficiency to residents living on high density social housing estates. They work with schools in providing environmental clubs for local children, teaching them about climate change and the urban environment; they also work with volunteers from the local community and our commercial sector sponsors to deliver projects that improve the community’s open spaces. Vital Regeneration connects with the community through faith groups, promoting the ways in which caring for our environment aligns with the teachings of many faiths. Moreover, they consult residents about their concerns and the barriers they face to recycling, composting and being more energy efficient and then help them to overcome these challenges. (Vital Regeneration, 2013)
Figure 1- Source: http://vitalregeneration.org/our-projects/going-green/photos/going-green
Figure 2 – Source: http://vitalregeneration.org/our-projects/greenside/photos/fisherton-signage Vital Regeneration delivers six different environmental and healthy lifestyle themed after-school clubs in Westminster, reaching around 450 children, aged 7-11yrs every year. Children learn about healthy eating, climate change and other environmental issues through creative activity and play. The After School Clubs are run by professional artists and workshop leaders, who use a combination of outside play, drawing, movement, dance, music, animation and sculpture to explore concepts of healthy eating, healthy active lifestyles and positive environmental behaviour. The children have the opportunity to grow their own produce, create menus, aprons and bags, as well as making healthy, irresistible meals and smoothies. Through this activity the children develop greater understanding of how a healthy diet and exercise can contribute to overall well-being and as such they become more empowered to make their own informed choices. (Vital Regeneration, 2013) ‘Jump for Green’, part of Going Green programme, is one of the clubs. It is designed for 5 – 12 year olds and it aims to encourage and promote healthy eating and regular exercise, along with building an awareness of the environment in a creative, fun and participatory way. It has been running for the past year at various schools and outreach locations in the Borough of Westminster. The club forms part of the range of after-school clubs offered by Vital Regeneration, including the more established ‘Play Space’ and ‘Eco Kids Club’. (Vital Regeneration, 2013) Article written by Silvia Orlando for the Renewable Energy Institute References Clemson University. (2013, October 28). Children and Environmental Sustainability. Retrieved from Clemson University, South Carolina: http://www.clemson.edu/hort/courses/sustainable_schoolyards/Designing_SSHs/ErinBook/environment.pdf Davis, J. (1998). Young children, environmental education and the future. In N. Graves, Education and the Environment (p. Chapter 11 ). London: World Education Fellowship . Evans SM, G. M. (1996). School children as educators: the indirect influence of environmental education in schools on parents’ attitudes towards the environment. Journal of Biological Education, 30:243-248. Retrieved from http://eprints.qut.edu.au/1309/1/davis.pdf Vital Regeneration. (2013, October 28). About us. Retrieved from Vital Regeneration: http://vitalregeneration.org/about-us Vital Regeneration. (2013, October 28). ‘Jump for Green’ entertains at Gateway Primary School Assembly. Retrieved from Vital Regeneration: http://vitalregeneration.org/information-resources/case-studies/jump-for-green-entertains-at-gateway-primary-school-assembly Vital Regeneration. (2013, October 28). Our projects: After School Clubs. Retrieved from Vital Regeneration: http://vitalregeneration.org/our-projects/play-space Vital Regeneration. (2013, October 28). Our projects: Going Green. Retrieved from Vital Regeneration: http://vitalregeneration.org/our-projects/going-green