Climate protection must be on the school curriculum

14.09.2018

One of my most memorable experiences at school was a visit to a refuse incineration plant. Even today, I still have the smell in my nose when I stand in the supermarket in front of food that has been double and triple packaged. I have my teacher to thank for this awareness. This is why climate protection should be a mandatory part of the school curriculum.

Along the side, yellow sacks were piled metres high; it smelt, no it stank. Men and women stood at the conveyor belt, slitting open the sacks and sorting the refuse that was to be recycled. Hardly any other experience could have more vividly opened my eyes to the vast quantities of rubbish that we produce every day of our lives. And made me realise that environmentally friendly waste disposal is very difficult.

I owe this experience solely to the initiative of one of my teachers. Fortunately there are many teachers who are committed to not just reeling off the standard teaching material in class but to teaching climate protection at schools in a graphic way. Together with their pupils, they plan solar panels on the school roof, supervise groups that have set out to reduce the amount of rubbish on school premises, take part in energy-saving champion competitions or grow vegetables organically in a school gardening club .

Climate protection at schools for all years

The teaching of a subject which is so important for the future of our planet should, however, not depend on the good will of individual teachers. It must also not stop at a one-off school trip or a few hours of theory in the geography class. Environmental education and practical resource and climate protection at schools have to become a mandatory part of the curriculum. And I mean for every year and every type of school. Only education can help schoolchildren to make conscious and balanced decisions – and perhaps also to question some of their parents’ behaviour patterns.

The subject of climate change is complex, extensive and covers both natural and social science aspects. That is why a cross-curricular approach is important and it is vital that the pupils are addressed on an emotional level.

From a visit to an organic farm to a climate simulation game

Climate protection at schools can already begin at primary school. Primary schoolchildren can spend a day collecting rubbish in the woods or at the river. This makes them aware of the problems littering causes – what happens when people just discard their waste in the countryside. Another enlightening experience is a visit to a water treatment plant where it is explained how complicated and costly it is to treat water and that, at the moment, there is no way of removing microplastics from the water. In computer science classes, computer games can be used as learning materials to show how climate change works on both a large and small scale and how our actions affect eco-systems. Practical climate protection at schools is rounded off by a trip to a real nature conservation area. A visit to an organic farm is an ideal opportunity to show why organic food costs more than goods in a conventional supermarket – and, for example, what effects overfertilisation and the massive use of chemical pesticides by the agricultural industry can have on the soil. Older children can also be expected to cope with a visit to an abattoir to see the devastating effects on the climate of our excessive consumption of meat.

Positive examples are particularly important

However, for me it is important that children and teenagers must not be disheartened. Just as it is necessary to show them the complex problems, they must also be shown ways of actively helping to shape a better future.