Emma 16: Do children understand sustainable development?

september 28, 2018, 12:46 e m

Do students understand sustainable development? This was the question being asked by Kajsa Kramming, from the department of social and economic geography at Uppsala university in Sweden, Elaine Nevin from ECO-UNESCO Ireland and by Athanasia Chatzifotiou from the University of Sunderland in the UK.

In three fifteen minutes presentations each the women described the work they had done on the subject.

Kajsa Kramming, from the University of Uppsala, explained the study she has performed to understand how young adults see and understand sustainable development.

As she studies for her PhD, she has taken on a project which aims to investigate the geographical imaginations of current and future worlds among upper secondary school students between the ages of 17 and 18. The aim of her study was to also understand how the imaginations of the students were constructed.

To get results for her study she designed two cases. One looked at systems thinking competence or identifying problems within the current world; while the other looked at anticipatory competence or identifying a vision of a sustainable future.

Kramming concluded from the results that to help students successfully understand environmental sustainability, students and teachers must learn more about it. She also added that they should “locate themselves mentally, with others, to understand others.” By doing this she described schools and universities could find a common ground to expand on, and therefore define better for everyone what environmental sustainability is and how important it is for the future.

Nevin also described a program her and her team have been running in Ireland which intended to raise environmental understanding in young people and promote personal development.

ECO-UNESCO clubs provide two programs for children between the ages of 10-18. One is the Young Environmentalist Award, and the other is Youth for Sustainable Development – Global Youth for Change. Both involve building knowledge on the subject of environmental sustainability, developing skills, exploring attitudes and promoting action; with the aim in the end that the children feel passionate about the environment and sustainable development, but also more confident in socialising and taking on responsibilities.

Then finally Chatzifotiou closed the session up with a presentation of some work she had done in a primary school in the UK. She worked with a school educator who wanted to follow the Eco-School initiative to improve her schools grounds and ultimately the learning experiences of the children. The aim of this was to see how the national education system in the UK worked with sustainable development.

Although from the work done Chatzifotiou clarified that teachers working in the UK and with the national curriculum need to be more passionate as a whole on the subject of environmentally sustainable development so that students can be better prepared for the future.

In general all of the presenters agreed that it was imperative for students and young adults to fully understand the meaning of environmentally sustainable development and how important it is for the future. Chatzifotiou also added that it was necessary especially for the young generation because they need to understand that what they practice does affect the future and that their imaginations can become their reality.

I really enjoyed listening to these three presentations. I agree that it is imperative for young people to start thinking about the future and ensuring environmental stability for a peaceful world. The problems we see today are caused from people overusing and abusing the earth, not acting sustainably. So if the next generation of adults understands what it means and why it is essential I am sure the future would be a much more safe, and peaceful place, something I hope we all aim to strive towards.

Emma Hindle (16)
International School of the Gothenburg Region
Young Reporter for the Environment in Sweden
WEEC Gothenburg, 30/06/15