Teachers around the world are preparing the next generation to respond to the climate crisis. Their central role in shaping students must be acknowledged. On Earth Day 2023, we share what some of them had to say about investing in our children and our planet.
“A key missing ingredient in global education reform is teacher agency. This worldwide movement where we are asking ‘what is the educational response to the climate crisis?’ is an opportunity to reiterate the need for supporting teachers and that they are the leaders of learning,” says Dr Andy Cunningham, the Global Lead for Education at the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF).
AKF, in partnership with the Learning Planet Institute, Teach For All and a number of partners including Dubai Cares, UNESCO and 17 Rooms, launched the Teachers for the Planet Programme, inviting educators from around the world to share and discuss their solutions to climate and education at school and system levels.
“Having the light of the Teach For All Climate Education Community helps us to keep breathing, keep fighting and strengthens us on the inside,” says Egoitz Etxeandia, a secondary school teacher in Spain and an alumnus of Empieza por Educar (part of the Teach For All global network). “There’s an instant connection that I get with others from places like Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Nepal and Paraguay, who I’ve never met.”
Egoitz, who teaches economics, entrepreneurship, business and marketing, used his own interest in the circular economy to create lessons on his core subjects while also making remarkable environmental impacts.
“Students will be the shapers in society in less than five or 10 years, so I don’t want to just explain different economic theories to them, I want them to understand the necessity of being social activists and using different design thinking methodologies,” he says.
Egoitz has his students create product-based businesses, with one caveat – the products must be made out of waste. Students have created businesses selling soap made of leftover cooking oils from local restaurants; retro-style furniture out of discarded soda cans; and reusable shopping bags out of discarded facemasks (with advice from local hospitals on how to ensure this was sanitary). Each project generates revenue that is then used in the next project.
When students learned that 17,000 tonnes of coffee ground waste was produced in Spain each year, they began to collect coffee grounds and used them to grow edible oyster mushrooms as part of a project called Funghi Thinking. They learned how to code motherboards to measure humidity and temperature of the growth area every three minutes for 40 days, also learning about big data and data analysis. Students researched and developed prototypes for how the mushrooms could be packaged with organic materials and then created plans to acquire basic business principles, financial literacy and marketing skills.