The brain of a child is designed to learn new information and the brain of an adult functions to perform. By the time she was 4, a good friend of mine Lily, had mastered the dialects of French, Finnish, and Sweedish, languages she will use for the rest of her life. Imagine if Lily was given the chance to become fluent in the languages of science and climate change. Perhaps her generation would be more prepared to take better care of our planet.
There is a long history and extensive research that shows younger children are faster learners than adults. Reading, writing, and mathematics are considered vital aspects of public elementary school curriculums and in our current climate state it is time for Environmental Education to be introduced into the mixture.
The primary task for the government and the public school system is to ensure a successful future for young Americans. The only way an individual is going to become successful in the future is if the climate remains stable. At the rate in which fossil fuels and greenhouse gasses are being emitted into the atmosphere, it is a young student’s right to become educated on specific actions that will impact their future climate and overall lives.
The International Panel on Climate Change has released multiple reports on the impacts of a 1.5°C global warming temperature above pre-industrial levels. As Earth continues to warm, results such as high risk of disease, intense weather events, and threats to property will become increasingly common in the future. If students are not educated in primary and secondary schools regarding this information, their future success is in jeopardy.
Educating children at a young age is fundamental to ensure good politicians, good doctors, good lawyers, and a stable climate. The government officials appointed to the Environmental Protection Agency by the Trump administration are highly uniformed and unmotivated to seek a sustainable future. Introducing Environmental Education to primary and secondary science curriculums will allow more informed youth to fill these positions in the future.
Environmental Education in public school curriculums should not be a choice, it should be a requirement. Public schools do not ask students if they would like to learn about photosynthesis, they require students to learn it because it is basic scientific knowledge. Climate change and the results of burning fossil fuels and emitting greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere is basic scientific knowledge as well. There is a 97% scientific consensus that climate change is occurring, and more than 75% of all climate scientists would agree that humans have a sizable impact on these changes.
The implementation of Environmental Education into primary and secondary science curriculums is vital for the health, safety, and knowledge of young Americans. In Colorado, students reach the age of 9 before the state introduces environmental courses into the public school curriculum. Engaging with ideas that will be applied as an adult is more strategic at a younger age. By the age of 9 many students opt out of taking environmental science courses because it simply does not interest them. Primary and secondary schools are not designed to interest young students, but rather to teach basic academic knowledge and within this knowledge should be the impacts of a changing climate.
Climate change is becoming an increasingly more politicized issue, but Environmental Education programs do not advocate for young individuals to take a stance on the issue. Gun debates, abortion debates, and other heavily policalized topics do not enter the classrooms of elementary schools through structured curriculums. In this same way the debate around the issue of climate change would not enter school classrooms. The primary goal of introducing Environmental Education to elementary school students is to have them engage with this necessary knowledge in a fun and educational way.
Sometimes I think about what my life would be like if I had learned a second language or a specific sport at a young age. Maybe I would be a translator for the United Nations or a player on the Women’s National Soccer Team. But instead, I am an intellectual educating myself and others on the importance of Environmental Education. As elementary school students mature they will have the full availability to choose whether or not to apply these environmental lessons and skills in the future. But when school curriculums ignore the scientific understanding of the climate, they are chipping away at their student’s future success. If algebra is introduced and understood by students in the third grade, I am sure our intellectual youth will have no trouble navigating the science behind emissions and fossil fuel extraction and how it can be applied in the future. Our climate is rapidly changing, with the potential to destroy entire ecosystems and individual properties. The education system should encompass the causes and effects of this phenomenon, and therefore provide a better future for its young students.
Allen, Myles R. “Global Warming of 1.5 ºC.” International Panel on Climate Change , United Nations , 6 Oct. 2018, www.ipcc.ch/sr15/.
Muftau, Abdul Malik. “Do Kids Learn Faster than Adults? – Abdul Malik Muftau – EdLab.” EdLab, Teachers College Columbia University, EdLab, 5 May 2014, edlab.tc.columbia.edu/blog/10822-Do-Kids-Learn-Faster-than-Adults.
Sachs, Jeffrey. “Trump’s Failure to Fight Climate Change Is a Crime against Humanity.” CNN, Cable News Network, 19 Aug. 2019,
The State of Colorado,. “Science Curriculum .” CDE, Colorado Department of Education , 1 Jan. 2020, www.cde.state.co.us/facilityschools/curriculum.