Bringing a delegation of students to a COP Conference is challenging and often unpredictable work. The logistics and the responsibilities that come with student travel are constantly at the forefront, and the tasks of clearing roadblocks and removing obstacles so that the students can experience and learn are front and center. But why? To what end? It is Education Day at COP 22 and the focus of the day has me reflecting on my side of the education equation; specifically on my role as an educator at this global event.
The answers to the questions flow from the wellsprings of both what it means to educate, or more importantly, to learn, and from the commitment to prepare the youth of today for the biggest environmental challenge they will face as adults.
Coming to COP for us is about creating a powerfully authentic learning context for our students to engage people from all over the world in conversations and to participate in sessions on a wide array of climate change topics and challenges. Article 12 of the Paris Agreement calls for measures that enhance climate change awareness, education, and access to information. Certainly COP is an excellent vehicle for meeting this challenge, but for most educators whose students will never experience this setting, it hopefully serves as impetus to provide their students access to accurate, up to date climate change information, the skills to critically examine the materials they encounter, and opportunities to participate in climate change solutions in their own communities.
Article 12 of the Paris Agreement also calls for measures to enhance public participation in the climate change issue. But research shows that knowledge alone does not translate to commitment and action. If our students are to become the active citizens of tomorrow, where will they find the motivation to get involved and to persist in addressing what are sure to be daunting climate change challenges?
One way is to create opportunities for students to experience being part of world-wide community and to collaborate, vision, and learn with and from their global peers. Last Friday our SES COP delegates had the chance to meet with high school students from Morocco, Peru, and Bali, at a Global Issues Network (GIN) Conference hosted by the American School of Marrakesh. Together these students from around the world shared projects they were doing in their own communities, were inspired by the work of others, and experienced first hand that they are part of a global effort. As one SES delegate wrote,
“Without one another, standing alone, we could never accomplish our goals. Only by working together are students, people, capable of making a significant difference … By depriving ourselves of the world, we lose our empathy, we lose possibilities for change, and for a better and brighter future.”
At an end of the day session entitled, “Leaving No One Behind in Climate Education” the presenters focused on the unique challenges inherent in providing climate change education in indigenous cultures. As I listened, I could not help but think of how important it is that every global educator, regardless of the geographic or cultural circumstances in which they work, find ways to effectively deliver climate education to their students. It is imperative that the citizens of the future have the knowledge and skills to address the climate change challenges they will inherit.