Tuesday, 23 June, 2020 - 13:00
Students being aware of Climate Change

The world has been arguing, bantering and disagreeing about climate change – and where we’re collectively at – for many years.

But when 11,000 scientists from around the world recently joined to sign a scientific paper declaring a climate emergency, the world sat up and listened.

The paper, published in the prestigious BioScience journal, said the climate crisis had ‘arrived’ – and it was accelerating faster than most scientists expected.

They felt they had ‘a moral obligation to clearly warn humanity of any catastrophic threat.’

Acting now for a more sustainable future

Our universe has dwindling resources in the face of an increasingly uncertain future due to the impacts of climate change.

The message is clear that the decisions we make today will impact the lives of our students tomorrow – and into the future.

Our young generation hold a critically important piece of the puzzle to addressing the climate emergency. Thanks to the education they receive at school, discussions at home, and what they read and absorb from social media and mainstream media, students are connected and passionate about protecting their planet and making a difference.

Educators play a key role in continuing to inspire the next generation of conservationists – both in the classroom, and through further education gleaned from school incursions, school excursions, activities and camps.

There are a wide range of excursions, incursions, activities and camps that focus on the key elements of sustainability – including water, waste, land, energy and wildlife conversation.

Up close and personal with the animals

According to Taronga Education Manager, Courtney Frost, zoos play a critical role in education and conservation to inspire the next generation of conservationists.

‘We need students to be aware of the issues that wildlife face - and feel empowered to enact social change on a local level that will have lasting positive global impacts,’ she said.

Courtney said both Taronga’s zoos in Sydney and Dubbo offered a range of unique programs to inspire students.

‘We use close animal experiences to invoke strong emotional connections between students and wildlife. This inspires students to take action to support these species through our behaviour change campaigns. These campaigns have practical, local and relevant actions that students can take to positively impact wildlife.’

The zoos use qualified teachers employed by the NSW Department of Education, Catholic Schools Office and Taronga who have an in-depth understanding of the curriculum and how the cross curricular priority of sustainability can be most effectively taught.

Importantly, the programs also allow students to connect with industry experts and see modelling of a range of career paths critical in conservation, such as roles as zoo keepers, educators, vets and scientists.

‘Taronga education programs not only focus on students having fun but also on establishing an emotional connection with the staff and animals in our care.

‘When students have experienced this connection, they are more willing to understand the threats facing these species and are then motivated to act on their behalf,’ Courtney said.




Getting back to basics on the ‘farm’

Calmsley Hill is a ‘farm experience’ set on 160 hectares less than an hour from the heart of Sydney’s CBD.

According to Manager, Noah Moseley, Calmsley Hill strives to be a fully sustainable site and offers a range of programs for all age groups.

‘Starting with infants we have our Down on the Farm tour as an introduction to the farm and animals, including a range of native animals,’ explained Noah.

‘For primary aged children we have our stage 2 and 3 programs which include Endangered and Unique, Sustainable Food and A Big Sydney.

‘Finally, our high school Geography students can get involved in hands-on field work with our stage 4, 5 and 6 programs, while Science and Sustainability students can work on their stage 5 and 6 field work.’

Agricultural programs are also available on request to suit individual educational needs.

Noah said all programs include pre and post visit work activities, including source materials that add to the students learning experience during their fieldwork studies on their ‘day at the farm.’

The organisation has worked closely with a range of environmental, government and educational bodies such as Greening Australia, Primary Industries Education Foundation, National Parks and Wildlife, The Western Sydney Parklands Trust and a number of University Groups to ensure that all courses offer a board range of information.

‘We have progressively developed programs for all ages on the key elements of sustainability, water, waste, land and energy. Most importantly, courses have been developed by teachers within the industry to meet the requirements of the curriculum,’ said Noah.

Noah said he encouraged students to consider sustainability as a balanced approach considering three factors: the environment, finance and the community.

‘I encourage students to consider this when looking at a “problem or decision” that they or the community may face and look for a solution that provides a balanced outcome in all areas.

‘It is this that will provide a truly sustainable solution.’

Noah said the approach also helped students seek a wider range of information about the issues that they wish to address, rather than focussing on one part of the sustainability puzzle.

Noah said Calmsley Hill was unique in that it offered ‘city kids’ the chance to see how a real farm works, ‘and from their own experience make an assessment about the balance between farming and environment.’

He said this in turn helped them gain an understanding of how farmers work with the environment to enable a balanced outcome: ‘that is, to provide a reliable food source for both our country and the world - while ensuring that there is a long term future for both the environment they work in and that their business will have a viable future.’

Noah said it was important to present programs that were fun, while getting a sometimes serious message across.

‘It is important for students to be engaged and keen to learn about sustainability in the growing face of climate change.

‘Students are best engaged when they are interested in the subject matter. Telling students that “this is important - so listen” is never going to work.

‘My approach is to engage them with interest. It might not be quite ‘fun’ like a day at the beach, but if you’re able to harness students’ interests and personal experience you will gain their attention.’