Earth Day 2017: Why environmental learning should start in the classroom

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The theme for Earth Day 2017 is environmental and climate literacy. We asked Audrey Hecker, a student from Credo High School in California which is committed to One Planet Living, to share her thoughts on the value of learning about sustainability.

It wasn’t until high school that I began to fully understand climate change and actively immerse myself in climate action. Before then, environmental literacy and activism had never really come up for me – climate change was all talk and there was no solid ground on which to plant a case for taking action. This is mainly because I had absolutely no idea what exactly was going on, much less the severity of the issue which climate change presents.

My initial introduction to climate change was on my first day of ninth grade at Credo High School. We were studying the effects of the Industrial Revolution in a class fittingly called “Climate Change”. To this day, the Climate Change class is really the only one that I can clearly remember out of all the courses I’ve taken at Credo. This could very well be because it was my first high school-level class, but I like to give it more credit than that by recognising that it was the first time I started thinking about the extremity of the state of our planet, and that my actions mattered for our common future.

Despite the fact that I forgot most of my fears amid my rigorous studies, they were reintroduced to me when I joined our One Planet leadership team in 11th grade (nearly six months ago now). Not only has the One Planet initiative presented so many sustainable alternatives and opportunities to Credo students and the surrounding community, but it has also fostered a deep sense of unity among the One Planet leaders (a rapidly growing group of about thirty students).

One of the things I appreciate most about my school is its ability to adapt and be supportive. Together, these two qualities have created a tight-knit group of people that are more like a family than a bunch of peers. The students, too, have adopted the qualities of the school, and I am always so surprised by the enthusiastic response the One Planet team receives when we launch new ideas or projects.

Recently, each group of captains (members of the One Planet leadership team) held meetings with all the Credo High students. Each student had the opportunity to choose which One Planet principle they’d like to learn more about. During this discussion, I got to learn about and interact with several students I’d never met before (all 9th graders), and was extremely impressed by their drive to help and be a part of One Planet activities. Another recent function was in honour of World Water Day (March 22nd), which was hosted by the Credo One Planet Sustainable Water captains and received the support of seven schools (more than 200 students) across Sonoma County, all of which worked to clean up their local watersheds.

Credo High’s recent move to SOMO Village (a One Planet community) in Rohnert Park, California has presented an incredible opportunity to start fresh and continue our goal to become the first One Planet School. Captains have been working on implementing a zero-paper method in the classroom, and have successfully created several classes which rely on Google Classroom and email instead of paper. Another one of our major projects is writing up our own One Planet Action Plan for the new campus, which lays out the framework to bring sustainability into the heart of the school community.

Environmental literacy is, in my opinion, best begun in the classroom. Creating a sustainable future will require intergenerational commitment, but schools are in a unique position which allows them to educate and guide the creative minds of the leaders of the future. I believe that teaching environmental awareness, issues, and resolutions starting at a young age will provide future generations with the tools to be the solution. And they, in turn, will become the teachers passing on their knowledge to current and subsequent generations. Credo High School has demonstrated the beginning of such a model, and the One Planet initiative has enhanced and enlivened the community in a way that I never thought possible. With time, I wholeheartedly trust that Credo will become a major environmental pioneer. Its students, I believe, will help shape the future for a happier, healthier planet.

Audrey Hecker
Culture & Community Captain
One Planet Schools, Credo High School

Learn more about Credo High’s One Planet activities.

Read about One Planet Living – Bioregional’s framework to enable us all to enjoy a happy, healthy life within our fair share of the earth’s resources, leaving space for wildlife and wilderness.

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