If a key climate change message for schools in lower-income countries is that children and young people should be agents of change in their communities as they seek to ensure a liveable planet for all, then simply increasing their factual knowledge and understanding is not going to be enough.
A fit-for-purpose pedagogy needs to be one of active engagement. A monoculture of passive listening to the teacher, sedentary engagement and rote memorization will not foster the skills and mindset for participative and proactive citizenship. Problematically, passive and sedentary pedagogies remain dominant in many classrooms in lower-income countries.
Learning modalities in response to climate change
Based on our 2012 UNESCO/UNICEF document Disaster Risk Reduction in School Curricula: Case Studies from Thirty Countries and our subsequent research, we consider a continuous mixing and juxtaposition of the following learning modalities to be optimal.
Importantly, they should not be conceived simply for classroom use but also be employed beyond the classroom - linking student learning in the classroom to learning within the wider school and, importantly, out in the community. Each modality has the potential to realize multiple knowledge, skills and attitudinal/dispositional learning outcomes.
- Discussion sessions (in pairs, small groups and/or whole group): Small group and whole group brainstorming (i.e. students spontaneously offering ideas on a topic, all ideas being accepted, prior to their categorization, organization and evaluation); student presentations involving feedback from the teacher, community members and other students; question and answer sessions with guest speakers.
- Milling activities: Milling around to swap or share information, collectively reviewing displayed material, or going to view presentations of each other’s work and ideas.
- Socio-emotional learning: Sharing feelings about climate change and disaster-related personal experiences; articulating hopes and fears for the future; empathetic exercises in response to case studies and narratives of those caught up in disasters.
- Inquiry learning: Investigating and inquiring through observation, surveys, interviews and Internet search; project work; case study research.
- Surrogate experiential learning: Reviewing and responding to video and audio inputs; playing board games; role-plays; using drama, dance and song.
- Field experiential learning: Field visits to areas of environmental protection; community surveys; class visits to organic farms and nature reserves; visits to climate-related NGOs to learn about their mandate, work and functioning; risk mapping in schools and communities; interviewing community members; working with community teams.
- Action and activist learning: Student engagement in community resilience building projects; school and community awareness raising campaigns on climate change mitigation and adaptation, disaster risk reduction and environmental protection; speaking on local radio; opinion forming through use of traditional and social media; tree planting; school gardening; cleaning-up of local environment.