There is no doubt that we are increasingly conscious of our duty to protect the environment and are taking measures to do so. People are ever more aware and this is a highly topical subject that is dealt with and debated in documentaries, news programmes, informal conversations, speeches, gatherings and television programmes, or which we can read about in the press, books, or specialised articles. It is such an important issue that it reaches all members of society: children, students, the elderly, teachers, politicians, scientists, business owners and activists, to name but a few.

However, do the measures being taken to protect the environment go far enough? Are we fully aware of the problem? What are major organisations doing? How are schools tackling this issue?

We need to ask ourselves these and many more questions in order to assess what we are doing to look after the environment and promote sustainable development, and decide whether we need to change our focus. The World Commission on Environment and Development was constituted by the United Nations in 1984 and defines sustainable development as development that “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (…)”. Without a doubt, what we do today will affect the world of tomorrow.

Since around the middle of last century, international organisms and countries have gone to great efforts to raise awareness of environmental problems to preserve our planet and protect biodiversity, all on the aim of building a better future for coming generations. Despite the numerous studies and investigations that alert us of the problems afflicting our planet and the measures we should take to change this situation, we still have a lot of work to do. There are a myriad of international initiatives to warn us that, if we do not do our bit and change some of our habits, we will considerably bring forward our planet’s expiry date.

For this reason, environmental education is one of our best weapons to improve our relationship with nature, and is mainly aimed at the people that will look after the planet in the future and who we will depend on in just a few short years.

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Environmental education at school

At the Best Schools in Spain, we ensure our students are well aware of problems such as climate change, the importance of recycling, or the sustainable usage of resources, as well as the short-and long-term consequences if we do not take good enough care of our planet.

The development of values and new attitudes make a more practical contribution to the rational use of natural resources. As we consider problem-solving to be one of the most important skills to be developed in the curriculum, we have a marvellous opportunity to establish projects or strategies to solve environmental problems in the students’ local area. In other words, when it comes to these problems and their effects, we cannot just simply look at the theoretical and superficial facts. We need to turn words into actions. In the classroom, we can make students aware that they are environmental players and help them deal with the problems by searching for solutions and developing good habits.

Many schools and educational institutions carry out campaigns to raise awareness and improve the local environment with actions that have an impact on our youngsters, such as installing recycling bins and organising school environmental patrols, or eating local, seasonal and organic produce, to mention but a few of these excellent measures. However, if we really want to make an impact, we have to get students actively involved.

The Best Schools in Spain and their students step into action

The most innovative schools use inductive methods to make students aware of the need to actively take care of our environment and, as we said, transform words into actions. These methods — such as project, problem, or challenge-based learning — are very popular with students. They have many advantages, one of them being their goal of encouraging students to take charge of their own learning and use what they know in real situations.

At the Best Schools in Spain, children and youngsters complete projects related to caring for the environment that enrich their knowledge on this subject and build their awareness of the need to stop this problem in its tracks. Some examples of activities carried out are the creation, implementation and care of a school vegetable patch; the coordination of tree planting and reforestation activities; or the development of a way to obtain renewable energy for the school.

In this way, the students themselves find solutions to these environmental problems, such as discovering a way to reduce the centre’s energy consumption, creating and adapting spaces to encourage the use of bicycles or tackling water scarcity with some fantastic ideas. The students become decisive, capable of accepting and taking on major challenges such as reusing rain water, using solar power in their school or reducing the amount of plastics consumed, one of the biggest challenges currently facing society.

Therefore, let’s put our youngsters in the spotlight, give them the tools they need to become aware of the importance of the environment and sustainable development. Let’s get them to play an important role in searching for solutions, changing habits and teaching society a lesson. At the Best Schools in Spain, not only do we aim to make our students aware of the need to protect the environment, but also to make them want to solve problems, look for solutions and take action to build a more sustainable and liveable world.